Archives for March 2015

Are You Being Underpaid? Recover Your Salary!

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2012 on flickr creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2012 on flickr creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Here’s a common scenario: You have been underpaid throughout your career and you struggle to catch up because your future compensation seems to be determined by your past compensation. You’ve been with your current company for a year, or perhaps a few years. When you originally accepted the job, you didn’t really negotiate your salary. You may be scrambling for a way to ask your boss for a raise. You don’t want to come off as envious of your coworkers, but you do want to be better compensated.  Fortunately, there are a number of ways to catch up on your salary if you’ve been underpaid.

Know your market worth and know the market:

You probably wouldn’t consider a project without doing some research first. For example, you wouldn’t repaint your house without knowing which types of paint to buy. The same thing can be said about your market value. It is important to know how your positions to compares to others in your field. That is, what are people with the same experience and skills being paid for doing the same, or a similar job? There are a number of ways to research salary amounts for your position. Glassdoor is a great resource for discovering what people in your company and your competitors are being paid. It even offers reviews of a company from current and former employees. PayScale offers a personalized salary report and includes job title, skills, education level, and location in determining a salary range. Salary.com is a little simpler to use, and provides a median snapshot of your pay range based your job title and location. In addition to online salary calculators, ask HR people and niche recruiters about the pay range for your position. Use LinkedIn to build relationships with recruiters, and ask them about average salaries for your job. If you want more information, ask a manager several levels above you what they were paid when they did your job. There’s one caveat: This approach may provide some information, but it doesn’t account for how the economy can greatly impact salaries. It can help in the justification if you are paid less than someone who had the same job years ago. You can also research your company’s competitors to see what they’re paying for the same position.

Now that you’ve done your salary range research, there is another research step to consider—your company’s finances. Having data on pay for your position is fantastic, but your company needs to be in a position to give you that raise. A company in poor financial shape may not be able to give you a raise, or the raise may fall short of what you wanted. If your company is publicly traded, you can find financial statements online. If your employer is private, discovering its financial health may be a bit harder. Some potential signs to look out for are the number of clients, and how well top executives are spending. A healthy client base and confident executives are signs your company is doing well, and can afford the raise. It’s critical to evaluate how YOU make an impact on the financial health. Even an administration position can indirectly impact the top and bottom lines of a financial statement. Also, take a moment to research your company’s budget, if you don’t already know it. Raises may have already been given out for the quarter, and you may have to wait for the next budget period. Or you can take a huge step, and see what another company is paying for your position. If you can’t get that raise, you may need to make a change in order to catch up.

You should never accept a counteroffer because it can be tantamount to career suicide. A counteroffer is designed to prevent you from leaving. In other words, you haven’t become more valuable as an employee to your boss, but it would be more of a hassle to immediately replace you. Your boss would have to deal with the disruption your departure will bring, as well as hiring someone else to fill your position. If your work was highly valued by your current employer, you wouldn’t have to resort to finding another employer to work for. Worse yet, if you make the decision to accept a counteroffer, there’s no guarantee your boss won’t fire you in the next few months. Consider this: the very act of flirting with another company can raise a red flag, and your boss may no longer trust you. When the opportunity arises, your boss may let you go at their earliest convenience. If you’ve made up your mind to resign from your company because you are underpaid, stick to your decision. Scott Love, a columnist for The Vet Recruiter, has a few stories about executives who accepted a counteroffer, and were later fired from their companies.

Build your personal case:

A demand of, “Give me more money, because I deserve it!” isn’t enough to get that raise. You may be underpaid, and have the market value data to prove it, but you have to provide your boss with a compelling reason to give you a raise. List your accomplishments and show the value you bring to the company. Illustrate the ways you help your company save money, or how you really get projects done. Name some of the most successful projects you’ve worked on. If you’re constantly praised by your clients, coworkers, and superiors, save those letters and e-mails. Pursue your case for a higher salary in a similar manner to your job hunt. You didn’t hold back on your accomplishments or recommendations. Why should it be different when it comes to catching up on your salary? Coupling market value salary ranges with your accomplishments make it much harder for your boss to dismiss your request for a salary increase. You deserve to be appropriately paid for your work. Last week I discussed how you can negotiate perks and other benefits that have monetary value to you, if pure compensation isn’t a viable offering.

Practice your pitch:

Practice making your request, sharing relevant data, and countering possible objections before you actually meet with your boss. No one is perfect, but practice certainly never hurt anyone! If the thought of talking to your boss about raises makes you nervous, a practice run with a coach or a mentor could help you get your pitch down. Alternatively, if you’re the more forceful type, practice could help you be assertive without being overly aggressive. Meditating and visualization are a great way to ensure that you approach this from the right mindset and optimize the outcome.

Negotiate a competitive pay raise, rather than a merit-based raise:

You have the market data that shows what your position is worth; now is the time to formulate a salary increase based on that information. If you’re underpaid, use the salary information to calculate the number of percentage points your raise should be. For example, if you’re paid 7% less than the market rate, ask for a raise of 7% in the form of a competitive pay raise. Pat Katepoo, the founder of Pay Raise Prep School for Women illustrates the point wonderfully in her article, “How to Get a Pay Raise of 10% or More.” Anything less than a competitive pay raise for someone who is underpaid means, he or she will never reach the baseline starting point for the job. For example, if you are being paid 10% below the market average, your boss may offer a merit pay raise offer of 5%, but that still won’t catch your salary up. There is also the risk of being paid above the market value—finding yourself on the chopping block. Catching up is a priority, but the way to get a raise above and beyond the market value for your job is to find a way to increase YOUR market value—A certification, taking on  a new project, enhancing your role, or landing a big client (even if you’re NOT a sales person!). In short, a smaller pay raise will increase your salary, but you’ll lose income potential in the long run by accepting much less than what your position is actually worth.

Additionally, you could use an offer for more money from a competitor as a way to leverage your negotiating power with your current company, but by doing this you should be prepared to resign. As I stated earlier, accepting a counteroffer from your boss does your career more harm than good. You may gain a raise in the short term, but lose your job in the long run.

Once you’ve figured out how much you should be paid for your job, request a meeting with your boss. You should ask for the raise amount you’d like, show how the raise is competitive with other salaries for your position, and highlight the many tasks you perform for the company. After the meeting, follow up with a prepared document stating the terms you are requesting. Writing a letter to your boss after meeting with him or her in person allows you to plead a genuine case, versus writing the letter first. Sending a letter first can allow your boss to easily dismiss your case.

Consider a job transition:

If your bid for a higher salary fails with your current employer, consider working for another employer. Transitioning to a new company and negotiating for a salary at or above market rate is another way to increase your pay. Work your professional networks and don’t be afraid to jump ship, if you really need to. On average, an employee who stays at his or her job for two or more years can expect a pay raise of about 3%. Employees who switch jobs can earn average salary increase of 10% to 20%. If your employer can’t see your value, and won’t or can’t afford to pay you at a market rate, find someone else who will. That said, it is important to move on in a civil manner, if you do decide to work somewhere else. You never know when your boss or coworkers could provide you with valuable professional references. Burning professional bridges may make for an entertaining TV show plot point, but it is never a good idea in real life.

Salary negotiations can cause some initial trepidation, but they can be successful. Not negotiating for a high salary means you’ll be leaving money on the table, especially if you’re underpaid. The amount of money you lose in the long run can easily add up to millions of dollars. Think about it. If your boss suddenly spread out millions of dollars on a table in front of you, and said it was yours, would you say “No thanks,” and leave it behind? Probably not. This happens whenever you’re paid much less than you’re worth. You can reverse the trend of being underpaid by taking action NOW. Discover what you should be paid, formulate a new salary, practice your pitch, and make a compelling argument as to why you deserve a competitive pay raise. If your company won’t or can’t provide you with one, be prepared to look for a new employer. Think about the quality of life you could be enjoying if you are paid what the Abundance calculator determines as your present-day income. Again, being underpaid can really throw off your income track and you can lose millions throughout your career by not taking control. NOW is the time to correct that course!

Money – Pink Floyd HD (Studio Version)

Money – Pink Floyd from the Dark Side of the moon in HD quality [Lyrics] Money Get away You get a good job with good pay and you’re okay Money It’s a gas Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash New car, caviar, four star daydream Think

Advance Your Career by Making Demands to Your Boss

Photo courtesy of sean dreilinger of flickr creative commons - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)(http://bit.ly/requestforhappiness).

Photo courtesy of sean dreilinger of flickr creative commons – Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)(http://bit.ly/requestforhappiness).

A number of years ago I had a co-worker who was unsatisfied with her position at our company. We worked in close proximity, and she had a habit of complaining to me about other employees. She lamented bitterly about workers who were allowed to leave early on light workflow days. They essentially only worked a few days a week and they were always guaranteed their same workstation. Meanwhile, she showed up to work nearly every day, but had to wander the work floor unsure of what her task would be for that day. In her eyes, the managers had their favorites, while everyone else had to suffer. Finally, I asked her, “Why not tell the boss how unhappy you are, and request a more permanent spot?” She stood silent for a moment, and then muttered an excuse about how her opinion wouldn’t matter.

In my past job, I noted that those who were bold enough to make demands from the boss often moved up in the company. To clarify, making demands doesn’t mean storming into your boss’s office and pounding your fist on the desk. It means making requests that will better your life and the company. Those who stayed silent often languished until their dissatisfaction either lead them to quit, or to remain unhappy and stagnant. Those who are really dissatisfied with their jobs can earn a reputation for being a toxic influence, which may lead to getting fired. This means not getting a good recommendation, which prevents you from landing anywhere new.

The thought of talking to the boss and making demands can be enough to paralyze some of us. A sense of dread and foreboding wraps itself around you and threatens to suffocate. Nervous thoughts and feelings of self-doubt swirl around in your mind. Silence rarely dispels dissatisfaction. You push back against the anxiety and summon your courage. You want to advance your career. Well, commanding the attention of your boss is the key to getting ahead. You no longer want to be the employee that goes unnoticed by your higher-ups. You have ambitions that need to be fulfilled, and you’re eager to take your career to the next level.

It may be tempting to keep your head down, work hard, avoid making waves, and hope you get noticed in the future. These actions constitute a good work ethic, but they may not capture the attention of your boss. That is, you may be a great worker, but not making noticeable waves only contributes to the status quo of your professional life. I always say, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, who cares?” In other words, the impact is isolated. Furthermore, if you want to take your career to the next level and secure financial freedom, your boss and the relationships of your workplace has a role to play. In terms of promoting yourself, integrating and building relationships with other departments can also raise your visibility level. The requests you can make of your boss can run the gamut. Your requests can range from the relatively minor, like asking for a more comfortable chair, to the life-changing events, such as a promotion or a higher salary.

Don’t leave your compensation on the table

When there’s a discussion of compensation, salary is the first thing to come to mind. Compensation is important in the work place, because our time and effort have value. In the hiring process, salary negotiations may make or break a job offer. While you’re employed at a company, your pay can also make or break your position. Your salary may not increase as quickly as you like, so at some point you’ll have to ask your boss for a raise. Consider it in personal terms: not asking for a raise is simply leaving money on the table, especially if you’ve been at your current position for a number of years. There are long term losses to consider. Once you leave money on the table, you are decreasing your salary for years to come. This can add up to millions of dollars that are earned, but are uncollected. You CAN make up for lost time by mastering the negotiation process, but the challenge and skills needed increase with every year you are paid less than you are worth. You may ask yourself, “What should my salary be?” Plug your numbers into the Unlimited Abundance income calculator to discover the answer.

Personal time is critical to your well-being

Time off is critical to your personal and professional well-being. You can make all of the money in the world and your job may give you immense pleasure, but what good is it to you if you never relax or see your family? If you work constantly without being able to take a vacation, or critical time off when you need it, it won’t be long before the burnout sets in. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2012 revealed that long working hours can result in a combination of stress, raised blood pressure, and other serious health problems. In some cases, working more than an average of 11 hours per day raised the risk of heart disease by 67%. In short, overworking can be detrimental to your hearth. The job you once loved slowly begins to turn sour. Instead of joy, the thought of work only brings you misery and dread. Additionally, you may forget how to derive joy from personal things— even when you are doing personal things, you can feel guilty about not working. That is a huge warning sign that priorities need to shift, or else time off will add to your stress. Personal time is vital to maintaining a healthy life.

Flexible Time

You may consider requesting the ability to telecommute or even flex-time from your boss. If you’re in the middle of unexpected life changes, such as a new child, a sickly family member, or the sudden need to move, working away from the office can be a huge benefit. Your boss won’t know you may need a more flexible schedule, unless you actually take the time to ask them. Some corporate policies are perceived to be inflexible, but many companies are seeing that competition for talent is increasing and are offering flex-time. Remote reporting is becoming more and more necessary to be a competitive employer, especially for hiring millennials. In my article, “Enticing Exclusive Millennials,” I wrote about effective ways for employers to attract new and recent college grads.

Additional on the job learning

Continuing your professional development is essential to your long term career. You can exponentially increase your value and promotability, thereby increasing your income. A good place to start is to know more about your industry and how to improve your performance. The fastest way to improve is to request feedback and constructive criticism from your boss, if he or she doesn’t already give it to you. Take that constructive criticism and focus on building your strengths and finding new ways to apply them, versus focusing on filling in your gaps. Marcus Buckingham, a business consultant and best-selling author, has written numerous articles highlighting the important of promoting your strengths instead of simply improving your weaknesses.

Education doesn’t end with your university degree; it’s only the start of your journey. You can consider attending industry conferences, tuition or certification reimbursement, or even bringing in training on-site for all employees to further your education. Your job is your passion, as well as a source of income, and it is a continual process to strive to become an expert.

You can also ask your boss what industry related books he or she is reading, and ask for sources of industry related news. Not only will this demonstrate your personal initiative, you will also have the opportunity to become more knowledgeable in your field. Having a goal to climb the advancement ladder is great, but not knowing what’s at the top of the ladder makes grabbing that first rung more difficult. If a boss doesn’t “get it,” you can also be the one to point out that if your boss can train you to replace him or her, they can move up. This only works in cultures where everyone isn’t always worried about their job security. If you’re in that situation, contact us and get unstuck!

Getting to know the boss

There are times when you need to get personal, and ask the boss what type of manager he or she is. Sure, you can take the “wait and see” approach and learn what type of person you’ll be working for. Or, you can take the intitive and ask. Some managers are, well, micromanagers. They have to oversee and have a hand in every aspect of the job. All decisions must go through them, and this approach can lead to learning valuable expertise on the job. Other managers prefer a hands-off approach. You’ll get the information you need to do your job correctly, and little else beyond that. Some managers are a mixture of the two approaches. The more you know about your boss, the easier it is to adjust your work style in order to avoid personal clashes. Better yet, when you know what style enables you to thrive and even what management style you would employ, you will want to qualify your employer before you accept a position. That way, you set yourself up for success from the get-go during the interview process.

You can ask your boss about their personal aspirations. What does the job mean to them? Where do they see themselves in five years? What does he or she think of the company? These questions may be difficult to ask at first, but knowing more about your boss can give you a nice snapshot into the company, especially if you’re new. Or, getting to know more about your boss could ease friction and tension at work (if it exists). Moreover, if you have a lot in common with you boss it could make promotions or job transitions easier. After all, personal relationships are vital to advancing your professional life.

Raising influence at work

Influence is another important aspect of your career. You can ask your boss for ways to become a team player for the benefit of your company. If there are critical projects, find a way to participate in them. Take your achievements and highlight them for higher-ups to see. If there’s a critical need that’s not being fulfilled, ask your boss how you can fill this gap. If there’s an issue or a need of expertise, you want to be the “go to” guy or gal at the company. Many of my clients have realized tremendous professional success by making themselves indispensable across the organization. This can come with some conflict, but the better you become at navigating and/or defusing that conflict, the more influence and responsibility you can anticipate.

If you’re ready to advance to the next level ask your boss for a promotion. If you’ve been turned down for a promotion, ask what you can do to succeed. If there’s a gap in your skills, discover how to close the gap. The problem could be as simple as needing more education in one area. Going into management is not always the most appropriate way to move up—not everyone is a natural manager and some are better off building their skills as a senior individual contributor. In this performance based economy, the length of time at a company is no longer the sole factor in terms of getting promoted. A promotion is something that has to be actively sought out. Again, if a manager doesn’t know you’re interested in moving up, he or she may not even consider you for a promotion.

Don’t forget the other perks!

There are little perks you can request from your boss to make your life easier to manage, especially when pure salary, vacation time or educational resources can’t be negotiated. A few examples include, having your dry cleaning reimbursed if you have a business formal dress code, reimbursement for a long commute, or having to pay a city wage tax. You can also consider healthcare flex spending accounts, college tuition savings accounts, and even childcare stipends. Sometimes these perks fall under different tax deduction categories, so it is more than worth it for an employer to make them a perk that they cover, versus giving you that straight compensation to pay for these things yourself. The ability to not use vacation time or lunch hours for doctor’s appointments is something else to consider. The big question to ask is, “What am I paying for out of pocket that my company can pay for where there is some kind of benefit for them, too?”

Your professional brand is your personal brand, and your brand is directly correlated to your market value and worth. What kind of value do you bring to your company, and your boss? If you had a great product, it would be insane not to advertise it, and to leave value compensation and perks on the table. In the same way, raising your personal status can pave the way for career advancement.  As I said earlier, silence rarely solves problems. If you’re feeling ambitious at work, or ready for a change, you have to voice your opinions to your boss. Sometimes getting to the next level in your professional life is as simple making a few requests.

The Who – You Better You Bet (Album Version Video)

The Who – You Better You Bet Full Length Version video. I love the second verse in the long version that I thought I would edit a video for it! Which has helped me to deal with my heartbreak! *sniffs* Well at least a little…..

Getting life back on track after personal tragedy

Angela is a talented Junior Writer on the Epic Careering team. This week’s topic was very personal to Angela, so I invited her to guest post. Because I have seen my clients through so many more life changes than just job changes, from births to deaths, I know that the challenge of finding a job is not met in a vacuum; it is met in the stride of and sometimes against the stride of other life challenges. I trust that her experience will be inspiring to those of you who are facing multiple personal traumas and tragedies. 

Photo courtesy of Yamanaka Tamaki "mud boy in the rice field" - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (http://bit.ly/stuckinmud).

Photo courtesy of Yamanaka Tamaki “mud boy in the rice field” –
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (http://bit.ly/stuckinmud).

I stared at the wall, unable to process the task of getting my life back on track. It was mid-February and I just learned my sickly father would soon pass away. The news hit me like a train. It turned my carefully structured life upside down. As I was in the process of getting the details from my sister on the phone, another call came to deliver the news of his death. Just like that, my father was gone. I was left slightly shocked and dumbfounded. All of the plans I had been making for a job transition came to a grinding halt. My father lived out of state, so bringing him back to Pennsylvania wouldn’t be a quick task. I waited a week, and was told by my sister that his funeral service wouldn’t be until September. That’s a long time to wait to say my final goodbye. In the meantime, there was the matter of getting back into the job search.

First I decided to give myself time to grieve my father’s passing. All work that I deemed unnecessary was put on hold. I took time to feel sadness, loss and to appreciate the time I had spent with my father. Additionally, if I needed to turn my brain off, I wasn’t above playing a video game or catching up on a few TV shows. During past hardships I told myself that pursuing my hobbies seemed inappropriate, but by denying myself a way to escape from my grief, I only made my sadness worse. Because I wasn’t burdened with the task of handling my father’s funeral preparations, I allowed myself to mentally decompress.

Most of my mental decompression consisted of putting my emotions into a box when I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t want to shut myself indoors, nor did I want to think about how upset I felt. Storing my emotions helped me get through the first few days. When I felt better I allowed myself reflect upon my father’s passing, and how he affected my life.

Growing up, I wasn’t very close to my father. I lived with my mother, and she raised me as a single parent. Before I reached my teenage years, my father reached out to me. From the time he came back into life and until his passing, he spent much of his time trying to build a relationship with me. I didn’t appreciate or fully understand his efforts until I reached adulthood. The major lesson I learned from his efforts is that it’s never too late attempt to mend what has been broken.

These broken things can consist of relationships, dreams or even failed efforts. The result may not be perfect, but the process of trying can yield fruitful results. Not trying only builds up a sense of resentment and regret. In the case of the relationship with my father, had he not tried to be a part of my life I would have known very little about him. Worse yet, I doubt I would have cared much if word of his passing had reached me. He didn’t raise me, so why should I care? Because of his efforts, I had fond memories of him as a teen and as an adult. Personally, it took me about three weeks before I felt up to the task of getting back into the job search.

A job loss can be like losing a loved one:

The sudden loss of a job can carry as much impact as losing a loved one. The process of unexpectedly being let go by an employer can bring about fear and anxiety. A part of you is missing. Self-identity, self-worth, your co-workers and a sense of stability can all disappear in a flash. The future seemed so certain and now it is unknown. Additionally, if a job search fails to land a job, depression and discouragement can set in. These factors can make it difficult to resume a career. Even when the job search resumes, the first few rejections can put you right back into the grieving process. The process can trigger a downward spiral of demotivation. The chances of moving on to something better seem more distant and settling for less than what you’re worth becomes all the more tempting. The past seems brighter than the future ever will. The feelings of powerlessness can be strong, and there are days when seeing the light at the end of the tunnel seems like an impossible thought. The light is there, but the effort it takes to reach it can be daunting. Opportunity rarely falls into our laps. Taking the effort to get your life back on track ensures that you can create the opportunity to advance in your career after a loss. In my case, I asked Career and Income Optimizer Karen Huller for job seeking advice to help get on track after being derailed.

Don’t ignore your emotions:

Karen succinctly told me “what we resist persists.” In other words, it is crucial to allow yourself to experience negative emotions. Feelings of sadness, rejection, doom and even listlessness are common. If you need time off to grieve, or come to terms with your situation, take it. Allow yourself to decide how long you’ll remain upset by the situation. The benefit of setting a period of time for yourself is that you’ll have the power to eliminate the feelings of letting people down, not doing enough, or the sense that you should be doing something. This gives you the breathing room you may need to continue the grieving process, unhindered by life’s responsibilities. As I said earlier, it took me three weeks before I was ready to resume my life. You may end up choosing to take a few weeks or a few months to get back on track, depending on the severity of your personal situation. A personal tragedy may shape short and long term events in your life, but it doesn’t define your worth.

Getting back to a sense of normalcy can be a great first step. In my case, I had suspended my job search, but I continued to work part-time at night. Part of me found it comforting to stick to a normal routine among my friends and co-workers. At the same time, I felt a surge of sadness whenever anyone came up to console me about my father.

Getting back into the swing of things:

Getting back into the job hunt was a little harder. The first task was to back on a daily schedule, including reconnecting with my social networks, networking, and targeting potential employers. In short, putting the train back on the rails is critical to moving forward. I’m not going to say the transition was entirely smooth; chipping away at my goals is a much better alternative to not doing anything at all.

I strongly believe in moving forward in life, no matter how long the process may take. When the darker side of life comes into play, it can be easy to become depressed and discouraged. On a personal level, it doesn’t take much for feelings of meaninglessness and worthlessness to capture my psyche.  It is a constant battle between optimism and pessimism. Staying still and wallowing in my own grief for too long of a period of time is like sinking into mud. The longer I allow myself to sink, the harder it is to free myself from the quagmire. Pressing forward to reach my goals allows me to keep my pessimism at bay and to get myself unstuck. The more the pessimism fades, the easier to it is to see and create opportunities in life, especially when it comes to the job search.

I’m fond of the biblical teachings about adversity in the New Testament. In short, it’s not if adversity strikes us, but when adversity strikes, and how we choose to endure and overcome it. For some of us, it may be a minor blow and for others adversity can be as powerful as a punch that knocks them flat on their back. All your efforts you’ve undertaken to create a good life can be scattered in instant. The process of getting back on track can be daunting. No matter what, it is important to deal with feelings of loss, to take the time needed to cope, decide how long to cope, and get back into the process of reaching the career goals you’ve set for yourself.

Should I Even Bother Negotiating?

Photo courtesy of nick@ on Flickr creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) "Arm Wrestling" https://www.flickr.com/photos/nic1/3498727510/sizes/m/.

Photo courtesy of nick@ on Flickr creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) “Arm Wrestling” https://www.flickr.com/photos/nic1/3498727510/sizes/m/.

You can always negotiate. However, your chances of getting a desirable result depend on how prepared and educated you are. The point of negotiating is not to battle for power or the upper hand and it is not to squeeze the employer for every last ounce of compensation from their budget. The point of negotiating is to come to a win-win solution where each party gets equal value.

If you have not tracked your accomplishments in measurable terms, consult with an expert (like me) who can ask you the right questions to help draw out these details. Your accomplishments act as justification of your value both with the hiring manager and their finance department or executive leadership. Either or both may ultimately have to approve the budget.

Salary is a price at which an employer purchases you and your abilities. In a “buyer’s market”, employers drive prices. As the economy recovers, so do rates and salaries. We are heading toward a “seller’s market.” (This will not be true of all jobs/industries, but will be true generally.) As with all financial cycles, prices correct themselves and there are opportunities to re-negotiate salaries.

Regardless of the market, settling for the first offer can be perceived as naïve or passive. You are essentially training your employer for future negotiations, so it is worth practicing some advanced negotiating skills, even they don’t result in a higher offer now, but instead set you up for a better offer in the future.

You need to understand your market value so that you can identify a fair offer. If you are wondering what a general range for an acceptable offer would be in this market, niche recruiters are usually the most knowledgeable on current market value. If you have built relationships with a niche recruiter it can be much easier to have them make the time to share this information with you. Keep in mind that this will usually be general information and may not account for the unique value that you have to offer, which an expert can help you understand better. Other resources, such as salary websites (salary.com and government websites) are useful to gather some data as well.

A troubling trend that I see building momentum today is candidates undervaluing themselves. They believe employers will not be able to see their value or pay them for their value, even if they do demonstrate it. In the end, instead of trying, many candidates give up and allow themselves to be undervalued. Until you execute an optimized career campaign, which means executing all 7 steps of a career transition with complete integrity (both structurally and morally), you can’t truly determine if you need to settle for less or be more flexible.
The seven steps of a career transition are:

1. Discovery – determining what you want
2. Marketing materials preparation – resume, profiles, cover letters, biographies, etc.
3. Prospecting – determining criteria and identifying target companies
4. Distribution and follow-up – usually outside of an online portal
5. Networking – nurturing your network while you train them to generate qualified leads
6. Interviewing – is more about who you are not what you say
7. Offer negotiation – start out as partners

Too many people are skipping the career steps or falling short of mastering them. Rather than building momentum so that they can choose from multiple attractive opportunities, they feel forced to accept what they can get, thereby passing up great opportunities for success.

Employers know that candidates tend to get desperate. They can see this as an opportunity to take advantage of those desperate candidates and get cheap talent. Beware – these employers usually foster an environment where they teach you that you are fortunate just to be employed. They use the economy and mental abuse to keep people retained in awful jobs and morale is generally very poor. Over time, some employees may accept the situation and it becomes a bigger challenge for them to get back on track. Once you undervalue yourself, even good employers will start to do the same.

Progressive and attractive employers seek out the candidates that are clear with their motivations and who know their value. They want to offer these candidates an opportunity that matches their qualifications, career goals, and salary requirements. Employers do this so they can retain these valuable candidates even in an up economy, and these companies eliminate candidates that pursue “anything and everything” and who undervalue or overvalue their experience.

On the other end, overpricing yourself puts you at great risk. Layoffs are determined by various factors including utilization versus overhead costs, so negotiating the highest number possible is not the best long-term strategy. Though it may make you feel financially secure, you can put yourself on the chopping block if you do this. The only true job security that you can have in this cyber age is your ability to successfully transition.

As in any time, you will need to know your current market value for both your general skills and your unique value and offer justification, which has little to do with your circumstances and everything to do with the value that the company will realize from hiring you. If you prove you are indispensable and ask for a fair amount, you will get a raise, even if it is not what you originally requested. If the employer does not keep up with market prices, then they risk turnover and increased difficulty filling vacant positions, which costs them money.

Almost always, they expect that what you ask for is negotiable just as they expect you to negotiate their offers, even if they tell you it’s non-negotiable! There may be budgetary limits, and you can consider what benefits and perks would have monetary value to you to make it a win-win situation, which is the END GOAL. Negotiation at its best is not about power or sacrifice. You do not have to settle for less than MARKET VALUE, which is a constantly changing number, or concede what is important to you just to have a job. Success in negotiation is reached in the middle, where you and the company get equal value.

Alabama Shakes – Gimme All Your Love (Official Audio)

iTunes: http://smarturl.it/shakes-scitunes Amazon (CD, VINYL, MP3): http://smarturl.it/shakes-scamazon Alabama Shakes store: http://smarturl.it/shakes-webstore ATO Records store: http://smarturl.it/SandC_ATOStore Available on CD / Digital / 2 x LP (180-Gram Black and Clear Colored Vinyl)

Signs That a Change is Necessary

Photo courtesy of Joe Dunckley on flickr open source - "Sign not in use" - https://www.flickr.com/photos/steinsky/143733824/in/photolist-dGF4o-hR3yDr-9vtV-ckrjMS-ncDnVz-jvDa8w-vRLVd-3J618s-6i85PB-7wrL-kuBpdZ-hSEsCG-qR9Rhy-r6rMPw-r8DPWY-qR9NRm-r6rLYU-r8A4BF-qRj2kF-qR9RUW-r6rMA5-qRhhGi-qbJheS-qbWyCt-r8DTAS-qbWBdZ-qRj91e-qRhfXB-qbJfYW-r8DVzm-r6rNe9-qRbkb9-r8DSh9-qbJhuw-qRj6X6-qRbjz9-p1xgG1-mQXieg-mQXioV-mQXiyV-mq8UfZ-hR4qwk-moc28H-moc1YK-hR4atf-na8jbW-mBDz8V-p3xhNy-p3zaUc-oL5v17 - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

Photo courtesy of Joe Dunckley on flickr open source – “Sign not in use” – Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic -http://bit.ly/signnotinuse

Last month I had the honor of seeing one of my favorite speakers, Jen Groover, in-person at my alma mater, Ursinus College. I had seen her PBS Special, many of her other YouTube videos as well as a fireside chat that she did with Philly StartUp Grind. I had heard her tell the story of how she was driving to work as a young graduate with a knot in her stomach. She actually was so anxious about going to work that she fantasized about getting into a car accident just so she would have a good excuse not to go. Thankfully, she trusted her inner wisdom and followed a passion that led her to an epic career, twice. Seeing her tell this story inspired me to re-publish this article that I wrote in 2007. Plus, a friend recently shared here job grievances on Facebook, so the time feels very right to help her, and anyone else suffering mentally AND physically because they are enduring the wrong job.

I pursued the employment industry because I enjoyed matching people with opportunities and creating a win-win-win for the company, the candidate, and my firm. I moved into working one-on-one with jobseekers because I gained invaluable knowledge that I knew many people needed to help them succeed. And boy, I wanted them to succeed. Being a great judge of character is a necessity to being a great recruiter. It was clear to me after several months that I would rather help these people than determine that they are not good enough to present to our clients. (Author’s note: Within my first year, I also realized that judgment was actually an impediment to helping them, and I started to work on becoming more compassionate – a brand signature of my business today.) I stuck with recruiting for several years and had no regrets. The years that followed provided me with even more experience and knowledge. There did come a time, however, when I had to recognize that it was time to move on.

In late 2005 after I was married, it seemed as though everything that I read, watched or overheard was leading me to the same conclusion: I need to create something of my own to share the intelligence I had been procuring and provide services for jobseekers in my area that no one else was offering. Omens were coming from every direction; I even had a fortune cookie tell me that a change in vocation was coming. (Author’s note: I still have it on my desk in my home office to remind me how listening to these signs and taking action has paid off in my life.) Even with all of these signs, it was the help and encouragement of a coach that pushed me to bring my vision and mission to fruition.

As a career coach, I bestow the power to pursue a career path that leads to life fulfillment. There IS a formula for career happiness, and a process that, when followed with integrity, ultimately results in the ability to choose the best opportunity among multiple viable opportunities. So many people make decisions to stay stuck, or not try, often because of assumptions, bad advice, self-limiting beliefs, or, my “favorite,” the market. In doing so, people stand in their own way of happiness, either by not acknowledging that a change is necessary, or worse yet, recognizing that a change is necessary and not empowering themselves to make that change happen.

I do understand, to a point, the psychology behind not changing. (Author’s note: I am keenly aware now, after years of studying neuroscience, behavior-change gamification and human performance optimization, how our brains and our bodies resist change.] It is difficult and scary. You put yourself out there to have other people determine if you are good enough or not. And what if they decide that you are not? What if there really isn’t anything better? What if what you want isn’t attainable? Coincidentally, Jen Groover’s book is called What If and Why Not? and I highly recommend it if you relate to these fears.)

I have seen loved ones emotionally and mentally beaten down by work environments in which hostility between colleagues is tolerated while appreciation and recognition are scarce. The longer that they stayed there, the more they felt like disposable commodities. It was as though they should feel fortunate to be employed. It’s essentially a corporate form of mental abuse. It hurt to watch people who I know are unique, important, and deserving of so much more made to feel small and insignificant. (Author’s note: This was a big determining factor in what made me choose to make the contribution of being a career coach, as I detail in this blog.) Once I was recruiting, it hurt more, because I could see with greater clarity what they needed to be happy, and I knew it was attainable. Regardless, it still had to be their decision, their resolve, and their commitment that made it happen.

In an effort to minimize the number of people who waste precious time waking up every day to do a job that does not utilize their talents, does not fulfill them spiritually, financially, and/or vocationally and that they resent or despise, I will share with you some questions and answers that may indicate if it is your time to recognize the signs and create much needed change in your career for the sake of your life.

1. Are you regularly grumpy on Sunday evenings and every morning but Friday?

If you answered yes, this indicates that you have anxiety about going to work. Everyone gets grumpy sometimes. Even people that love what they do will have times when they wish they were somewhere else. Timing and frequency are the factors that have the most weight in determining the cause of the grumpiness.

2. While you are at work, are you spending more time finding personal business to tend to rather than critical deliverables that your boss is expecting?

While most people will admit that they tend to procrastinate from time to time, your job depends on your abilities to deliver. When you prioritize unimportant personal business ahead of what you need to do for you boss, that communicates that you only care enough to keep face, if you even care enough to do that. Your boss could very well be the problem, and you may not be able to keep your position in that company and change your boss. You can certainly change something.

3. When you come home from your workday, do you head straight for the television, your bed, or a drink?

We all are expected to output more these days. It can be exhausting. This is why it is even more critical to do work for which you have passion. It will be energizing more than it will be draining, and it will allow you to come home and tend to personal matters and relationships rather than spending hours decompressing and zoning out until you can sleep, wake up, and do it all over again.

4. Do you encourage your closest friends and family to NOT use your company’s product or service?

If this is the case it has to be a definite sign that you are not contributing your days and hard work to a company that is going to survive! Find a product or service that means something to you and then find a position within that company that allows you to use your talents and abilities to further their progress while you further your career.

5. Are you just brimming with ideas that no one at your company seems to hear, let alone implement?

Companies sometimes do not utilize the talent that they have to the fullest. This seems like such a waste of great energy and money! That goes for you, too, if you are staying there allowing all of your brainchildren to wither and die!

While the United States is still the land of opportunity, it is lagging behind in production and innovation. I would like you to imagine, please, every person doing what he or she loves to do. Wouldn’t we all be so much more productive and fulfilled? Idealistic? YES! Achievable? Maybe not for everyone, but it happens every day. If you want it to be you, it can, but you have to believe it and commit to it!

(Author’s note: RIP, Sheila Kutner, The “Velvet Hammer.” Your influence lives on through me and all of your clients who decided to commit themselves to careers that make a difference.)

Scorpions – Wind Of Change

Music video by Scorpions performing Wind Of Change. (C) 1991 The Island Def Jam Music Group