Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch: The only 3 times it's OK to work just for the money

Many of today's most successful people agree that it takes more than a high-paying job to achieve true happiness.

In fact, bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch says she will "almost always advise people to take a job that fulfills them, over a 'meh' job that pays well."

But she tells CNBC Make It there are a few specific times when prioritizing a high salary above all else may be good for your career. Below, she outlines three circumstances where she says it's OK to work just for the money.

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch
CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch

1. You're in a deep financial hole

If you're in a position where you're struggling financially and need more money to make ends meet, then Welch says working at a job simply for the paycheck is understandable.

"I'm not talking about paying off your student loans," she says. "That's an unfortunate part of life these days."

Instead, Welch says, she's referring to what many people may call "do-or-die" circumstances, such as paying back a major debt with a high interest rate or paying off urgent medical bills. In cases like that, she says, you need to earn as much money as you can and it's OK to hold onto a job just for the salary.

2. You have a strategic plan

If you're working towards a financial goal that requires you to start saving some extra cash now, then working at a job just for the money could be a smart move.

"For instance," says Welch, "you're saving for business school or to start your own business. In those kinds of cases, working for a paycheck is actually a form of investing in your career. I'm all for that."

3. You're a card-carrying "effective altruist"

Welch defines "effective altruists" as people who are "so committed to their social causes they seek high-paying careers primarily to maximize their ability to give away their earnings."

For example, she says, you may not mind working a 70-hour work week in order to fund a philanthropic initiative you support. In this case, she says, "hats off to you" — working for a substantial paycheck is helping you to fulfill your mission to give back.

"I'd be crazy to say compensation shouldn't matter to you," she says. "But if money is all a job has to offer, make sure it's for a worthwhile reason, or it may be time to look for something new — and more valuable — to do with your life."

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at gettowork@cnbc.com.

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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