Anton van Rossum 

20 August

B.A. asks:

For about five years now, I’ve been working as a senior chip engineer at the semiconductor division of a large Korean technology company. I really like it there, although I’ve reached my personal peak in the organization. To move ahead, I really need to speak Korean and that seems impossible with my limited language skills.

Because I’m ready for the next step in my career, I’m talking to an American company in the Netherlands. They offer me a challenging role in an interesting technology segment and my enthusiasm is growing every day. We’re currently in the negotiation phase for the contract.

I didn’t have many concerns about the salary. I assumed the company would make me a suitable offer based on my experience, skillset and the cost of living in the Netherlands. To simplify matters, I listed my current income components with the gross and net amounts. All in all, I get a net annual salary of 92,500 euros, including benefits such as a free furnished apartment, gratuity pay, annual airline tickets to my country of birth and the costs of my daughter’s international school. To my surprise, I received a much lower offer: 80,000 euros per year net (30 percent tax facility), but no apartment and none of the other special benefits I now have.

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I’m trying to convince the company to increase their offer. I’ve sent my contract with my terms of employment, a tax declaration and all calculations, including comparisons of the cost of living in the Netherlands versus Korea, but I’ve not made much progress yet. Perhaps we can cancel my participation in the pension scheme, which would win me a gross 800 euros per month. What else can I do to convince the company to match my current salary?

The headhunter answers:

Skipping participation in a collective pension is impossible; it’s mandatory. The overview you’ve provided shows that your current employer has a very complete package of benefits to attract and retain top talent. I assume this is one of the reasons why you accepted the offer to work in Korea a few years ago. Now that you’ve reached the ceiling in your career and your child is going to school, you’ll have to judge these ‘golden handcuffs’ on their true merits. As you’ve indicated, the social life for you and your partner isn’t very exciting because you don’t speak Korean and life in a city of millions like Seoul will get bored in the long run.

Although it’s quite understandable to take your current salary as the starting point for a possible transfer, you’ll also need to be realistic. I’m not ruling out the possibility that there are companies in Europe that can offer you a higher salary, but you have to find them first. I’m aware of top salaries at Intel, Broadcom and Qualcomm, but they’re located in much more expensive regions and they’re not in the ‘hiring mood’. Of course, you can find companies in Silicon Valley where your qualities certainly would be appreciated, but getting a work visa there is almost impossible.

You’ll have to make a choice, also weighing in the quality of life of your family and your further career in technology. If you choose the money, you’ll have to keep on searching. There will be no increase in this bid.