Monday, July 29, 2013

Handling Salary Expectations

Often times, it’s the elephant in the room during an interview. You probably know where this is going because you’ve been there (or maybe you just glanced at the title of this post). Either way, many job applicants find themselves in for a rude awakening when it comes time to discuss salary, usually because their expectations are way out of whack.

This unfortunate situation is not uncommon. Typically, it is the result of poor communication between the employer and potential employee. The employer should make salary expectations clear early in the process so that job seekers don’t form an overly optimistic opinion of an opening. Job seekers, on the other hand, should make sure that they have a firm understanding of the salary expectations to avoid wasting their (and the hiring manager’s) time.

Here are some tips on how to manage salary expectations during your job search:

Do some research
Before you get your heart set on a minimum salary that you’re willing to accept, do some research. A quick Google search will get you on the right track. Take a look at the position you’re interested in and see what the average compensation looks like. This will at least get you in the same ballpark as the employer, at which point you might be able to negotiate a little bit. Be careful to not base all of your expectations on previous jobs. While your experience might give you a better feel for what to expect, no two positions are exactly alike. Keep this in mind.

Communicate your expectations
In some situations, employers will use your salary expectation as a screening question. It could come up in the application or be required in your cover letter. Sometimes they will ask you what your expectations are during the interview. While it can be a daunting question, be honest. It will save you a lot of time, especially if your expectations don’t match up with theirs. That being said, make sure your expectations don’t come across as demands. Make it clear that you have some wiggle room. Hopefully you won’t be too far apart, though. Your research should give you a good idea of what to expect.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Do not start negotiating your salary before you have a job offer! This cannot be stressed enough. Make sure that you have taken care of the important part – convincing the employer that they should hire you. Once they offer you the job, don’t be afraid to negotiate a little. Obviously, you don’t want to demand double the salary they offered, but they probably won’t be opposed to giving you a small bump if you ask for it. Of course, when going through a staffing agency, almost the opposite is true. You should negotiate your salary with the recruiter and they will expect you to stick to that amount. The amount that they are billing your potential employer is based around your originally negotiated salary requirements.

Discussing salary expectations with a potential employer is always one of the more uncomfortable aspects of the job search, but it’s also very important (and I didn’t need to tell you that). When it comes down to it, just do your homework and be tactful – these two things alone will set you up for success.

- Cobey Culton

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Looking for a Job While You Have a Job

Are you feeling restless in your current job? Underpaid? Or maybe just plain bored? If so, it might be time for a new job. (Check out our blog post on signs that you should look for a new job before you make any rash decisions, though).

It is wise to look for a job while you are still employed – but move forward with caution! Here are some tips on how to approach your job hunt:

Keep your search private
Your employer might not appreciate your decision to explore other opportunities, and if they find out you could face some serious backlash. This really depends on your supervisor/employer, but it doesn’t hurt to keep your job search private. No one is entitled to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you are pursuing a job with a competitor, the situation becomes even more precarious. You will likely be viewed as a threat to your own company if your supervisor (or anyone else) becomes privy to your job search.

Don’t let your job search affect your work
Nothing good will result from your job hunt negatively impacting your work. You are being paid by your current employer, and you should respect that fact. Additionally, if you find that the job market isn’t all that you thought it would be, you don’t want to have to embrace the reality that you will have to stay in a position that you essentially checked out of a few weeks ago. Looking for a job is certainly time-consuming, but make sure that you do all of your job hunting off the clock. You don’t want to have to explain to your supervisor why you were on yesterday. Talk about awkward.

Use your employment as leverage
There are a couple decided advantages to looking for a job while you are employed. First, employers like to see that you have a job. You will have the leg up on someone who is unemployed, fairly or unfairly. They either lost their job or quit (unless they recently graduated from college), both of which reflect poorly on them as a candidate. Second, if you eventually get to the stage of negotiating salary, don’t be afraid to play a little hardball. After all, you have a safety net if the offer falls apart. Let them know! They will up the offer if they truly want you on board. Obviously, everything should be treated on a case-by-case basis. If someone offers you your dream job then it would be foolish to push the envelope too much. Use good judgment.

Job hunting is difficult. Ultimately, if you already have a job, you are in a better position than 7.6% of the US population. You have every right to look for a new opportunity – just don’t jeopardize your current position. 

--Cobey Culton

Friday, July 19, 2013

Evaluating Job Offers

As we detailed in our last blog post, the decision to leave a job is rarely an easy one. This is especially true if you like your current position – but what happens when another job offer presents itself? How should you go about weighing the offer against your current situation? Or even one job offer against another?

It wouldn’t hurt to start with an old-fashioned pros and cons list. Here are some aspects to consider:

I hope that this doesn’t come as a huge shock to you, but yes, the money is important. It can come in many forms: hourly wage, base salary, bonuses, commissions, etc. One job might have a higher base salary, but the other could have the potential to bring in more money due to bonuses. Sometimes the comparison is more straightforward. Either way, make sure you completely understand the financial ramifications of all situations/offers. It is ultimately up to you to decide how big of a role salary will play in your decision.

The benefits package included with a job is not to be overlooked. Talk with HR and make sure you understand what is included. Take a close look at the health/life insurance options, 401(k) matching, vacation days, and sick time (to name a few). A good benefits package can easily make up for a dip in salary, so don’t completely write off an opportunity based on the pay without comparing the benefits. Again, it is up to you to decide what is most important when looking at a job offer, but you would be remiss if you didn’t at least consider the perks included with each situation.

Will one job require more hours or more travel (or both)? If so, carefully weigh the implications of a heavier workload. Make sure you can handle the lifestyle change, and above all, make sure that the increased workload is worth it. Also consider the commute that each job requires. Driving half an hour or more to work will really add up over the course of a year. It may even nullify bump in salary you receive. Remember: time (and gas) is money!

The work environment of each job should be a big factor in your decision. Sometimes this might even be a “gut feeling” type of decision. Let’s say you got a job offer that will pay you a little more, but you didn’t like the vibe of the office. Should you really take that offer if you love the work environment at your current job? Well, it’s up to you, but your overall comfort level and happiness should not be tossed aside in the name of the almighty dollar. On the side of things, don’t turn down a great opportunity because you are so comfortable in your current position. Leaving a place you are familiar with for a new job is uncomfortable by definition, but it might be the right decision.

Nobody said that world of job hunting is full of easy, black-and-white choices. Regardless, if you find yourself with any type of job offer you are already in a good situation, so don’t stress out too much. Consider your situation carefully because it is unique. What might be a great fit for you could be a not-so-great fit for someone else, and vice-versa. Good luck!

-Cobey Culton

Monday, July 15, 2013

Signs That it's Time to Look for a New Job

On this blog we have published numerous posts that pertain to either finding or starting a new job - but what about the other side of the coin? When do you know that it is time to leave your current job and pursue other opportunities?

The sad reality is that many people are in a job that is simply not a good fit for them. Maybe the work isn’t something that they are passionate about. Maybe the culture and work environment of a company doesn’t mesh with their personality. There are countless reasons why a job might not be a good fit for someone, and more often than not there are obvious signs that indicate it might be time to start looking for other opportunities.

Here are some to look out for:

Your work doesn’t interest you
A feeling of indifference toward your work is often at the root of many people’s unhappiness. If you don’t like what you are spending 40+ hours per week doing, you are going to have some serious issues. A general lack of interest in your job will lead to other problems: showing up late, not putting forth your full effort, etc. Obviously, not everyone can have their “dream job,” but having at least some interest in your work will solve a lot of problems.

You don’t feel challenged
If you don’t feel like you are being challenged, it might be time to check the latest job postings. This usually means that you aren’t being utilized properly. Make sure you explore all avenues before quitting, though. Your supervisor might be open to giving you some new responsibilities, so don’t jump ship before you’ve at least discussed that possibility. If it’s clear that new opportunities in the same company simply isn’t going to happen, or you wouldn’t be interested in staying even if they offered, it’s probably time to pursue other opportunities.

You aren’t being paid enough
This is a tricky one because just about everyone thinks that they deserve to be paid more. If you truly feel that you aren’t being compensated fairly, either based on the industry-wide average or what your coworkers are making (provided you somehow obtain that information), talk with your supervisor. It never hurts to ask, even if you don’t think your odds of getting a raise are very good. If your request for a raise is turned down (and you are being blatantly underpaid) it could be time to look into other job openings.

You don’t get along with your coworkers
If you are constantly clashing with your coworkers and/or boss, it might be time to at least consider moving on. With that being said, before you start looking for a new job you need to look in the mirror and make sure that you aren’t the root cause of all the conflict. If you really can’t put up with your boss or coworkers despite your best efforts, it wouldn’t hurt to explore other opportunities. You will never be happy if you can’t stand the people you work alongside for 40+ hours a week.

Please Note: In very few situations is a good idea to quit your job without any sort of plan in place. If the situation is within your control, make sure that you have a job lined up before you submit your letter of resignation. Otherwise you could find the world of job hunting to be far less merciful than you anticipated.

- Cobey Culton

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tips for Your First Day of Work

So, you nailed the interview and got the job. You start on Monday. Now what?

The first day of work at a new job is nerve-wracking for just about everybody. Here are a few tips to make sure that you put your best foot forward on your first day:

Do some research
You should have already done some cursory research about the company before your interview. Now that they have hired you, consume every bit of information you can find prior to your first day. Browse their website and maybe do a few Google searches – you will likely be surprised at how much information is out there. If you come in on your first day well-versed in the company’s goals, history, etc. you will set yourself up for success on day one.

Be on time
Whatever you do, don’t be late on your first day. There is no need to make this point longer than necessary. Make sure that you know where you are going and that you allow enough time to get there. Nothing creates a worse first impression than being tardy on your first day of work.

Wear appropriate attire
Hopefully when you interviewed you got a good feel for the work environment. If so, dress accordingly so that your appearance jibes with coworkers. If you weren’t able to get a preview of the work environment, don’t hesitate to ask someone (your supervisor or an HR rep) about the dress code. Being overdressed can give off the impression that you are “showing up” your new coworkers. Being undressed, on the other hand, might send the message that you don’t care about your new position. Look sharp, but don’t overdo it.

Listen and take notes
You are new, after all. Commit yourself to listening and observing instead of talking, at least during your first few days. This approach will endear you to your coworkers and help you adapt to your new environment. Learn the names of your coworkers and make sure you have a good understanding of your job. This is not to say you shouldn’t assert yourself at all – ask questions, even if they seem “dumb.” Your supervisor will appreciate your desire to do things right the first time through. Just resist the urge to recommend an overhaul of their current way of doing things, no matter how inefficient it may seem. Sure, they may be bringing you on board to get a fresh perspective, but don’t offer that perspective right off the bat. Save that for when you are completely acclimated to your new work environment.

If you follow the basic tips outlined above, you will be off to a good start. In the end, don’t forget what has gotten you to this point. They hired you for a reason. Go out and show them why!

- Cobey Culton

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Using LinkedIn to Find a Job

Last month we put up a blog post that discussed the ever-evolving role of social media within the job search. We concluded that social media can go a long way towards helping your job search or hurting it, depending on how you decide to use these relatively new platforms.

Each social media platform probably warrants its own blog post, and even then we would just be scratching the surface of how to use social media to land a job. In light of this, we decided that it would be helpful to focus on LinkedIn in today’s post. Of all social media sites, LinkedIn is the most professional-oriented, which makes it particularly valuable when looking for a job.  

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of LinkedIn:

Step 1: Perfect Your Profile

On LinkedIn everything begins and ends with your profile. From your profile picture to your experience, your profile on LinkedIn is essentially an online copy of your resume.

With that in mind, choose a profile picture that gives off an aura of professionalism. This is typically the first thing that people will look at when viewing your profile, and as you hopefully already know, first impressions are vitally important. A head shot is often best because people will be able to see and recognize your face. Also make sure that the picture is reasonably current so that hiring managers and/or recruiters aren’t in for a surprise.

While having a good profile picture is important, the real meat of your LinkedIn profile lies in the “experience” section. In fact, it probably isn’t a bad idea to lift this section right off your resume. Use the “professional summary” section to provide a summation of your experience, highlighting experiences that are particularly important or notable. Remember to list your skills in the “skills and expertise” section. People who can vouch for these skills are able to “endorse” them if they feel so compelled.

Step 2: Connect

Once your profile is satisfactory, start connecting with people you know in an effort to grow your network. The more people you know, the more opportunities you will have to potentially advance your career. If possible, try to get at least one recommendation from someone you have worked with. These recommendations appear on your profile and will only increase your chances of landing a job.

Make sure that you don’t go overboard, though - only connect with people that you know and trust. There is no need to connect with random people just so you can look popular or important, and these people will likely decline your invitation anyway.

Step 3: Search and Stay Active

While it’s not unusual for people to be contacted by recruiters or hiring managers, don’t sit back and assume that employers will find you. Go to the job search section and see if there are any that look appealing. If there you find a position that seems to be a good fit, don’t hesitate to hit the “apply now” button. Also, be sure to take note of what keywords appear in postings that interest you. Ensure that these keywords also appear in your profile so that you are more visible to employers and/or recruiters.

In the end, LinkedIn is just one of many tools that you, the job seeker, have at your disposal. Hopefully the tips above will get you headed in the right direction, at the very least. Good luck!

- Cobey Culton