How much are you worth?

Inevitably, in your job search the topic of money is going to come up. Maybe you left your last job because you needed more money. Maybe they let you go because you made too much. Regardless, before you accept your next offer, the company has to decide how much they can pay you to do the work, and you have to decide how much your time and effort is worth.

Unfortunately, unless this job is covered by an existing union contract, there is no simple answer. Every organization has a unique perspective on total compensation – a blend of base pay, benefits, paid time off, working environment, career opportunities, performance expectations, and job security – that makes every job offer different. You may be in a position to have competing offers for similar work, but you need to compare so much more than the salary. Will the job provide meaningful work? Will I like my coworkers and the work culture? Will I be able to develop my career and learn new things? Will I have the time to spend with my family? Will I like my boss? Do I identify with the mission of the organization? There are hundreds of questions you need to consider beyond base pay.

But, let’s talk money. One of the best indications of your worth, purely from a base salary perspective, is what you were paid in your last comparable job. Much like the market value of a house is what someone is willing to pay for it, the first step in determining the value of your labor is too look at what someone else paid you – keeping in mind that this amount was wrapped in that organization’s view of total compensation. That organization had to balance what they paid you with what they paid other employees (internal equity) and what other organizations pay their workers (external competitiveness).

You can get a sense of external competitiveness by looking at sites like salary.com, monster.com and other salary surveys. Please understand; the information they are reporting on these sites is a) supplied by the individual, not the company, so there is no accuracy check, and b) they are consolidating this information based on a one-sentence job description. You might be paid more or less, because while the job has the same job title, the responsibilities are very different. Consider that data, but take it with a large grain of salt.

A key component of your worth needs to be what you need. Do you need base salary, medical insurance, retirement contributions, educational assistance, on-site daycare, on-the-job training, a supportive environment, flexible work schedule, lots of paid time off, a career development program, a busy job, a chance to prove yourself, or a place where you can take a step back and not be stressed? All of those things need to go to into evaluating a job offer.

As I said, there is no easy answer to the question. Take time during your search to evaluate you, and figure out both what you need and what you want. Then take time during the interview process to see how the organization aligns with your wants and needs. Then, when you get to the salary discussion, you have a context and you’ll be much more able to figure out what you’re worth.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Sometimes the job search doesn’t start because you get fired. Sometimes a friend tells you about an opening, or you happen across something on the web, or maybe a headhunter calls you out of the blue. You like your job and your boss – the pay is okay – you didn’t think you were in the job market. What should you do?

There are those who advocate you should always have your resume up to date and be looking for your next job. They stress you have to look out for yourself and jump at every chance. I’m not one of those people. I don’t think it hurts your career to have periods of stable employment and I don’t like to look at resumes where someone changes companies every few years.

But at the same time, you do need to have a good sense of the world outside of your cubicle. You should always keep your network fresh, meet new people, build relationships, and help others with their job search. And occasionally, when a recruiter calls, answer the call.

Here is the first reality check. You are not the best thing since sliced bread, and just because a headhunter calls you does not mean you need to give your notice. Just because you choose to apply for another job does not mean you should pack your desk – or even that you’ve made the decision to leave. There is always that chance, and it is a very good chance, that you won’t be offered the job, or if you are you won’t like it.

Going on an interview with another company is not like cheating on your wife. You committed to your spouse until death do you part; you committed to your employer for as long as the relationship continues to work for both of you. If an opportunity looks interesting, pursue it. The worst case will be that you’ll get your resume updated, you’ll meet some new people, and you’ll get some reinforcement that you like what you do and where you work. Maybe you’ll find something even better, but don’t turn in your resignation until you get that job offer.

So, here’s the other question, do you tell your boss you have an interview? Probably not. If you have made the decision you want to leave your current employer and you are actively pursuing other opportunities then, maybe, but rarely. If this is just a whim, you don’t know if it will lead to anything, you’re not unhappy, then no – keep that information to yourself. There is little to be gained and plenty to be lost by being overly transparent.

So in short, just because you apply for another job does not mean you plan on leaving your current job – occasionally exploring other jobs is good for you – and if you do decide to look around, keep it to yourself until you accept another offer. (Oh, and thanks to The Clash for my title today!)

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available soon in print! Click here for more details.


The Bottom Line

(This an updated combination of two posts from late 2013)

Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Does the same sentiment apply to losing your job?  Here are a few words and phrases that I’ve heard over the years that all basically mean the same thing:  terminated, fired, made available to industry, sacked, canned, separated, exploring other business interests, discharged, axed, RIFed, laid off, whacked, given the opportunity to be successful elsewhere, dismissed, and let go.  Did I miss any?

There are subtle differences between some of these words but otherwise they are all variations on a theme with different levels of sensitivity or compassion mixed in.  As you might have been able to tell, I’m compassionate, but I’m not an overly sensitive guy.

The bottom line is that for whatever reason; you don’t work here anymore.  It’s time to move on, start networking and find out where you are going to work next.  That may be easier said than done, but what’s the alternative, sleep on your mother’s couch?

In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book called On Death and Dying that changed the way that we looked at the grieving process. Kubler-Ross identified five stages in the grieving process that, with some perspective, can be applied to being fired.

  1. Denial – No, there must be some mistake – they can’t fire me I’m a good person and a hard worker.
  2. Anger – It’s not fair! I do way more work than Joe, fire him! This is discrimination!
  3. Bargaining – There has to be another way. How about if I take a cut in pay? Could I work part-time for a while? Maybe if I get some more training?
  4. Depression – Whatever – I’ve seen this coming – there is nothing I could have done – I probably deserved it – I should have left when Bob quit.
  5. Acceptance – Okay, what’s done is done – time to move on and find that next job.

The deal is, that you will not be effective in looking for a new job until you get to stage five. While this may sound harsh, you just need to get over it and move on. You might have been discriminated against; there might have been a chance for you to take a cut in pay; maybe there was a mistake; but at the end of it all, you’re sitting at home on the couch watching Judge Judy when you should be out looking for a new job. No pitty-party, no woe-is-me; it is time to get up, brush off your resume, start networking, and get to it.

Looking for a new job is a full time job. If you let your anger at your former employer come out in your interviews, no one is going to hire you. If you pout and whine during a networking meeting, no one is going to refer you to their contacts. If you can’t get off the couch and make some phone calls, your network isn’t going to grow.

It’s hard, but it’s life. I’ve been there. I’ve seen lots of other people and I am confident that you can too. Now get up, get to work, and let’s find that next job.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


Change – But Don’t

So, how goes your search? Have you been at it a while? Frustrated? Here is one of my favorite quotes (from Einstein), “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Can you apply this to your job search?

The secret to finding your next job is networking – meeting people, telling your story, learning from them, and asking them to introduce you to others so you can repeat the process – over, and over, and over. Sounds like insanity doesn’t it?

It can be, and it can be tedious, exhausting and frustrating; but you have to do it. So how can you change, and still stay the same? Here are some ideas:

  •  Shake up your “elevator speech” and try different variations
  • Meet at different locations
  • Hold some meetings virtually via Skype, chat or over the phone (face-to-face is best).
  • Try arranging the meetings via email instead of telephone
  • Try to meet with two people from the same organization at the same time (group networking)

Yes, networking can be draining, but it remains the primary key to the kingdom. So, shake it. Find some ways to make it fun. Make it a game and compete with yourself. Do whatever you need to do, but don’t stop – AND, don’t let those you are networking see that you are tired and frustrated. Your appearance of desperation will not improve the quality of your networking.

Now, take this Memorial Day holiday to step back, stretch, reflect, and remember those that have meant so much in your life. Then, tomorrow, let’s get busy and find you that next job.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


Are You a Veteran?

Last month I was fortunate to attend an event sponsored by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) and the Center for Transitional Leadership (CTL). The topic was Hiring from the Talent Pool of US Veterans. The primary focus of this event was on assisting veterans who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life. I received many good ideas that I can use as an employer to hire more veterans, but (if you are a veteran) I also learned a number of tips I can share with you to help you find that next job.

Veterans need to find someone who can help them translate their military career into business-speak. The military is famous for its acronyms and jargon that most civilians do not understand. Even words like platoon or battalion need to include manpower equivalents. A great number of military activities and training have a direct business correlation, but it is the responsibly of the veteran to provide that translation, not to assume that the civilian understands.

I learned that soldiers, and especially officers, need to learn to listen. The military trains them to be decisive and work within a very structured command and control system. That does not always translate well to businesses. Soldiers were also encouraged to be very introspective about what their skills, strengths, and weakness are. Attributes that are strengths in the military may not carry the same value in the business world.

An important consideration is that veterans often leave the military without a large network of non-military contacts. They don’t know people in business and therefore it is harder to find a job. LinkedIn was cited as a critical resource. What many veterans don’t know is that they have an enormous informal network of former military that have already made the transition. Working with LinkedIn and with a few known contacts (possibly through AUSA or CTL) soldiers who are about to be discharged can begin an active networking process and build substantial relationships before the leave the military.

Finally, veterans, like everyone else, need to be persistent. Two of the speakers at this event shared that they went 1-for-150 and 1-for-90 respectively on job applications. For the first man, a Colonel, he had to apply for 150 jobs before he was hired.

The secrets here are universal truths, regardless of your military background:

  • Successful job seekers need to make sure they present their background in fashion that whomever they are talking with can relate that background to their need,
  • You need to listen – as my Mom said, that’s why God gave you two ears but only one mouth,
  • You must network and tap into the hidden job market, and finally,
  • You must be both persistent and patient.

Now, let’s get busy and find you that next job.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings … (redux)

(This post was first published in December, 2013. It’s been awhile and I think some of you need to read it for the first time and others need to read it again.)

Anybody a fan of the movie Big?  I love it when Tom Hanks sings this Barbara Streisand song to his mom to prove that he is really her missing little boy.

How does it feel to get fired?  Simple – it sucks.  It’s like getting punched in the stomach. Even when you know its coming it is an awful feeling.  I’ve been blindsided a couple of times. The boss calls you in.  You think everything is going great.  Then she says, “I’m sorry but we’ve decided to make a change.  We’re eliminating your position.  Your last day will be …”

You don’t really hear much after that. Your head starts to swim.  You feel a little nauseated.  Depending on how quickly you move through the stages I wrote about in an earlier post you may get angry. You may try to plead.  Your fight or flight instincts kick in and sometimes you just want to get the heck out of there.

You’re probably reading this because you’ve already been fired and know what I’m talking about. If so, then you may be wondering why I’m wasting your time recalling bad memories.

Here’s why.  You need to remember what that feels like.  I don’t know if you got fired yesterday, last week, or 10 years ago, but look at where you are today.  You’re alive.  The world continues to revolve, the sun rises and sets.  Life goes on, and no matter how bad you felt when that happened, you survived.

It might have been difficult to talk about – maybe it still is.  It’s always hard to tell your family – believe me I know that.  But you’ll go on.  Follow this blog. Read the book (soon I hope).  Build a network. There are people who can and will help you.

Now let’s get busy and find you that next job.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


Too Old? Not!

I know a woman who recently lost her job though a reduction in force. In our conversation she said, “I’m 60 years old! Do you know how hard it will be for me to find a job!”

The answer is yes … and no. I won’t lie. Age discrimination, while illegal, is common. But not everyone discriminates, and those that don’t can hire some true gems.

“Too old” may translate to “over qualified” and either those may lead to the assumption that your salary expectations are “too much.” Often those late in their career are interested in taking a smaller job that is less stressful and allows them to focus on tasks that they enjoy. They recognize that this smaller job will come with a smaller paycheck, and that’s okay with them. Others aren’t ready to step back and want to push to replace the job they just left. You need to know which one you are, because the strategies are very different.

If you are interested/willing/able to take a smaller job, try these:

  • “Yes, I have more experience that you are looking for, but here is why I am looking for a job at this level…”
  • “With my additional experience I will need less training and can bring more value to your operation quickly. You can use me to mentor some of your less experienced workers.”
  • “In addition to performing the duties of the job you’ve described, I may also be able to help you in these ways…”

If you are not interested/able to take a smaller job, then don’t apply for them unless it is for the interview experience – and don’t be upset when you don’t get them. Please don’t lie and feign interest and then keep looking for the job you really want. That has negative effects on everyone, including you.

If you are over 55 and in the job market it will probably take you longer to find a job. On the other hand, you may have a larger network already established. The process is the same; make a plan, build your network, and tell your story. The good news is that you probably have a better story to tell.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


Make a plan

Are you one of those people who go on vacation by getting in the car and driving and then deciding where you are going? Not me. I need to know where we’re headed, what route we plan on taking, how long it should take to get there, and what we plan to do when we arrive. Personally, I don’t like to plan every minute, but I’m not enough of a free spirit to simply wing it.

If you like to figure things out as you go, I predict your job search will be difficult. While you need to be flexible and be able to follow up on leads and new ideas, you also need to have a sense of where you‘re headed. If you don’t know your target destination, you won’t be able tell people about it and they won’t be able to help you get there.

Let me suggest three techniques to help you achieve your dreams. You may have heard these before:

  1. Write them down,
  2. Tell someone else what you’ve written down, and
  3. Publicize your progress toward those goals.

These three techniques form the basis of your personal accountability and will greatly improve your likelihood of success. Writing down your goals forces you to clarify what might otherwise be disconnected thoughts. Sharing your goals with someone else will help you to own them. Then, telling others about your progress will garner you support and encouragement.

The other axiom that comes with goal setting and planning is – Plan the work and work the plan. An effective networking plan needs more than just a final goal. You need interim steps and measures to help keep you on track. Let me describe a level of activity that I encourage you to meet or exceed. Every week you should strive to:

  • Identify 3-5 new target companies
  • Have 5 networking meetings
  • Contact 10 people to request networking meetings
  • Read 3-5 blog posts and articles about job search (including this one)
  • Read 1-2 articles about your field – stay fresh and current.

That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? My consistent advice is that you need to make finding a job your full time job. Spending an hour or two a day looking for a job won’t cut it. Keep yourself in your traditional work disciplines – get up every day, get dressed, and go to work looking for a job. Take a break for lunch then get back at it. Work until late afternoon and then break for the day. I’ve written before about discipline, and there is no better way to practice or exhibit discipline that in how you conduct your job search every day.

The economy is growing, the jobs are out there, and you need to go get one. Work on your goals and your work plan, and then practice the disciplines that come with hard work. You’ll be rewarded with the job you were looking for.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


New Year – New Interviews

This month I have been trying to get you in a new state of mind. I’ve talked about new markets, new resumes, new cover letters, new targets, and new networking strategies. For the last post in January, let’s focus on the new interviews.

If you have a good resume and cover letter and you use those with effective networking, I can almost guarantee you’ll get interviews. These techniques will raise you above the average job seeker and give you the visibility you need to be noticed. Then, it will be up to you to use your interviewing skills to move to the next stage.

If you click on Interviewing in the Tag Cloud to the right of this post, you’ll find seven previous posts on interviewing. One of my favorites is Becoming Scheherazade… from just over a year ago. Each of the posts provides some insight in how to make your interviews more successful, but for you impatient ones…

  • Be prepared – go online and find lists of the interview questions. Then write out your answers to those questions. Then practice saying those answers aloud. Be prepared to answer behaviorally based questions (back to Scheherazade).
  • Know who you are and what you want – spend some time (before the interview) really thinking about what you want out of your next job and what you can give. This will drive your elevator speech (last week) but it will also let you answer those questions about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Get off on the right foot – be on time, well dressed and groomed, look the interviewer in the eye, offer a firm handshake, etc. You need to make a good first impression.
  • Answer the questions you’re asked – don’t talk about unrelated subjects, don’t volunteer information they don’t need to know, don’t vent about how your former employer fired you or about how bad your old boss was at managing.
  • Ask questions – use your opportunity to ask questions to show what you know about this company (things you learned while developing your target list, networking, or through research). Asking questions shows that you are interested and want to learn more. Asking intelligent questions really gets the interviewer’s attention.
  • Be polite – enough said.

Losing one a job and finding another can be a challenging, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding process. For the most part the techniques are not rocket-science, but for many they are not common sense either. I hope that these new posts in January have given you the foundation to understand the process and be successful.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


New Year – New Elevator Speech

It’s a new year and you are hitting the networking scene. You are cleaned up, you’re carrying some copies of your freshly updated resume, you’re set – right? Have you thought about what you’re going to say? You need to have a great elevator speech – a 30-second summary of who you are, what you do, and what you want. Nancy Collamer does a fantastic job of describing how to develop your elevator speech in this blog post.

Then, when you think you’re ready, I want to watch this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. If you’ve seen this before, watch it again. The power of body language is incredible and should not be ignored.

Finally, reread this blog post from last May on First Impressions.

You have a story to tell, and you have skills to offer a new employer. The information in these three sources will help put you in a position so you can use those skills. Your elevator speech, your body language, and your first impression will open doors. If you neglect these three items you may have a long a challenging job search.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.