In job interviews and on the job, first impressions matter because they last. In fact, they often take effect in an instant but can be difficult to change, if not impossible (depending on how strong they were to begin with).
I’m not talking about something like “is my tie straight?” (if you wear one). I’m referring to more subtle examples, such as the way you greet someone (the interviewer, maybe a new boss or colleague). Do you come across as friendly but professional, interested in others but not nosy, and so on? Job seekers are often told to “act natural” or “be yourself,” but cautioned to be wary of missteps which can cause them to stumble.
If you’re well up in the ranks, you might be thinking you already know basic stuff like this. But bear with me, because even the best of us can sometimes overlook things that could put us at a disadvantage when meeting someone who’s important to our long-term career success–whether it’s during the job interview phase or after we’ve landed our new job.
Basics You Might Need a Refresher On
Over-confidence can be every bit as damaging as lack of confidence, sometimes even more so. For example, if your body language or your words suggest an arrogant sense of superiority, you just might rub someone the wrong way, only to discover that the person has a say in whether or not you land the position.
Briefly, these are key aspects to consider when you’re getting ready for an important interview, because they’re what interviewers are likely to notice about you (found in an article titled “The 7 Things Interviewers Notice First“–they were listed in reverse order in the article):
- Communication style
- Body language
- Attire (clothing, etc.)
- Arrival time
I’d like to add a side note on the item about arrival time–which is something that’s very important but can be difficult to judge on occasion. As the article indicates, you definitely don’t want to be late. On the other hand, you don’t want to show up in the lobby 30 minutes ahead of time either.
In these days of cell phones being everywhere, there’s not much excuse for failing to notify someone if you’ve been unavoidably delayed; however, it would be much better, in my opinion, to build in a generous cushion of time and then find something to do with yourself during any “left over” time you might have–while staying near the location you need to be at for the interview.
First Impressions On the Job
Regardless of your rank in the organization, you’ll undoubtedly be meeting new people a lot–co-workers, subordinates, key customers or vendors, and more. To the extent possible, you’d be smart to bone up ahead of time on those you’ll be meeting, so you’re well prepared to achieve a positive first impression. Then all you have to do is maintain that positive impression in subsequent meetings!
Sometimes, of course, you won’t have an opportunity to prepare for a first meeting. It can happen unexpectedly for a variety of reasons. However, if you’ve been making the right kind of effort all along, you’ll probably come out of the encounter satisfactorily. By that, I mean that you’ve prepared yourself to make a first impression that will present you favorably in diverse circumstances–and will create a long-lasting impression you’ll be happy to be associated with.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
So you say you’d rather have a root canal than engage in job search networking? Then you’re probably looking at networking from the wrong angle!
As I said a couple of posts ago, networking represents a key element of successful job searching and career management. Also, of course, it’s not just a “when I’m in job-search mode” activity, but rather, something you need to do more consistently than that. The question then becomes, “What’s holding you back? What’s really behind your foot-dragging reluctance to network?”
Job Search Networking is NOT Rocket Science
Folks, if you’re thinking of networking as something that only an expert can do effectively, think again. You don’t need a PhD in Networking to do it and do it well. What you do need is the willingness to try and to keep refining how you do it so that it works best for you. By “works best,” I mean that you will actually DO it consistently and that it’s as productive as you can make it for your purposes.
I should note that there are a gazillion books and articles on networking–how to do or not do it, and more. You might get confused if you read too many of them, since in all probability they’ll eventually contradict each other! Try to keep your approach simple.
Networking Doesn’t Have to be a Drudgery
You might agree that a PhD in Networking isn’t necessary, but maybe you still feel that networking is just too hard to get a handle on, too much work, etc., for you to make it a part of your job search action plan. Wrong!
Like anything else worth doing, job search networking does take at least some effort if you’re going to see the results you want. That doesn’t mean it’s drudgery, to be avoided at all costs. Here’s what Ask The Headhunter’s Nick Corcodillos had to say about it in a recent blog post: “Go where professionals gather. Ask them about their work. Make friends. Anybody can do this.”
The blog post this quote was excerpted from makes for some great reading. I highly recommend that you check out “How to Engineer Your Network.” The engineer whose remarks are shared in the blog post makes some very pointed comments about companies that totally fail to acknowledge job seekers after one or more interviews. As you might expect if you’re familiar with Nick’s work, his comments on the situation take no prisoners!
Networking or Watching the Ball Game (or Ballet)
Sometimes you have to make hard choices in deciding how you spend your time. If you’re in the middle of a job search, you might actually need to cut back on a few other activities you would normally engage in. That’s not to say that you can’t maintain some variety in your activities; in fact, doing so is a good idea, because it helps you maintain a sense of balance and allows you to anticipate rewards for “good behavior.”
At the same time, you need to stay focused on the desired end-result; that is, finding and landing your next great job. Give your job search networking the attention and respect it deserves. You’ll be glad you did–I firmly believe that. It will help you achieve the interviews that lead to offers more quickly and less painfully than if you hold back.
How do you react when someone tells you that you need to be networking to have a productive job search? Do you say, “Network? Oh, no, I can’t do that!” or just throw up your hands in horror? With all the technology-fueled job search trends around these days, you might think, “Hey, I don’t need to network. I can just put my resume online and email it to people.”
Sorry, but you can’t get out of it that easily. Technology can serve as a tool for networking, but it’s not a substitute.
How Technology Can Help You Network
In the “old days” (really old!), job seekers used to call contacts or employers and not even get a chance to leave a voice-mail message. Email as a tool basically didn’t exist (see, I told you this was the really old days). Faxing, if you had access, was one way to communicate but not exactly interactive and not very personal.
Then along came technology advances that changed the job search rules permanently. Now, if you ignore the potential uses of technology, you’re likely to find yourself outpaced by your competition. As I’ve said before, ignorance is NOT bliss.
If you need a good way to organize your existing network and maintain contact with key members (those you’re actually building relationships with), technology can certainly offer assistance. It can also make your task easier with regard to keeping track of actions you’ve taken or plan to take, the timing for those, and so on. Depending on how computer-savvy you are and what your needs are, a simple Excel spreadsheet might suffice. To get more advanced support, you could try a program like Jibber Jobber to manage multiple aspects of your job search.
The point is: You need to consider how technology can help you network…and how it can’t.
Networking Without Technology’s Help
The core of successful networking focuses on the relationship-building mentioned above. You can wiggle around that requirement all you want, but it won’t go away. You still need to form and build strong relationships if you hope to have a fully functional network. Of course, if you don’t care about that, you could skip the relationship building, but then, what’s the point of trying to have a network at all?
Networking without technology’s help doesn’t mean you never use technology. It does mean that you evaluate what you need and want to achieve with your network and identify actions that don’t rely on technology. This might include arranging in-person face time with key connections or communicating with them by phone (oh, wait, that’s using technology!)–or even employing what some people these days consider antiquated methods, such as mailing a handwritten note to a connection to express appreciation for something he/she has shared with you or done to help you.
It could also mean doing something that I just did last week: attending a professional conference in your field to connect or reconnect in person with people you know but don’t see often, as well as people you haven’t met yet. A well-planned conference should give you ample opportunity for networking in friendly circumstances–not only in conference sessions but in the hallways between sessions (in fact, some of the most effective networking happens then).
Whatever you do about networking, please don’t close the door on it before you’ve even stepped inside. If you do, you’ll lose out on possibly irreplaceable value to strengthen your job search.
The old saying, “Ignorance is bliss,” has been debunked so much that I’m not sure anyone really believes it anymore. However, some job seekers I’ve met do seem to adopt that concept–unconsciously, if nothing else. That attitude can have a painful effect on your job search.
3 Things You Might not Know but Should
- Is the target company facing a daunting challenge that could negatively affect you if you were hired? For example, is it a likely target for a hostile takeover or otherwise a probable candidate for a merger/acquisition that could result in elimination of the job you had just landed? Certainty might not be achievable with the available information, but it’s up to you to do your due diligence carefully and sniff out such possibilities as best you can.
- Does the target company have a reputation for being tough on its employees, particularly at the level and/or in the type of role you are pursuing? A company can be challenging to work for and still be largely satisfying and rewarding. However, if it maintains a potentially toxic work environment or spits employees out like a revolving door, you might want to think carefully before seriously considering accepting an offer from it.
- Is the company operating in an industry (or segment of an industry) that’s perched on the slippery slope of declining value? As examples, just look at what happened in the video recording industry with Betamax vs. VHS and later with DVDs vs. tape recording methods. Absolute accuracy in predicting the outcome of apparent trends probably won’t happen, but you might be able to get a good sense of what could realistically happen and determine if that’s encouraging or discouraging in your situation.
Job Search Risks You Might Decide to Take
As I mentioned above, you might find out as much as possible about a situation with your target company and go either way in deciding whether it makes good sense for you to move ahead. Sometimes the risk-versus-reward outlook suggests that it’s worth pursuing; sometimes not. As long as you’ve taken all the wise precautions you can, that’s really the best you can do to minimize your risk and maximize your potential reward.
What might some of the risks be? For starters, you could leave a solid but unfulfilling job to take one that evaporates unexpectedly and leaves you stranded. Or you might find that the person who hired you and with whom you had a good rapport will fall victim to a management shift that boots him or her out in the cold and leaves you facing the possibility of working for a not-so-great new boss–if he/she doesn’t decide to find a way to shove you out the door as well.
I sometimes think the only guarantee is the fact that there are no guarantees! That certainly applies in the job search setting, making it something of a “buyer beware” situation. The better prepared you are for the most likely eventualities, the better you’ll probably end up once the dust settles.
Having just about completed a massive (coast-to-coast) relocation of home and business, I learned a valuable lesson that job seekers can (and should) apply to their next job search. With few–maybe no–exceptions, you can’t tackle a huge project alone and expect to complete it successfully on all fronts. Major projects require teamwork, and even then, they can be challenging.
Job Search a Team Sport?
You might quibble about my labeling job search as a sport. Would it help if I put “sport” in quotes? Seriously, a team sport is one that (by definition) involves more than one player. Usually that means there’s a captain–a leader–who gives the team a focus and helps them work together to achieve a common goal. That might mean winning a lot of games in whatever the sport is or at least making a strong effort to do well and to keep improving until they achieve a goal they’ve set for themselves.
That concept works for me just as well in terms of a job search. You could consider yourself the captain of your job search team, the person with a clear sense of the goal (a new job) and an awareness of at least some of the challenges that could lie in store for you before you reach that goal. But a captain isn’t much good without a solid team behind him or her. A captain can’t cover all the positions required to win.
Who Needs to Be on Your Team?
Some people should be with you on your job search from start to finish. They might be family members, close friends, respected colleagues, or some other category. The important point is that they need to have a strong desire to see you succeed in finding your next great job, either because they have a vested interest in the outcome or because they get a lot of satisfaction from helping someone achieve a key goal–or both. They should be people whose opinion you value and respect, not someone who might work harder on his or her personal axe to grind than on your success.
At times, though, you’ll want a person on your team who doesn’t have to be there for the long haul. That can include people whose expertise in a particular area presents a potentially strong value for your job search. You might consult such a person on a short-term basis, get the help you need, and let them go with gratitude for their contribution.
With my long-distance move, I had a lot of helpers, and I couldn’t have done it without them–such as the amazing real estate agent who sold our home in California at a good price, the agent in Massachusetts she connected me with (who found us the wonderful home we now live in), the resourceful handyman that second agent recommended, and the friendly neighbors who put me in touch with top-notch service providers in our area for essential needs such as plumbing work and irrigation systems.
Your job search is arguably one of the most important activities you’ll engage in, professionally speaking. Make sure you view it as a team sport and line up the players you really need to get you where you want to go.