Can You Negotiate Your Salary for a New Job?

Maybe the question should really be, “How can you negotiate your salary for a New Job?”

Recently an article titled “Negotiating Employment Agreements or the Real Reason Jennifer Lawrence Got Paid Less Than Bradley Cooper,” published on LinkedIn’s Pulse, talked about negotiating your salary from a different slant than I’d seen before. It definitely caused me to think about some of the assumptions we tend to make that might not be as soundly based as they seem to be.

Employment Negotiation–No Excuses?

According to the Pulse article, actress Jennifer Lawrence wrote a piece stating that she received lower pay for her role because Hollywood was sexist and because she didn’t want to appear difficult or silly by negotiating a much higher salary. Her essay in turn stirred up a big brouhaha about the gap between what men and women are paid.

The main point the article makes, however, is that Lawrence’s experience was a “glaring violation of the cardinal rule of employment negotiations – IF YOU DO NOT ASK FOR IT, YOU WILL NOT GET IT.” Author Elisaveta (Leiza) Dolghih contends that this isn’t directly driven by gender but by personality (how an individual functions). She goes on to state that “if your personality is like Jennifer Lawrence’s…and does not allow you to ask, find a person who will ask and negotiate for you….”

When to Talk Money

One issue that often bothers my clients is when to discuss salary during their search for a new position. If you’ve ever been in that spot, you know what I’m talking about. For years I’ve been advocating the view expressed by many professionals, including author Jack Chapman, that “he who mentions money first loses.” Just this week, however, I read a column by Nick Corcodillos (Ask The Headhunter) in which he flatly contradicts that view and insists that job seekers need to take the initiative in order to avoid missteps such as going through multiple interviews before finding out the range for the position–which might be thousands of $$$ below their target.

I have to say that this whole situation has raised issues I need to think through carefully before I do more salary negotiation coaching with clients! Apparently there aren’t any simple, straightforward answers. Maybe the best we can do is look at each interview process, each salary negotiation aspect, on a case-by-case basis. However, I think there are at least a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. Do your homework even before you submit your resume to a potential employer. Within reason (don’t take weeks!), gather the best intelligence you can about the company’s situation, background, etc.
  2. Explore what people who do what you do are making, taking into account things like geographical differences, to get at least a general, ballpark range. Compare that information to your anticipated target salary.
  3. Decide how you plan to bring up the subject of compensation (if you do) or how you will respond if it comes up before you feel you have enough information about the opportunity.
  4. Be ready to negotiate based on solid value, but be prepared to politely walk away from an opportunity as soon as you can tell that it’s not going to be worth your time (or the company’s) to push ahead.

So, yes, you can negotiate your salary for a new job–at least sometimes. At other times, the answer might be, probably not–or–it’s not worth the effort you’d have to make.

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Are You a Leader-Learner?

Or should that be “Learner-Leader”? Anyway, the question basically is, as a leader, are you pretty much always learning or have you decided that you already know what you need to know to get your job done?

I just had a client describe herself as a lifelong learner–and this isn’t the first time I’ve run across that concept. In fact, I’ve applied it to myself as well. To me, learning new things helps keep my brain energized and motivates me to stay active, not only in my professional field (resume writing and job search coaching) but on a broader and more personal scale.

What Makes the “Best” Leaders?

If you’re a leader in your company or organization, the concept of continuous learning becomes even more important, as evidenced by an article I found today (shared by a fellow LinkedIn Group member), titled “The Best Leaders Are Constant Learners,” by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Harold Jarche. It’s a thought-provoking article, and I need to read it a few more times to absorb all of it, but it definitely got my brain going.

To give one example of the core theme, the authors state: “As we attempt to transition into a networked creative economy, we need leaders who promote learning and who master fast, relevant, and autonomous learning themselves. There is no other way to address the wicked problems facing us. If work is learning and learning is the work, then leadership should be all about enabling learning.”

Why is Learning So Important for Leaders?

For one thing, learning is critical because we live in a world where change has become a constant, and many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by it. If you’re in a leadership role and can’t stay on top of change, you and the organization you lead could suffer serious consequences. As the article’s authors put it, “…leaders must scan the world for signals of change, and be able to react instantaneously.”

To put it another way, treading water won’t cut it in business today! In all probability, if your company isn’t moving (forward), it’s sinking or all too likely to sink in the not-too-distant future. As a learner-leader, you can make a significant difference in your company’s prospects by embracing continuous learning for yourself and enthusiastically promoting it throughout your organization.

Some employees might well push themselves to learn without your encouragement, but many more probably won’t–either because they lack sufficient motivation or because they don’t recognize the importance of ongoing learning. Part of your responsibility as a leader is to help your employees see that importance and open themselves up to learning opportunities. Not only that, but you need to ensure that their learning path isn’t a dead-end within the company or you could lose the newly energized employees to a competitor!


Does Your Job Search Have Any “Low-hanging Fruit”?

Human nature seems prone to look for an easy way to do things. That’s called going after the “low-hanging fruit,” which a dictionary defines as “something easily achieved or obtained; the most readily achievable goal.” The bad news is, you can’t reach a successful job search outcome by concentrating on easy goals. The good news is, it’s not a bad starting-point if you understand that you still have hard work ahead. If nothing else, it might get you motivated for the harder steps.

Job Search Low-hanging Fruit to Look For

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After you’ve established a tentative goal for your job search campaign, you can evaluate actions you might take that can be done quickly and effectively, using the time and resources you have ready access to. That might include one or all of the following, as well as others:

  • Knowledgeable advocates you’re in current or recent contact with. That is, people who are not only in a position to provide useful advice but also willing to provide that support.
  • Networking opportunities on the near horizon. In other words, events such as an upcoming workshop or conference where you can interact with possible persons-of-influence.
  • Activities that could increase your visibility and credibility with minimal financial investment, such as volunteering in a visible role with a widely respected community organization.
  • A review of your financial reserves and projected expenses over the next several months, which should give an indication of whether you need to make changes and/or an idea of what you have to work with if your job search is protracted.

Picked It All? Then What?

Double-check to make sure you haven’t overlooked an easy action that would help jump-start your job search. However, assuming you’ve already identified and picked all the low-hanging fruit you can find for your job search, what’s next?

If you’re a savvy job seeker, you’ve probably figured out some of the not-so-easy steps to take in your job search. I’ve written blog posts on related topics before, so I’m not going to try to offer a comprehensive list here. You’re looking for actions with a potential for decent payoff that will take more than the minimal effort expended on the low-hanging fruit phase. For example, you might want to:

  • Identify a few promising connections in your LinkedIn network, with whom you’ve maintained a reasonably good relationship (give-and-take, not just take), and consult with them about your plans.
  • Block out some time to explore possible job opportunities that seem in line with what you’re looking for and see if you can arrange an interview–while you’re still employed or (if unemployed) before your situation becomes critical.
  • Sound out your personal network (i.e., friends and family, not necessarily professional contacts) to ensure that they’re “on the same page” with you–ready and willing to support your activities however they can. It’s better to identify and tackle potential problem areas early in your job search planning than after you’re in full-on search mode.
  • Consider canceling or postponing “optional” plans you might have made that could prove unwise if your job search lasts longer than you hope. For example, if you’ve been planning a major purchase, such as a new car or RV, you might need to reconsider that, at least for the time being.

Eye on the Prize

Remember that if something is worth having, it’s worth working for. Low-hanging fruit will only get you so far.

“There will always be things we want in life. Some are just a passing whim, others are real desires or prizes. When you come across one of those prizes, don’t let it slip away. Keep it in focus. Remembering what you want and why, so you can continue to move toward it step by step. That is the essence of keeping your eyes on the prize.” (Source: Greatest Inspirational Quotes)


Plan Your Job Search–Then Rethink Your Plan

Starting a job search without a plan is somewhat like starting a long trek in the snow without boots. You’re handicapping yourself at the outset because you don’t have the necessary tools lined up to get you where you want to go. The analogy breaks down a bit at this point, because while you can grab a pair of boots before you open the door to head outside, it’s not always so clear what to do about a job search plan.

But lets assume for the moment that you agree you need a job search plan. What are some of the underlying assumptions or elements that will get your plan in good shape, and what will you need to do to keep it there?

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Plan Your Job Search the Smart Way

Recognize at the outset that no plan is perfect. In the real world of job search planning, “good enough to do [get] the job” is probably good enough in most cases. Also, I’d guess there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of expert views on what your job search plan can and should include. An online search for “job search plan” brings up several variations of the wording, including “job search action plan.” I like that way of putting it because it emphasizes that you’ll need to take action–a plan on paper, as it were, is useless by itself.

An item my search turned up was titled “Scheduling Your Job Search Plan of Action,” and the one-page document makes clear that one size doesn’t fit all: “It’s impossible to prepare a precise layout of all of the job search steps which you may require. Everyone’s situation differs in terms of employment objectives and available alternatives.”

It’s important, then, to review possibilities, suggestions from others, etc., with the understanding that not all of the advice will fit your particular situation or needs. You must define a job search plan that takes into consideration the goals, challenges, opportunities, and resources specifically relevant to your job search. Don’t adopt something just because you know it worked for someone else very well, but don’t reject it just because it didn’t work for someone else, either.

Why Should You Rethink Your Plan?

For starters, because no one can anticipate and prepare for every possible contingency that might crop up. When you prepare your plan initially, you will certainly take into account all the likely possibilities you can think of, but you can’t think of them all, and you can’t anticipate the ones that are so far out of real-world experience that they’re basically off the grid.

To give an extreme and tragic example, most people wouldn’t have imagined anything like the immense disaster that hit the eastern US on September 11, 2001. Whether or not some people should have had a clue ahead of time (which has been argued), most of us didn’t and couldn’t. Therefore our planning simply wouldn’t have been in shape to anticipate and/or prevent it.

Almost certainly, your job search plan will involve a much less severe situation, with substantially less extreme consequences. Given that greatly reduced scale of impact, however, your plan still can and should be considered a work-in-progress, something you rethink and amend from time to time based on new information you learn or new possibilities you encounter. Even if your plan leads to a mistake, you can learn from that mistake, improve your plan, and move on. As inventor Thomas Edison once said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

In short: Plan It – Rethink It – Move On.


Risk Management for Your Career Success

You might be familiar with the concept of risk management, which is a frequent topic of conversation in businesses. However, you might not have considered how this concept could be applied to your career management, including job searches and career changes.

What is Risk Management?

A search online will turn up numerous definitions of risk management. Wikipedia describes it like this: “Risk management is the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks…followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities. Risk management’s objective is to assure uncertainty does not deflect the endeavor from the business goals.”

Key elements of this definition include identification, assessment, prioritization, and resource coordination/application. Obviously it’s not enough just to identify a risk looming on the horizon.

So What’s Risk Management for Career Success?

Life is full of uncertainties and potential risks, and your professional life isn’t immune to those. As I’ve said before, anyone can make career missteps through various factors. The question is, how can you apply the principles of risk management to your career management activities and at least minimize your risk exposure?

Let’s take the key elements mentioned by Wikipedia and look briefly at each one:

Risk Identification. Possible risks you might identify include the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Challenges posed by rivals (competitors) both within and outside your organization that might put you at a disadvantage.
  • Lack of time or funding to pursue education that would enhance your career prospects.
  • Problems your company is experiencing that could limit your growth or even cost you your job.
  • Office politics that put you on the “outside” with regard to influencers and decision-makers.
  • Family challenges, including possible forced relocation due to another family member’s job, that could interfere with your career plans.
  • Health issues that affect your ability to perform at the needed level in your chosen or current career.

Risk Assessment. You need to take a careful look at each risk you have identified, in order to determine (a) how real the risk potential is, (b) how important it is in terms of your career success, and (c) what you can and should do about it.

Risk Prioritization. You need to prioritize the various risks in terms of whether to take definite action and, if so, in which order to tackle them. Practically speaking, it’s probably not effective to try addressing more than one or two potential risks at a time. For each risk, you can try asking yourself, “if I don’t take any action on this, what’s the worst that can happen? Can I live with that?”

Resource Coordination & Application. You might be able to choose from diverse resources, depending on the particular risk you’re addressing and what your applicable resources are. Resources could be “must have” or “would really like to have,” which will tell you something about where you stand. Those you label as “nice but not essential” can probably be held in reserve while you focus on the others.

For example, if you determine that an advanced degree is critical to your career success, you might need to marshal multiple resources, including money to finance your education and time to do the necessary academic work. If you’ll be attending school full-time to get your MBA, finances could easily become a big issue. On the other hand, if you’ll be working full-time (or even part-time) while you’re pursuing the degree, time could be almost as big a challenge.

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Although this post is an over-simplification of the situation you might be facing in terms of risk management for your career success, I hope it will give you at least a boost in the right direction.


“Shady” Past Hurting Your Job Search?

Career missteps are nothing new–you might even have made one or two yourself. However, if you made a mistake that involved ending up on the wrong side of the law, you’ve probably discovered that it can have a hugely negative impact on your employability–especially in senior-level positions and/or those involving sensitive areas of a company, such as finance.

In too many cases, you never have the opportunity to explain the situation–for example, to show what you’ve done since then to remedy your error or initiate the changes necessary to ensure never making that kind of mistake again. Employers take one look at your information and say, “Thanks, but we’ll pass.”

Recently, however, it appears that employers’ knee-jerk reaction to job seekers with a somewhat flawed past might be diminishing at least somewhat.

Screening Applicants with a Criminal Past

According to “The State of Screening” (by Lauren Dixon on Talent Management Today), the trend is changing. She cites a survey that shows “roughly 75% of employers said they provide background assessments where candidates with criminal histories are able to explain the details of their conviction…”

Among other key points shared in the article, I found these especially interesting:

  • For executive-level hiring, 58% said they use the same background check as for other employees, while 39% conduct more extensive checks and 2% don’t do a check at all.
  • While 90% indicated they had found information at some time that led to not hiring the individual, 44% of them disqualified less than 5% of the applicants who revealed a criminal conviction.
  • If a candidate lies on the resume or job application (for instance, trying to conceal a criminal incident or claiming a degree they don’t have) and is found out before hiring, a substantial number of the employers would reject the candidate: 44% for lying on the application; 75% for lying on a resume.

What Can You Do about This Problem?

If you’re fortunate enough to be targeting one of the employers that shows some leniency or open-mindedness about past mistakes of this kind, most likely you just need to have a convincing explanation to reassure the company that you’re not a risk going forward. Even better, that you’ll be a strong asset because of the value you can bring that far outweighs your mistake.

On the other hand, if you can’t prevent rejection because you never get a chance to explain anything to offset the “bad news,” you face a much tougher challenge. One step you probably should take is to head off the situation if possible by networking your way into the company. If you can establish one or more supportive contacts within the organization, you might well be able to provide your explanation that way. Obviously, this requires establishing a positive relationship with your contact(s), so there’s a willingness to advocate for you.

If you take the right steps and take advantage of opportunities to clear the air, you might be able to change this hostile job search environment:

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into this:

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Stress in Your Job Search–and Beyond

A while ago I published a post about experiencing stress on your new job. Today I came across a post about “Top 10 Ways to Help You Stay Calm under Pressure” that I felt could be helpful if you’re experiencing stress and pressure either during your job search or after you land the new job. (I found this post via a an item shared by Edward Harrison, a member of the LinkedIn group, Top Leaders/Executives, which I also belong to.)

Stress-fighting Strategies for Your Job Search or New Job

According to the post (by Dr. Patty Ann Tubin), these are–briefly–the top 10 ways you can stay calm (i.e., minimize stress in your experience):

  1. Be Grateful!
  2. Think Positively.
  3. Go off the Grid.
  4. Get Sleep.
  5. Be Active.
  6. Practice Meditation.
  7. Don’t Play the Victim.
  8. Eat Healthy.
  9. Breathe Fully.
  10. Keep it All in Perspective.

That’s a pretty extensive list, although there might be even more that could be added. What I think the article does well is to take a commonsense approach to the situation, including asking a couple of wise questions in #10 and following it with this statement: “Chances are the answer to these questions will not incur loss of life. Anything less than that must be kept in perspective.”

So what I’m basically saying is that you can let the stress and pressure get to you and derail your progress (and very possibly your health) or you can work on incorporating as many of the top 10 techniques as you can–and as make good sense in your situation. For example, you might not be able to do meditation in the middle of a business meeting, but you can try to practice things like “think positively” and “breathe fully” (“take a deep breath” has long been advice given to someone who’s about to fly off the handle).

Need Help in Your Stress-Busting?

Sometimes you might need or want to call on a friend or colleague you trust to help you break out of stress mode. If they can give you relatively unbiased support (e.g., reasonably non-judgmental), they could provide much-needed breathing-room and perspective on the situation that’s fueling your stress.

At other times, it’s possible that more formal or trained support is what you most need. I’m no therapist or counselor, so I don’t advise my resume or job search clients on matters that veer into that territory. I can and have recommended that a client consult a trained professional for an issue that’s outside the scope of the services I’m qualified to provide. Most of the time you may be the best one to determine the nature or extent of your need for support, and as long as you recognize that you do need help and take steps to get it, that’s great.

Either way, I encourage you to identify the steps and resources you need in order to break the pattern of pressure-stress-pressure-stress, whether in your job search or in the new job itself. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief in the long run.