Building Effective Relationships with the Doorman

In my coaching sessions I talk with job seekers about taking a multi-pronged approach to breaking into a company. Yes, you should contact the hiring manager directly, and yes you should attempt to get an introduction from someone inside the organization. You should also observe protocol and apply through the website, HR contact, or jobsite. Then, when you are able to reach the hiring manager you can let them know you have followed directions.

Now that we have that out of the way, my thoughts this month are focused on how to build a strong relationship with the “doorman” – and how this relationship will help you get that job. The doorman may be an internal recruiter, a contract internal recruiter, a third-party recruiter, an external consultant, an internal administrator or an internal human resources representative. Regardless of the role, that person’s responsibility is to facilitate the application, screening and interview process. This person is a trusted advisor working as an agent on behalf of the company and your relationship with this doorman is critical to your job search.

Let’s explore some of the Rules of Engagement – and the purpose behind them.

1) Always take the call – Recruiters are scouting for talent. If you get a call, then that means you’ve been identified as potentially having talent. When you take time to talk with a recruiter about you, your experience, and what your next position might look like you have expanded your network exponentially. Even if you are happily employed right now, the recruiter has captured information about you and your goals, so that if something comes up that matches what you want, you surface as a prospect.

If you don’t take the call, then you’ve sent a message that you are not worth their time – and you’ll be passed on for that perfect position because no one but you knows what that looks like.

2) Share Referrals – again, recruiters are scouting for talent. Good recruiters will respectfully ask you for referrals; great talent knows other great talent! You have friends, colleagues, associates and partners who may be interested in a position even if you aren’t. Why wouldn’t you try and help someone else by sharing information? If you were looking for a job, wouldn’t you appreciate a friend referring you? If you are worried about confidentiality then take the name and number of the recruiter and pass it along. The good karma will come back tenfold.

3) Follow up and follow through. The screening process with a recruiter has a number of objectives. First, the recruiter wants to gauge your suitability for the position. As well, the recruiter is evaluating your personal character, ability to follow directions, follow up as requested, communicate professionally and observe professional etiquette.

An illustration: I schedule calls with candidates and instruct them to phone me at a specific time. By doing so, I am testing their ability to keep their commitments, be on time, follow instructions and respect other people’s time. During the screening call I take time to get to know candidates beyond what their resume has to say. I am capturing information about their communication skills, thinking processes, ability to articulate abstract concepts, honesty and personal ethics. Based on the results of this discussion I decide whether or not the hiring manager will experience this candidate. Yes, it’s my decision – I am a trusted advisor.

4) Get the inside scoop. The recruiter – internal or external – has insider information that will help you. Working as an agent on behalf of the hiring manager (or company) your recruiter contact will help position you for success during the interview process. You are reflective of their skills/ability so if you ask and listen, you’ll go into the interview armed with everything you need to shine! Ask about corporate culture, ask about the hiring manager’s hot buttons, ask about taboo subjects, ask about the dress code for the interview, and ask intelligent questions. It’s like having a coach in your corner!

5) Mind your manners. Politeness, courtesy and manners go a long way with the recruiter. Send a thank you note, respond to emails and phone calls promptly and be candid about feedback. These seem like silly details, but they speak volumes about your character – and when it comes down to you and another finalist – character may get the job.

Recruiters, Human Resources Experts and Human Capital Consultants are regularly part of the hiring process. As we continue our economic rebound these talented professionals will be working with hiring companies to make sure that the very best candidates are hired. Turnover is costly and a bad hire has lasting consequences. Befriend these trusted advisors and shorten your distance to a new position.

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Social Groups and Volunteer Activities CAN lead to a job

Looking for a job, especially if you are under the added stress of being unemployed, is hard work.  The process takes an emotional and mental toll on you for a number of reasons; 1) you are personally connected to your search, 2) the search process itself is unfamiliar territory, 3) you have to be “on your game” much of the time and that’s just plain exhausting, and 4) it’s a tedious activity to research, apply and follow up on positions you are interested in.
The time and effort you put into your search will directly impact the length of your search.  For those who unemployed, the good news is you have more time to dedicate to landing your next great position.  But, looking for a job doesn’t mean sitting in front of your computer 40 hours a week. Additionally, it doesn’t mean your search ends at 5:00 PM.   Some of your best effort will be made outside your house and in the evenings.  Realistically, the people you want to meet and need to connect with are working.  That means they do their networking and social activities after business hours – and that’s where you need to be. 
You’ve already let your family, friends and professional network know you are looking for a job.  Now it’s time to expand your reach and gain access to an extended network.  Online Social Networking can help with this, but that’s not enough.  You need to get out there, meet new people who are gainfully employed and not already in your ‘circle’.  Let’s look at some options:
·         Professional groups are a good place to start – be seen where hiring managers hang out.  This means attend activities that are one level above where you are as a professional.  Here’s how I decide whether or not to attend an event;  if the content is interesting to me then I will likely meet people with whom I have a common interest.  There are too many options – and it can get pretty expensive – so filtering is a good idea.
·         Social groups are a great way to meet new people.  Recreational sports, book clubs, biking, running, hiking, dog walking (you name it) are all great ways to meet new people who have networks that you don’t have access to.  Check out www.meetup.com for hundreds of groups and activities to choose from.
·         Volunteering with non-profits is a natural way to meet new people.  Let’s face it, if you aren’t working you have some time to give as a volunteer and you’ll feel better for doing it.  There are so many organizations needing help that finding a way to contribute is pretty easy.  Maybe you have an organization that you’ve supported with money in the past and now, without a job that’s not realistic – give them a call and find out how you can give your time instead.  Try matching your volunteer work with your interests.  You’re more likely to meet people you will ‘connect’ with and –  who knows what might happen?  If you need help finding an organization you can register at www.volunteermatch.org. There are hundreds of opportunities listed by location, time commitment and interest.
This kind of extended network building takes a different approach however.  You won’t be wearing a badge that says ‘I’m looking for a job’; the process will be more indirect.  Here are some guidelines:
·         Plan on 1-2 evenings per week out at events or activities.
·         Get business cards printed and carry them with you EVERYWHERE
·         Prepare an interesting introduction – short and impactful – be creative!
·         Be friendly, introduce yourself to everyone you can and ask them about themselves (what brings you here, how are you connected to this organization, is this your first time too?).  People LOVE to talk about themselves.
·         DO NOT get into a discussion about your job search – exchange business cards and follow up later – solicitation during an event is rude.
·         Dress conservatively; you are making an impression on everyone you meet – make sure it’s a positive impression
·         Don’t skip out early – stay engaged in the program or activity until the end – often, the best networking happens at the close of a program – and you have some new material to talk about!
In addition to helping you extend your network beyond current friends and family, extracurricular activities will help you break the monotony of the day, help reduce your stress level and give you a ‘purpose’ which is often missing when people identify their value with their profession.  Get out there – Mix It Up –extend your reach to help your personal and professional success.  For more ideas on career development and getting hired take a look at our career portal at www.mygoldstonepartners.com.       

How Big is your BUT?

September 21, 2009

Removing self-imposed obstacles to your career success
I’ve been in the selling business for over 15 years now – recruiting is a selling activity on steroids.  I spend my day selling ideas to job seekers, selling candidate strengths to clients, getting candidates excited about opportunities, you get the idea.  I’m also a student of selling methods and one of my favorite sales gurus is Jeffrey Gitomer.  One of his recent articles was titled “How bit is your but?” about how sales people take credit when they make a sale, but play the blame game when they don’t.  This idea is wonderfully relevant in the case of your current job search.
First, let’s get an understanding of your current state.  You are either unemployed or underemployed and want to change that situation.  That means that you are in selling mode; you are selling yourself, your experience, your character and your market value at every stage of the job search process.  There is no other way to look at it; you are in sales.  Get rid of the stigma attached to the term sales.  If you’ve ever convinced a 4 year old to take their cough medicine or a teenager to take out the trash you’ve sold. 
Now this article isn’t about selling, it’s about how big your ‘but’ is.  The greatest obstacle to getting a job is you.  How many of these whines can you identify with?
  1. I need to look for a job, but the garage needs to be cleaned (or the basement, or the kitchen).
  2. I’ve submitted dozens of applications but I don’t get any responses.
  3. I need to make follow up calls but I have to take my son to music lessons.
  4. I start writing cover letters, but the kids are constantly interrupting me.
  5. I set aside time in the evening for company research but once the dishes are done and the kids have finished their homework I’m exhausted, besides, my favorite show is on and I really need a distraction.
  6. I’d like to find a new job that will be more interesting, but I keep hearing about all the layoffs and I’m afraid to try something new right now.
  7. I hate my current position but due to staff reductions, we’re working overtime and I just can’t find time to look for something else.
Any of these sound like you?  They look different in print, huh?  All of us can find reasons NOT to accomplish our goals, and are able to blame many of those reasons on someone else.  The first thing you need to do is accept responsibility for your situation and then take the necessary steps to change the situation.  In other words, get out of your own way!
Looking for a job, whether you have one or not, requires commitment, discipline and time management.  Keep in mind that the length of your search will depend on the amount of focused, productive time you put into it.  If you are currently working and have limited time to engage in your search it will take longer.  If you are not working, congratulations!  You have plenty of time to commit to your future success.  Yes, the economy sucks right now.  Guess what?  People are still getting jobs; GREAT JOBS!  Don’t you deserve one of them?
First, you have to decide how much time you will invest in your search each week.  You’ll need time for research, online networking, applications, interviews, face-to-face networking and follow up.  Not all of these activities will be necessary each week so a weekly (and daily) plan needs to be established.  Here are some ideas that will help you make the most of this time:
  1. Establish a quiet place in your home that is your office.  This needs to be a place where no one can interrupt you, preferably with a door that will separate you from the rest of your world so you can concentrate, focus, and talk on the phone without external noises.
  2. Publish weekly office hours.  Make sure that your family sees these hours and respects your time.  If you are on the clock, NO interruptions – unless someone is bleeding or dead.
  3. Set daily goals for yourself (make 3 new calls, find 5 new companies, connect with 2 former colleagues) so that you can celebrate each day’s productivity.  During your search, no one is monitoring your work; you have to be your own boss so set expectations clearly and make them happen!
  4. Answer your phone professionally, and if there is noise in the background, let it go to voice mail so you can return the call from your office.
  5. Activity breeds activity.  Connections made with former coworkers will result in new connections with people you don’t know today, and may result in a job tomorrow.  Make as many authentic connections as you can, be prepared to help and ask for their help.
  6. Schedule your activities in harmony with your body clock.  If you are a morning person, do your personal follow up, interviews and brain work in the morning.  Save mundane tasks; research, applications, email responses, for the low energy part of your day.
  7. Repetition increases productivity.  Try and combine like activities into a single time period in order to get more done. If you need to follow up on resumes you’ve sent, take a one hour block of time and do them all at once.  If you have an outside day, schedule a breakfast meeting, coffee, lunch, interview and happy hour all in the same day – you’re dressed, prepped, in the proper mindset – make the most of it!
  8. Make sure you have the right tools to do your job (looking for a job).  Email (with a professional signature just for your job search), contact manager, document processor, PDF creator, online or paper calendar (with you at all times), a mobile phone than only you answer, Linked In, online business news subscriptions, and a database or spreadsheet to track your activity.
Not one of these suggestions alone will get you a job tomorrow.  Combining your energy, productivity, discipline and personal accountability will collectively contribute to your ultimate success.  By removing your BUTS and self-imposed obstacles, you’ll have the capacity to visualize your next amazing career opportunity.  For more ideas on career development and getting hired please visit us at http://www.goldstonepartners.com

Sustainable Career Success

August 21, 2009

Thoughts on increasing your ‘employability’ factor

I was talking with a friend last week and we happened upon the topic of what distinguishes people who rise to the top of their chosen profession and those who seem to struggle through their work life (and maybe even their personal life). As you can imagine this quickly became a rather philosophical discussion, but from the exchange a few key words surfaced. Consistently successful individuals have 3 things in common; Confidence, Competence and Character. Interestingly, 2/3 doesn’t work – it takes 100% to create success. Let’s explore each in a little more detail.

Competent people are those who have invested in themselves professionally. These individuals have an appropriate level of education for their chosen specialty but don’t rest on that initial set of qualifications. These individuals are hungry for knowledge and invest in continuing education, conduct personal research and stay on top of emerging trends in their industry. They are well versed in current events, know what is happening in the world, their local community and when they don’t understand something, take personal time to get educated.

How much time does this take? Competent people really don’t know. Their personal investment in professional development is just part of who they are, the lines blur between their personal interest and their professional endeavors.

Successful people are confident. Careful here, I didn’t say arrogant, I said confident. Arrogant people are not successful – they are usually hiding insecurities. Confident people know what they know, recognize what they don’t know and understand how to ask for help. Confidence manifests itself through actions, activities and stories that demonstrate Competence. See how those two characteristics work together?

Strong Character (a positive mental attitude) is resident in successful people. I realize that you’ve heard this assertion too many times to count, but it’s true. Can you name even one star athlete who has a negative attitude? Here’s a story. I was watching one of the major golf tournaments last weekend and Tiger was not having a good round. He put a shot in the water and threw his club over his shoulder in the direction of his caddie. This public display of poor character was disappointing, and I believe resulted in his loss that day; and ultimately the tournament. He chose to let that shot get to him, and as a result, was unsuccessful.

Why am I focused on this combination of traits for the column this month? Because these three words combined is the foundation of success – in your job search, in your career and in your personal life. Let’s talk about the Halo effect a popular term from a career development book called, What color is your Parachute? The Halo effect is creating a perception of perfection during the interview process. Ok that’s not realistic, but you can strive to be better than your normal self while you’re looking for a job, or while you are on the job.

Susan is a hiring manager who needs to add a new employee to her staff. She begins the interview process with candidates who have been carefully screened by her Human Resources Department. Joe arrives for his interview 10 minutes early dressed in a suit, carrying a notepad and pleasantly greeting everyone he meets. Joe is articulate, organized in his responses and polite. He has the required degree for the position but has also spent time on advanced technical studies recently and understands the challenges that the industry is tackling in the current economy.

Chad is another qualified candidate. He arrives dressed in a wrinkled shirt, empty handed and slouches in the reception chair once he checks in. When Susan greets him he doesn’t smile or make eye contact and seems preoccupied. During the interview Susan asks the same questions of Chad as she did Joe. Chad spends more time talking about himself and how experienced he is than he does answering Susan’s questions. He talks about how horrible his last job was and that his boss just didn’t understand him. He hasn’t cracked a book since he graduated from college because he’s been too busy riding his bike, snowboarding and hanging out with his friends.

Susan completes her interview notes. Both candidates are competent and could do the job from a technical point of view. However, Joe’s demeanor and interview presentation was confident and positive as well. In contrast Chad displayed arrogance and self-absorption along with a negative attitude. Susan will absolutely hire Joe; not because he is more qualified, but because this hire is a reflection of her and will be a representative of her team and the company. She can envision Joe meeting the CEO and knows that this meeting will be a memorable experience. It might even help her career!

Looking for a job is stressful and it’s easy to blame others for the situation. Stay focused on keeping a positive mental attitude, a likeable persona and on making it easy for your future employer to see you as a member of their team.

Give ’em a break!

August 3, 2009

Remember your manners during a job search

I’ve been recruiting for 3 economic cycles now (over 15 years) and I’ve noticed some distinct differences in this particular downturn. There are a bunch of folks who, for the first time in their career, have found themselves unemployed or fearful of becoming unemployed. I’ve also noticed that some of these folks are not practicing good manners in their quest for a new position.

Let’s set the stage a bit. There are companies hiring, there are jobs out there, and there are terrific opportunities for career development. The companies who are hiring are also experiencing a tremendous flow of candidates. The HR departments are understaffed and overworked. They not only screen applicants; they also take care of payroll, benefits, 401k administration, year end performance assessments, bonus calculations, employee on-boarding, training/development, payroll – you get the idea. The hiring managers with open positions are trying to hire while already tackling their full time roles. This is a catch 22 for them; they are busy and need to hire additional team members, but because they have open positions they are having a hard time finding space in their calendars to do an effective job of interviewing.

On the other side of the fence are job seekers. Sadly, our society doesn’t spend any time teaching people how to find a job. As a result, when you find yourself in the position to change employers (voluntarily or involuntarily) this causes stress. When stressed you may slide into unattractive behaviors, which compounds the lack of success in your search.

This is where I start with some sound motherly advice. Don’t forget your manners. Common courtesies such as please, thank you, follow up calls, acknowledgements, graceful exits, referrals, straightforward responses and open, honest communication may very well mean the difference between you and another candidate.

It is absolutely critical to be courteous to everyone you meet during the interview process. This means the front desk, security personnel, HR, future peers, passersby; everyone.

Write email thank you notes to everyone who takes time to meet you. Don’[t forget to get their cards or at least name spelling during the interview. Email thank yous are appropriate, especially during a job search. Time is critical, don’t wait for the US Mail to deliver your follow up.

Address direct questions with direct answers. It’s frustrating for the interviewer to listen to a candidate who goes off on a tangent or dances around the answer to a question. You won’t get a job using this approach.

Ask about follow up protocol. If the hiring manager says that she will make a decision in a week then ask if you can call back in a week. If the HR manager says you can follow up in 3 days, then make a note and make sure you keep the commitment.

If the position is not interesting to you bow out gracefully. Thank them for their consideration; let them know that you appreciate their offer and that you will refer friends and associates to them as appropriate.

Looking for a job is stressful and it’s easy to blame others for the situation. Stay focused on keeping a positive mental attitude, a likeable persona and on making it easy for your future employer to see you as a member of their team.

Get to Work!

July 6, 2009

Are you putting the right effort into your Job Search?

Looking for a job, much like parenting, is not something that we studied in college so many people when faced with unemployment are at a loss for what makes a ‘well-rounded’ job search. Most of us start with the low hanging fruit, the obvious approach; we start mining the job boards. If you work at it you can actually spend the entire day applying for open positions that are posted. That’s fine however you are only applying to about 30% of the open positions using this method. Moreover, if you are a manager/director or other senior level professional postings will net you only 10% of the openings. Let’s take a closer look at what this means to a job seeker.

Brandon is a software project manager with an MBA, PMP certification, an undergraduate degree in software engineering, is studying Six Sigma has a solid work history and a great track record. He’s been unemployed since before the end of the year. He is spending an exhaustive amount of time on Monster, Dice, Careerbuilder, etc and has interviewed, even as a finalist for a couple of positions. He’s hitting obstacles due to the current economic climate (or at least that’s what the excuses are) and just isn’t getting any traction. Brandon’s resume looks just like every other Project Management resume on the big boards. When you Google Brandon, you can’t find him. On Linked In, his name is registered but his profile is non-existent and he has 3 connections.

I asked Brandon what else he’s doing to find a job. He replied “networking with my buddies.” That’s a good start, but are you asking your friends for referrals to other companies that might be hiring? Did you ask what recruiters they know and respect? Do you check the calendar of events in the area to see where you should be ‘hanging out’? Are you making connections with former colleagues, associates, classmates on the social networks? His answer was, “no, I’m too busy looking for a job to do that.”

John is a software architect who was with his last employer for 4 years. He was recruited into that position from his former company and had been there since 1999. Essentially, John has not looked for a job in this century.. However John has more activity than he can handle in his job search. Not because his experience is any better than his peers, but because of his approach. John has been unemployed for barely 4 weeks, has discussions happening with 5 CIO’s and is expecting an offer within the next 2 weeks.

John learned early in his career about the power of building a solid network (outside of your company). He has kept in contact with his former colleagues, helped them in their careers, offers advice, participates in technical forums and has earned the reputation as a genuine thought leader amongst his peers. John spends about 10 minutes reviewing job board results in the morning over his coffee. He does this purely from an information collection standpoint. He is looking for new companies, postings with companies that he is targeting (not his position title, but all position titles) to see where there is activity. Interesting companies are further researched on the web and Linked In.

The rest of the morning is dedicated to connecting with people that are in a position to hire him. He does not call and email the HR department. He reaches out to CIOs, CTO’s, VP’s and CEO’s of companies that he is interested in. John will absolutely follow protocol and get his information in place with HR, but there is no sense in creating extra work if there isn’t a position available right now.

John sets coffee meetings and lunch meetings with people who he knows to talk about their business, their challenges and their opinion on where the industry is going. John is a thought leader, and these meetings provide some great peer discussions for these connections. As well, John makes it clear that he is looking for his next career move and asks for referrals. After his meetings, John heads back home to check his email/voice-mail, returns calls (because he is searchable on the web), completes follow up on the opportunities that he is targeting presently and checks Linked In for the day’s activities (job postings, group discussions, contact updates). To close out a busy day, John makes a list of planned activities for the next day, and enjoys an evening with his family.

Brandon is taking a bottom up approach to his search. He is feeding on the bottom 30% of open positions. Brandon will get a job, but he may not be satisfied and will likely just survive until the economy improves.

John is taking a top down approach. He is looking for the ‘unadvertised’ openings and will be gainfully and happily employed in a very short period. He will continue to build his network and will rise in his career as high as he wants to go.

Which approach – AND OUTCOME – do you like better?

As a Talent Acquisition Consultant I spend a great deal of time talking with people about their careers and companies about their hiring practices. Every month I review hundreds of resumes, professional biographies, vitas and everything in between. I also am asked regularly what a ‘good’ resume looks like and how to get noticed by potential employers.

The books, blogs, websites and professional writers all have opinions on what works (and doesn’t work) to help you land that perfect job. I’m not without opinions myself; let’s take a business approach to the task. The objective of a resume is to solicit interest from the reader (employer) in wanting to learn more about the author (applicant). In web terms, you want the reader to ‘click’ on your resume, spent time there and contact you for more information.

Resume writing is a creative talent that eludes a large percentage of the population. Trying to ‘market’ yourself while making sure that the proper acronyms appear for keyword searches of your resume in the databases compounds the difficulty of this exercise. It’s important that the reader of your resume not only understands what your technical qualifications are, but who you are as a person. Your communication skills, personal strengths and how you articulate technical concepts are all important to convey.

For those of you whose creativity comes in the form of network/application/system/process design and not copywriting, we’ll break it down into more manageable tasks. Here are 6.5 things you can do to increase the ‘click’ factor in your resume.

1. Focus the reader on your content by beginning your resume with a Title. This is similar to the title of the chapter of a book; short, simple, and helps to focus the reader on the content. You may have resumes with different titles if your background is applicable to more than one position.

2. Elaborate on the title with a brief summary of your experience. The summary statement will be between 3 and 5 lines that encapsulate you as a professional. This concept replaces the classic objective which tends to be dry and very general; that doesn’t help differentiate you from the rest of the crowd. Think search results headline, or social site summary category when you are crafting your summary.

3. Front and center – the WOW factor. Support your summary with bullet points that illustrate your most outstanding accomplishments. These might be great projects, awards, recognitions or other times in your professional career that you are proud of. Make these statements short and quantify the results if possible. These are the ‘headlines’ that grab the reader’s interest and get them to keep reading.

4. Let your personality shine. Resumes need to not only communicate your technical qualifications, but also demonstrate that you know how to talk in plain English. Keep the content professional, but explain yourself in words that provide some insight to you as a person. Your ability to connect with the reader will help your chances of getting to the next stage.

5. No more than 2 pages. The objective of your resume is to get you an interview. Resumes should never be more than 2 pages since most hiring managers spend about 15 seconds to scan it and decide if they want to meet you. Additionally, this will help you focus on the important information that you need to convey and leave elaboration for a personal discussion. The experience section might be chronological or functional depending on your personal situation. Education should appear after your work experience unless you’re a recent graduate. Again, you are trying to increase the ‘click’ factor, not write your memoirs. In Amazon terms, you want the reader to BUY.

6. A new section; keywords. Most of the companies you apply to will place your resume into an applicant tracking database. A keyword section will include all the words that you want your resume to surface in a keyword search. There is no need to repeat words that are in the body of your resume, but include additional terms that might be relevant but not included in your resume. For instance, if you list your degree as a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, you might use BSEE in your keyword section.

6.5 Finally, make it easy to contact you. Voice mail messages (on all phones) should be professional and brief. Email addresses should be simple and professional (don’t use your shredder@hotmail.com account for your job search). Include an address, it’s still important to show that you are a real person. Keep paragraphs short for readability. Use bullets to break up the commentary; most people can sight read 3 lines. Unless a specific format is requested, send your resume in a PDF format – try cutepdfwriter (cutepdfwriter.com) for an easy, free conversion application.

Your resume is a living document. Keep it updated, tweak it occasionally and proofread it exhaustively. You’ll also want to keep your social sites updated. You should expect that any potential employer will check you out on the web – probably before they meet you – so keep your online profile clean and consistent.

Many of you would rather scrub your bathroom tile with a toothbrush than talk with an employer (or future employer) about salary. Even though you need to, and expect to, get paid a reasonable amount for your work, you fear the act of getting there. There are likely a few reasons for that; 1. you don’t know how to negotiate, 2. you feel shy about asking someone to pay you more, 3. you really don’t know what you should be making and you’re hoping someone will just tell you, 4. you realize you are making too much for the value you provide and don’t want that dose of reality. Let’s face it, unless you are a professional arbitrator, you probably don’t practice salary negotiations very often (and if you do, you might have other career development concerns) so let’s talk through 5.5 basic techniques for talking through compensation with an employer – see how much you already know…

1. Know your market, know your value Before you begin your search in earnest, you should not only investigate the viability of finding a position, but also what that position will likely pay you. I’ve found that many salary reports clump Colorado into either the Rocky Mountain region or the Southwest Region. In the Rocky Mountain region we tend to be on the upper end of the scale and in the Southwest, on the lower end. As well, Colorado employers successfully play the ‘standard of living’ card – and justifiably – this is a great place to live/work/make a life! Also, the Denver Metro area demographics are pretty young, resulting in a bit lower compensation comparison. Finally, the industry, the availability of talent like yours, and your education status beyond your undergrad will all factor into your market value in Colorado. You should seek information from multiple sources (job boards, chamber of commerce, recruiters, colleagues) to compile your data.

2. Ask for a LITTLE more than you really want. Negotiating 101 says that in search of any desired outcome, you should ask for more than you expect to get. Now, I agree with this, however multipliers don’t really apply here. You shouldn’t ask for 4x what you want and hope that you’ll get 2x. Being reasonable is the key concept. If you’d like a salary of $70k and the salary range for the position is 65 – 90k you shouldn’t ask for 90k (unless you possess every qualification in the position description and are really over-qualified). Rather, ask for 77k and you’re likely to get something between what you want and what you’ve asked for. ‘Going for broke’ will probably mean going broke.

3. Play Fair, Play Real. Here are a couple of real stories from job seekers in Colorado to illustrate my point. One gentleman that I interviewed a couple of years ago provided me with a compensation number that was, in my mind, very unreasonable. When I questioned him about this number I found that he had included his base salary, cost of his computer, cell phone, cash contribution by the company for his healthcare/life insurance/short term disability, and anything else he could calculate – and provided me with that total as his last salary. Ummm, nope! In another case, a very talented professional who recently relocated from California told me that he didn’t think that a geographic adjustment was necessary as his reason for relocating had nothing to do with his salary. Well, I understand that but… Anyway, I know that you don’t want your last salary to be a factor in your next compensation package, but it will be. By being open and honest about what you make, and have made, you demonstrate trust and authenticity – your employer will appreciate that and 9 out of 10 companies want to pay market, not get away with a cheap hire.

4. Evaluate the money value of other perks and benefits. Some components of an offer package have hard dollar value, don’t discount them. An extra week of time off, a bus pass, membership to a health club, 401k matching, and healthcare contributions can all be assigned a dollar value. If you don’t have to pay $60/mo for the gym membership then you’ve received a $720/year raise. A match on your 401k not only nets you the cash, but also the tax benefit. A bus pass, if you use it, will save you fuel costs, parking, wear on your vehicle, and lower your commute stress. These perks save your employer money too – keep these real dollars in mind – beyond your salary.

5. There is ALWAYS a Ying and a Yang A company that is willing to pay over market for a position MAY expect long hours, weekend work, heavy travel, or burden its employees with an unreasonable workload. As well, a company that pays less than market may not place a value on your skills, be financially unstable, or be used to working with inexperienced people. Neither of these scenarios is wrong. Find out what is behind the salary range, and then make an informed decision.

5.5 The rule of Thumb is, there is no rule of Thumb. We’ve all been programmed to think that we must always be moving up in our careers; more money, more prestige, more responsibility, more perks, more, more, more. That is simply not true. There may be life events that necessitate less (or different). Caring for children, aging parents, our own health, running for office or just taking a breather. Life is what happens while you are busy focusing on your career. You have 40, 50, or 60 years to work in your lifetime and you will likely move up, down and sideways as various points. Taking a step back doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a failure and moving up doesn’t necessarily mean you are a success.

During my work week I get to talk with a lot of folks who are looking for a new position, thinking about looking for a new position, or know someone who is thinking/looking. I am often approached by people who want to engage me as their personal agent – to write their resume, search the boards, connect with their network and (if I could) interview for them. Essentially, they just want to show up to a shiny new job that they will love, without putting in any effort. Now, I am happy to coach, edit, advise, listen, encourage and cheerlead with every spare moment, but really! Career Development is an engaged activity and you must be active in your pursuit for a quality career not just when you are looking for a job, but more importantly when you are not.

I’d like to visit some common beliefs about career development and job searching:

Belief #1
– I shouldn’t look for a new job now, we’re in a recession. Let’s investigate the current state of the market in Colorado. Yes, some business sectors are feeling a bit of a slowdown, but these are largely the real estate and retail areas and while there are downstream affects I’m not seeing any decline in hiring in the technology area. As a matter of fact, with Colorado’s thirst for new enterprise, we’re seeing a swell in the number of open positions with emerging companies.

Belief #2 – I don’t need to build an external network, everyone I need to know to do my job works at my current company. That may be true today. If you lost your job tomorrow, do you have at least twenty people outside of your company who are in influential positions that will leap at the opportunity to introduce you to their CEO? Are there people that you have worked with in the past who would hire you on the spot? Do you really believe that you will spend the next ten years at your current company? Your professional network is one of the best ways to ensure job security. The world is changing, defined pension plans are history, and so are lifetime employees.

Belief #3 – I don’t talk to recruiters, if I need a new job I just throw my resume on the job boards. Some of you may be old enough to remember when job openings were printed in the newspaper. The Sunday Classified Section took up almost half of the print volume back in the 1990’s. Well, job boards have replaced classified ads as the commodity sourcing tool today. Job boards are where companies who NEED to advertise post their positions. The best positions never appear on job boards because they are filled by referrals (those who network), are confidential, or are considered too strategic to trust to an unknown source. If you are looking for a new job on the internet, chances are you are seeing the leftovers, not the golden eggs. Oh, and by the way, recruiters are typically engaged by companies to tap into the passive market, if they call, you should answer.

Belief #4 – I only update my resume when I’m looking for a job. Your resume is your personal marketing brochure. Your brightest moment, your biggest wins, and your greatest accomplishments happen when you are NOT looking for a job. Why would you trust that when you need to update your resume, and are potentially not in the best frame of mind, you will remember all the great things you’ve done that a potential employer would like to know about?

Belief #5 – I don’t need to develop myself professionally, my employer will let me know if I need additional training. If you really believe that your employer has your best interest in mind when laying out your development plan, you are wrong. Your employer will spend money on training for you that will benefit the company, and if you get some value too then that’s great. You are the CEO of your career development and you own your personal marketability. Have you attended any conferences, seminars, webinars, user groups or training sessions in the past year that were not arranged for by your employer? Have you learned a new skill, researched an emerging technology, or spent time on self-study to improve your technical qualifications? If not, you are passively managing your career, and you are being passed up by your peers.

If you’d like more information about how to stay in charge of your career, or you have a personal belief you’d care to share, please give me a call.