Salary is Important, But so are Benefit and Compensation Packages
When it Comes to Looking for a Job
“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
~ Ralph Marston ~
Client Kevin Asks: I got an offer letter from the company I really want to work for. It’s a pretty low offer. Do I just take what I can get and hope to work my way up once I’m there, or is there a way to negotiate for more right up front?
Coach Joel Answers: Most companies expect you to negotiate, once an offer has been made. It’s not whether you negotiate that’s important—it’s HOW you negotiate that matters. Begin by thanking the hiring manager for the offer. He or she wants to hear how much you’re interested in joining the company and being part of the team. Companies want candidates that want to work for them. Reiterate the skills and experience that you bring to the table and how your past experience will add value to their company. Your goal is to develop a win-win situation for the two of you. If your negotiations are sincere, thoughtful, professional, and respectful, you’re far more likely to have a successful outcome.
Don’t be cocky in your approach, and above all, don’t lie or exaggerate about other offers. You may be the best candidate for the job, but rarely will you be the only candidate in today’s market. If you come off as arrogant or over-confident, your potential employer will likely select the next best candidate. Don’t try to play one employer’s offer against another. This makes it seem like the only thing you’re concerned with is money. Money should not be your primary concern if you’re choosing between two positions. If it’s only about money, the hiring manager will know that, if you get another offer, you’ll be likely to leave their company on a financial whim.
Remember, salary isn’t the only thing you can negotiate. There are many other benefits that a hiring manager may have more flexibility to offer. Vacation time is one of the most common perks people negotiate. Wouldn’t getting three weeks of vacation instead of two mean a higher quality of personal life for you? Stock options, bonuses, compensation package, commission, holiday days, telecommuting benefits, even the amount the employer contributes to your health insurance—these can all be negotiated. Sometimes perks and intangibles are more important than the net amount on your paycheck because they contribute to a higher quality of work and personal life.
What if there’s no give at all on your potential employer’s part? If you’ve presented a good, solid business case for why you should get a certain compensation package, and the answer is “No,” you need ask yourself these questions: Are you unemployed and desperate for a job? Do you see a huge opportunity to advance in this company? Would you really enjoy the job itself? Are there other benefits that make the job attractive? Can you meet your current financial obligations with the offer as is? If so, then you may want to accept the position. However, it may be that this simply isn’t the right opportunity for you.
Keep looking. Your perfect job is out there.
If you are preparing for a salary negotiation in the near future, write down all the aspects of the job as well as the benefits and compensations that are important to you. Make two lists: “have to have” and “nice to have.” This will help you know when to stay and when to say “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Talkback: Have you ever accepted a lower salary than you wanted in exchange for some perks and benefits you liked? Share your experience here.
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“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
~ Alan Cohen ~
Client Craig Asks: Joel, after weeks of job searching, I just got hired by a fantastic company. I’m committed to a future with this company and I want to do everything right from Day One. What are your recommendations?
Coach Joel Answers: A new job is a wonderful opportunity. The temptation, however, after you’ve spent weeks or months on a job search, is to relax and enjoy feeling secure for a while. Not a good idea! Instead, start really working on Day One. What you need is a written action plan. Here’s what I would suggest.
- Write down high-level guidelines to be implemented during the first week or two regarding the communications you want to have with your boss, company stakeholders, business partners, and your peers in the company
- Study industry trends and compare them with what’s happening in your company.
- Spend time talking to peers and subordinates and obtain as much business knowledge as you can from their perspective. Learn from them about the company culture too, so you can quickly become an accepted member of the team.
- Once you have all this information, develop your detailed action plan. Document your goals, objectives, expectations, and timeline, and begin to obtain agreement from your bosses and start talking about commitment for the required resources.
- Promote open communication with your new boss through regularly scheduled meetings to define his goals, and to review and/or revise your priorities based on input from him as well as business partners and stakeholders.
- Tell your boss that early on you would like frequent and regularly scheduled contact with him to ensure that both near and long-term objectives are clearly communicated between you.
- Began holding one-on-ones with stakeholders and start developing strong relationships with these business partners. Include C-level managers within the company as well as clients, customers, and investors. Determine what you need to do in the near and long term to help them accomplish their goals.
- Create an agreement with your boss that the two of you will hold a resourcing conversation after a month to six weeks to define exactly what you need and where you can get it in order to succeed in your role within the company.
- Reevaluate every month and track your progress against the goals you set in Step 4.
- Manage your reputation from the beginning. Once you feel firmly established, look for advocates, both inside and outside the company, who will speak on your behalf and support you in maintaining positive visibility within the company.
Are you in the start-up phase of a new job? Write down five things you will do within the next week to make your mark and raise your visibility within the company.
Talkback: What strategies have you used to be successful in the first weeks or months of a new job? What have you tried that didn’t work? Share your experience here.
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“You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy.”
~ Bob Ross ~
Client Lindsey Asks: Lately I’ve had a funny feeling at work. I’m apprehensive because I don’t think things are going well. I’m doing my job, the same as always, but I seem to be left out of the loop. I’m not invited to meetings but later I find out through the grapevine that people have made decisions that actually affect my work. Am I about to get fired? This isn’t exactly my dream job, but it’s been a good job and in this economy, I don’t want to lose it. I’m feeling very scared.
Coach Joel Answers: There are several clear signs that you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss and your job may be in jeopardy. You’ve already mentioned one of them. If you suddenly find that you’re no longer in the loop about things, that’s typically a bad sign. It’s often the first and most subtle sign that your time may be short. When you’re being kept out of decisions and new information that you normally would have been involved in, that’s a red flag. And if you’re seeing a reduction in your responsibilities, it could mean you’re being phased out.
A more obvious sign that your job is on the rocks would be overt criticism from your boss, or a poor performance review. Often companies will “build a case” for letting an employee go in order to avoid a potential wrongful termination suit. This case building typically includes documentation of performance issues, as well as written warnings and documented disciplinary actions. It may also include mentoring or coaching from your boss. This could have one of two purposes: it could either bring your performance back in line with the company’s expectations or it could serve as more documentation to support firing you.
Other obvious signs include: seeing a job posting or ad that matches your job description; being notified of a pay cut, or being moved into a position with fewer or no employees reporting directly to you.
What can you do to turn things around? What can you do to turn things around? First, decide if this is the job you really want. You mentioned that this isn’t your dream job. Would being terminated open the door to new opportunities?
If, however, you really want to hold onto this job, you need to take immediate positive action.
If you know your performance has been sub-par and you feel like you’ve fallen out of favor with your boss, talk to him or her. Explain that you’d like to make an immediate course correction and really become a valuable member of the organization. Ask what specific changes s/he would like to see and write them down. Then develop a written plan based on what your boss has said and have it on his/her desk within 48 hours.
Keep your enthusiasm high and your attitude positive. Schedule a follow-up meeting with your boss to discuss your progress. Assuming that the decision to let you go hasn’t been written in stone yet, your actions could give you a second chance to turn your situation around.
Assuming you want to stay where you are, make a list of things you like about your job. Make another list of specific tasks or areas where you think you could improve. Within the next week, schedule a meeting with your boss to work out an improvement plan.
Talkback: Have you ever been almost fired? What actions did you take to avoid it? Share your story here.
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“It’s having no foresight that makes the temporary unbearable.”
~ A. Lynn ~
Client Renee Asks: I’m currently temping for a company that I absolutely love. I’d really like to work for them full time. How can I get them to consider me for a permanent position?
Client Joel Answers: Sounds like you are on a test drive. Test driving employees is what many companies do to get to know you before they make the investment in bringing you on board permanently. If you are currently temping, the company may be checking you out. Obviously, what each employer looks for during this test drive phase is different. However, if you think you’re on a test drive right now, here are two important questions your prospective employer is trying to answer.
- Can you walk the walk?
A lot of people can give a dynamite interview. They tell the hiring manager exactly what he or she wants to hear, and their resume looks like they have the right skill set. However, as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” If you’re on a test drive, the employer is giving that pudding a taste. If you’re as great as you say you are, chances are you’ll have a good shot at joining the team permanently.
- Do you fit the culture?
Your employer is also test driving some of your more qualitative aspects. How are your personal skills? Do you fit well with the other team members? Do you communicate effectively? Do people like working with you? An interviewer will try to get a feel for these qualities, but really can’t know for sure until you are in place and interacting with your potential co-workers.
Ready to make your mark? There are two questions you need to answer:
- How do I stand out?
- What mistakes should I avoid?
How do I stand out? Standing out as a temp starts with doing the job you were originally hired do to while looking for opportunities to go above and beyond. Don’t just wait to be handed extra projectsor given additional responsibilities. Ask for them! Share with your supervisor and the hiring manager your other areas of expertise.
Also, don’t be afraid to let the company know that you’d love to be brought on full-time. Even if the position you’re currently temping for is truly temporary (filling in for someone who is out on medical leave, for example), look for other open positions where you’d fit well, and talk to the hiring manager about transitioning after your temp assignment is over. Point out the advantages you offer: they know your skills, you know the company, and you’ll save them the time and money of conducting another search.
Most important, be happy to be there. Make your co-workers look forward to seeing you every morning. Socialize if that’s part of the culture—go out for coffee or lunch when you’re invited. Bring a batch of cookies or a box of donuts for the team. There is nothing worse than a temp who comes in and just goes through the motions, ignoring co-workers and acting like they’d rather be anyplace but there. A positive, can-do attitude can make an employer want to keep you around.
What mistakes should I avoid? Obviously, if you come in late, don’t get along with other employees, and complain about the work, the company or being a temp in general, chances are you’re not going to seem like a desirable addition to the team.
And although you may have great ideas about how to do things or improve certain processes, be very careful how and when you share your thoughts. The phrase, “At my old company, we used to. . .” can become like nails on a chalkboard.
Being a temp can provide you with terrific opportunities for full time employment, if that’s what you want. When you start a temp job and you know that permanent employment is your goal, have your strategy in mind from Day One. Look upon every meeting, work assignment, or interaction with other employees as an opportunity to polish your image in the company’s eyes. Visualize yourself as a permanent employee, act like one, and before long—you will be one.
If you are on a test drive of your own right now, make a list of five things you can do in the next week to make yourself a standout to your employer. Start by implementing #1 tomorrow.
Talkback: Have you made a successful transition from temporary to permanent employment? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.”
~ Malcolm S. Forbes ~
Client Ellen Asks: I’m a woman in a leadership role, and I have a question about perceptions. It seems that women are judged differently than men for the exact same actions. Where a man might be seen as authoritative, a woman acting the same way might be seen as bossy. How do ensure that I am projecting the image I desire as a female business leader?
Coach Joel Answers: I’ve often written about the importance of proactively shaping the perceptions others have of you. This is a key strategy to standing out, getting credit for your work and, ultimately, getting ahead.
But what if you’re a woman?
Do any of these comments sound familiar?
- “I feel inferior to some of the men at my office, even though we have the same titles.”
- “Most of the meetings I go to have few women and I feel alone and intimidated.”
- “When I’m in meetings with men, what I say seems less important.”
- “When I speak up at the same time as a male colleague, my boss always wants to hear what he has to say first.”
- “When I bring up concerns about details, my male colleagues accuse me of ‘not seeing the big picture.’ So I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.”
I’ve heard these same concerns from a number of clients. These are smart, articulate, highly motivated women in leadership roles at blue chip companies. They feel their gender hinders their ability to shape their image. One woman summed up her frustration by telling me, “I feel like the deck is stacked against me. The rules for men are different. If a man speaks up or challenges someone, he viewed in positive terms as being aggressive or competitive. Yet if a woman does the same thing, she’s called a b—-.'”
Naturally, this isn’t the case with all women and work situations. But if you share some of these concerns or frustrations, here’s what I advise my clients:
Don’t feel guilty about being assertive.
There’s nothing disrespectful or “unfeminine” about being assertive and forcefully expressing your point of view. The best decisions are made when everyone contributes their ideas. You shortchange your company, your customers and yourself by remaining silent or intimidated by “what others will think.” Someone once said, “Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.” It’s time to stop apologizing.
What have you got to lose?
If you’re afraid to speak up, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen?” Chances are, you’ll find your fears or reservations aren’t justified and the rewards greatly outweigh the risks.
Is it a gender issue or a confidence issue?
When consulting with female clients in depth about this, we’ve often discovered that the real problem isn’t with “them,” it’s with “you.” They were using gender as an excuse. They tended not to speak up at all meetings, not just those with men. They realized they needed to develop a strategy to build their self-confidence. This might involve reading self-help books or attending an assertiveness training class.
Learn from successful role models or mentors.
Seek advice and inspiration from successful women in your organization. Watch them in action, use them as sounding boards, learn how they use or bend the so-called “rules” to get ahead.
Talk to your boss.
During your next performance review, tell him (or her) you want to work at being more assertive and more comfortable at speaking up in groups. Ask for his advice and seek out feedback following meetings: “How did I do?” “Did I come across as too aggressive or confrontational?” “What should I have done differently?”
But what if it really is a gender issue?
My advice is: you can’t change them (the men in your office), you can only change yourself. Pick your fights and avoid fueling their negative stereotypes. In other words, don’t be overly emotional, focus on facts and not personalities, etc. If you continue to be frustrated, look for work someplace else. “Don’t compromise yourself,” the legendary singer Janis Joplin once said. “You’re all you’ve got.”
Don’t let your gender be an excuse. Joel has successfully coached many women, and he can help you reach your full potential too. Click here to learn more about leadership coaching for women.
Talkback: Are you a woman in a leadership position? Have you found that you are perceived differently than the men in your company?
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