Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stand Out in a Crowd

I just returned from the Women for Hire Job Fair in New York City where I was offering free resume critiques. In the sea of women that attended the event, I spotted one man. While some of the participants seemed to be looking at this gentleman with a "how did he get in here" attitude, or at least a somewhat bemused fascination, I thought this man was brilliant. What better way to get noticed at a crowded job fair, than to be the only person with a certain differentiating characteristic (in this case, gender). He was, I'm sure, one of the most memorable attendees at the event.

There are a lot of other ways to differentiate yourself in a group. Technology professionals with a specialty in financial services applications can attend an industry event for a financial services professional organization. A human resources executive interested in media companies can attend a workshop relevant to media professionals. A recent college graduate with an interest in attending nursing school can attend a healthcare related professional event. By being "the only one" in a given field at an event, you are more likely to be remembered.

If you are seeking a position in accounting, don't just network with other accountants. Diversify your network to include people from other professions. If you are in your early 20s don't only socialize with other people in their 20s. Network with people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. You never know who other people are connected to. Do you tend to associate with people from the same socioeconomic or ethnic background? Make a conscious effort to meet and network with people from a variety of backgrounds to expand your social circle and your potential opportunities.

Dare to be different and you will be remembered. If you can remain top of mind with the people in your network, you are more likely to secure a new and better job faster.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Negotiating Total Compensation Can be Totally Awesome

Recently during an online conversation about negotiating total compensation rather than just base salary, I was asked "What are the best resources to use to figure out how to quantify your 'total compensation' and make sure you are not forgetting anything?"

Total compensation can include base, benefits, performance bonus, sign on bonus, relocation assistance, perks like an expense account or company car, cell phone, laptop, etc. Other things to consider are amount of vacation time, severance package, and commuting reimbursements…it all adds up in the end…think of all the money people save at Google on the free lunch (and think of all the weight they gain!).

When comparing healthcare plans, look at things like the out of pocket expense, deductible or co-pay, healthcare reimbursement savings accounts, number of well-care visits, and health provider network.

The Compensation Force Blog has an excellent post outlining many of the extra benefits that may be negotiated as part of a total compensation package.

Base salary is just one part of your total compensation package. With a little bit of knowledge and some careful planning, you can successfully negotiate a valuable and competitive package for yourself.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Writing Powerful Introductory Letters

A visitor to my site recently asked me to critique a letter he was sending to someone he saw speak at a professional conference. The purpose of the letter was to introduce himself and request an informational interview. Like many of the introductory letters I see, the letter was very general and lacked the information necessary to compel the reader to pick up the phone and say "come on in".

Like cover letters, letters of introduction must contain evidence of your past successes and an overview of how these successes are transferable to another business environment. Don't just tell your reader that you are a fast learner, an out-of-the-box thinker or a great communicator...these attributes are meaningless unless they are discussed within the context of your achievements.

A better strategy, when writing an introductory letter, is to identify your profession and core competencies and then list three quantifiable examples of your success within this profession. For example, don't just say that you are detail-oriented...say that your attention to detail is evident from the $300,000 in accounting errors you uncovered last year or your ability to master five new computer software products in under three months is proof of your ability to learn new things quickly.

Remember, when you send a letter seeking an introductory meeting, you need to differentiate yourself and your most marketable skills. Ultimately you want the person you are trying to meet to become an advocate for your candidacy who can introduce you to a potential hiring manager or decision maker.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Salary Negotiation Tips

A colleague and I recently had a conversation about one of the classic salary negotiation traps that many people fall into when a hiring manager asks about their past salary. In this situation, the hiring manager asked how much the job seeker was currently making and assumed that this was the approximate number the candidate was looking to earn in their next position. What the hiring manager is doing is using the candidate's past salary as a benchmark for what they should be earning in the future. This will often work against the candidate. All a past salary indicates is what someone was willing to pay that person at the time of the hire. It doesn't account for the candidate's current market value or the current market value of the job they are applying for.

Job seekers need to learn how to source information on their market value, so the conversation moves away from past salary and towards a salary request based on what the market will bear. They should ask colleagues and recruiters what the salary range is for certain positions, tap into salary information through professional organizations, and review online salary info through services such as and When asked the salary question, a better response is, "My research indicates that typical salaries for positions such as these are between X and Y. Is that consistent with what the company is planning to offer?" This way the job seeker shows the hiring manager that they are an "educated consumer" and at the same time they have not "given away the store" in terms of the negotiation process.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Accepting a Job and a Severance Package at the Same Time

Over on the Jibber Jobber blog there's a great post about the sKewed and often unfair agreements that some companies ask terminating employees to sign in order to collect their severance after a downsizing has occurred. Rather than doing damage control on the way out, I recommend that candidates negotiate their severance packages as part of their compensation package at the point of hire. I know what you're thinking...If I'm trying to get hired why would I want to bring up what would happen if the company let me go? But in this world of downsizings, mergers and acquisitions, corporate scandels, and just general market volatility, negotiating your termination benefits on the way in, when you have significant bargaining power, is a sound career management strategy. Potential items to negotiate include a serial severance package that allows for continued medical benefits and delays the onset of COBRA, allowing your stock options to continue to vest during the severance period, a shorter or more narrow non-compete, additional weeks of severance, and outplacement or professional resume writing services. When discussing these options during the negotiation phase of the interview process, phrase the conversation in a positive, non-confrontational way. Try something like "I'm very excited about this opportunity and I hope to have a long, productive career here, but given the volatility of the market (or given my recent experience of being downsized), I'd like to discuss the details of my severance package should my employment be terminated due to a downsizing." This allows you to assess the firm's "standard" package up front and bargain for a more customized package that protects you professionally and financially on the way out.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Deductions Related to Job Search

As tax season approaches, now is a good time to start thinking about deductions you may be eligible for if you are currently in a job search. Resume writing services, stationery, and travel to and from interviews are just a few of the possible deductions. Read the post here.