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3 Ways to Overcome Having Been Overpaid

All in a Day's Work by Damian Gadal of Flickr.jpg

All in a Day’s Work by Damian Gadal of Flickr.jpg

 

While research shows and some politicians feel that most workers, particularly women and federal employees, have been underpaid for far too long, some have been blessed to be very well paid. If this is you, I hope that you are taking full advantage of it and, rather than increasing your standard of living, are using the money to pay off debts and saving for the future. Experience has proven that being paid above market value puts you on the chopping block if your company ever decides that the money is better spent elsewhere.

To boot, if you are separated from your company it can be that much harder to find a job above market pay or even to convince employers that you are willing to take a pay cut.

Employers have justifiable concerns hiring somebody above market range. You could be asking for more than your boss is earning, which usually does not produce strong rapport to build a good relationship.

As with most situations, this poses a challenge, but is not necessarily an obstacle. There are ways that you can conduct your search and mitigate any potential perceived risk you pose by being someone paid above market.

 

  1. Know your numbers

If you are someone who excels at managing personal finances, you probably have strong accounts of what your monthly expenses are, and you also probably have very clear-cut savings goals for retirement. Evaluate whether there are areas of your living expenses or entertainment expenses that can be downsized.

If you have not been keeping very clear records of your monthly expenses and do not have clear-cut retirement, or other savings goals, now is the time to meet with a financial advisor.  (I know a few great ones, if you need a referral!)

If this task seems daunting to you, I can relate, and it can be tempting to guesstimate, but this is potentially very dangerous for you. If there is something you do not account for, like if you own a home and you are not accounting for an emergency fund for all the unexpected, very expensive repairs that come along with owning a home, you could be underinsured for some acts of God. Another example could be that you need to increase in your life insurance coverage if your standard of living has increased over the years. If you had a 401(k) with your previous company, a financial advisor will help you determine the best way to reinvest that to match your desired level of growth, risk, and future life needs. This is something you want to expert help on. Even if you are an expert at these things, it is wise to obtain a second opinion. Just make sure that, whatever decisions are made and whoever makes them, you are fully educated on the options and apprised of the ongoing status. Always maintain control and awareness.

If you genuinely are able to take a pay cut because you are earning above your means, coming in with specific substantiation of that will show an employer that you are fully prepared, and not guessing. Many employers have personal experience with this that they will trust over your word. You can convince them that you are not a flight risk by taking a salary cut if you write or say something specific, such as, “My house is paid off, my kids’ college is paid for, I have no debt, and I can afford to take a $43,000 pay cut.” You can do this from the get-go in an approach or cover letter, you can empower your recruiter to negotiate this on your behalf, or you can state it upfront in conversation when you have a chance to speak one-on-one with your next potential boss.

By the way, just because you are willing to take a pay cut does not mean you should not try to negotiate your package, especially if in your role you are expected to be a strong negotiator. Focus on some of the perks of a package, like a corporate car or car expenses. Perhaps you already have health care through your spouse. You can either negotiate for them to replace some of the perks they would have offered you with compensation, or where they cannot provide you with compensation, ask for perks. Come in knowing which perks have a monetary value to you.

 

  1. Know the market

Indeed, Glassdoor, and Salary.com are all places that will give you some good numbers around what the market is paying for particular roles in particular geographies. However, you may bring with you some niche skills or experience that has additional value in the market. A niche recruiter can be a very good resource in these situations. If you are going to ask for a higher salary than what the market seems to be paying generally, you need to bring with you some substantiation of your requests, and know that even if you are able to educate an employer on why you are worth more than the average candidate and are offered what you ask, ultimately if they have not budgeted for such things,  you risk the chance of being the first to go should the financial constraints of hiring you prohibit their strategic plans to invest or spend in other areas. You are also going to be held to a higher standard and had better not only deliver the goods, but continue your campaign to promote that you are delivering the goods; do not assume it will be acknowledged. People are usually very skeptical of an “overpaid suit.” You will have the stigma to combat until you earn people’s trust.

 

  1. Have a Plan B

If you really cannot afford to take a pay cut, or you really do not want to lower your standards of living, you can find other ways to make up the difference in your salary, such as investing in real estate, businesses or other financial products. You could do some consulting or coaching on the side, pending it will not be a conflict of interest with your employer. You could write a book or develop an online course. You could become a paid speaker. Let’s face it: you have managed to earn more than your professional counterparts, others will want to learn how you did it – you have something very valuable to teach.

 

You might not have thought being well-paid was such a detriment until you find yourself justifying it, defending it, or even wanting to hide your pay. (I do not recommend hiding your pay. People have their ways of finding out and you pose an even bigger risk as someone who is not forthcoming or even deceitful.) Keep in mind the employer’s perspective. Chances are if you have been on the hiring side you can completely empathize with their concerns, and, if this is so, definitely express that.

You may have to address your salary upfront, which is contrary to other negotiation advice, to get the chance to interview and establish your value, and then, once you have them interested in your value, you will have to address it again when it comes time to design a compensation package that works for all parties. Keep in mind that most employers want you to be a creative problem solver, so think of this as one of the things that you can creatively resolve in partnership with your employer to further demonstrate that you are exactly who they want.

 

The Correct Response to a Job Lead

 

"Using Three Laptops at the Same Time" by Michael Kwan from Flickr

“Using Three Laptops at the Same Time” by Michael Kwan from Flickr

“Your network is your net worth.” This succinct phrase is the title of Porter Gale’s book. Gale, a marketing expert and public speaker, argues in her book that a network of personal and professional relationships is the most important asset in a portfolio. Think about it. Over 80% of jobs are unadvertised and obtained through networking. Your network connections can help you obtain job leads and even land a job. When someone in your network produces a job lead for you, your response matters. How you respond to a job lead can mean the difference between discouraging your lead sources, and successfully capitalizing on a lead. In order to capitalize on a lead, it is important to make a smart inquiry about the quality of the lead. Not every lead is a good match for your qualifications, so it is critical to learn more about the source of the lead and the potential job.

There is an important distinction between a job lead and an introduction offer. If someone in your network offers to introduce you to someone, do not decline the opportunity. There could be synergy between you and the other party, and a conversation might lead to a job opportunity. People are the ultimate connectors. You won’t know if there’s an opportunity until you have a meeting. Graciously accept the introduction offer, attend the meeting and follow up with your source. Feel free to ask your source questions about the party you’re meeting with to attend the meeting fully prepared. An introduction is a direct invitation to establishing a relationship with someone at a potential employer. A job lead is the knowledge of an open position, and when you can establish a relationship with hiring managers you increase your odds of being chosen as the candidate who gets the offer.

Gauge how much the person knows about the source and quality of the information they’ve given you. If it is a job lead, and not an introduction, you’ll have to dig deep and research the lead. Not every job lead is created equally. Your source may or may not be intimately familiar with the lead or the position. He or she may have been approached by a recruiter, declined the offer and decided to forward the position information to you. This doesn’t mean the employer is incompatible with your personal criteria. Your lead source may not have been not been actively looking for a job, or the position may not have fit their personal criteria. Knowing that you’re looking to make a transition, your source decided to be helpful and pass the information on to you.

If your source forwarded a lead and doesn’t know much about the company, avoid bombarding them with questions about the position. In other words, don’t make them answer the same questions you would ask of someone more familiar with the position. Go directly to the source. If the source leads you to a company website or job board, go to LinkedIn to learn more about the company and to discover if you have any possible inside connections. Next week I will go further into depth about the top ten websites you can use to research your employer.

Before you consider making a connection with someone at the company, thoroughly research the organization. Your research will help you get further in your ability to market yourself and demonstrate your value. The job position could be a perfect match for your qualifications and skills, but the company culture or its location may be a poor fit. Here are few questions to consider:

 

  • Where is the company located? You may or may not be open to the idea of relocating to another town or city.

 

  • What is the size of the company? If you’ve previously worked at a small employer, switching to a large employer could be a major culture shock, and vice versa.
  • What do employees think of their employer? If a good number of employees are miserable at the job, it may be a place you want to stay far away from.
  • Why do think you’ll be a good fit for the position? This question can also generate great content for a cover letter. Take notes as you discover your answers.

 

Look up a company’s profile on LinkedIn to discover answers to your questions.  Job review sites such as Vault and Glassdoor are more ways to obtain insight about a potential employer. Visit Salary.com and PayScale to learn more about an average salary for the open position at your employer. These are good resources for gathering salary range information based on your job title, skills and education level. Once you’ve researched a potential employer it’s time make a decision.

If you find that the company meets about 80% of your criteria, create a connection within the company. Go to LinkedIn to see who you may know. If possible, try to identify the most logical hiring managers. Once you find the hiring managers, send out customized invitations. Avoid sending out boilerplate invitations, and use the information you gathered about the hiring managers to introduce yourself. Before you send out those invitations, make your LinkedIn profile as appealing as possible. I’ve written extensively on the subject.  Avoid using default headlines and make sure your profile is more than just an online résumé. When you send an invitation to hiring managers, the point is not to directly ask for a job, but to be the answer to the open position. Think of it like this, the company needs to fill an open position to solve a problem within the company. You want to be the first solution that comes to mind.

If the position does not meet 80% of your criteria and you were referred, follow through with the interview and be upfront with a hiring manager. Let him or her know that the job opportunity presented after an introduction isn’t a fit for you. This honesty can lead to better opportunities down the road. When that potential employer has an open position that matches your qualifications and needs to be filled, either internally or referred, your name may be on the top of the candidate list. Focus on your preferred contribution and the types of positions that are in alignment with your skills and qualifications.  If the real issue with a job is a lifestyle conflict, let the hiring manager know. Express to them how you appreciate the time and effort they took to consider you for a position, but it isn’t a good fit with your lifestyle. For example, longer hours at a potential job may leave you unable to pick up your children from school or daycare in a timely manner. Or, the commute may be too long.

 

Always follow through with your source. They took the time to send information for a possible lead, thank them, and update them on what happened. They have a vested interest in the outcome and will want to know if it worked out. This is the best way to reinforce with your network that the efforts that they make on your behalf are not in vain. If, however, too many job leads they send seem to be wrong, they will get discouraged. Give them a little guidance, if necessary, but always with sincere gratitude.

Making a smart inquiry about the lead, and being responsive to your source can be the difference between discouraging them from ever sending you a lead again and receiving more job leads. Again, thank them for their time and research the lead. Your research will enable you to decide if pursuing an open position is worth your time. You can also use your research to put yourself ahead of the competition by crafting a customized cover letter. Learn how to use your research to get immediate responses from employers with our cover letter secret sauce. Above all, gratitude and research is the best response to a job lead.

 

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

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)