Posted: April 21, 2015
By: Clay Cerny


A client called today to tell me she'll be leaving a job after less than six months.  She was very anxious about how this would look on her resume.  For some employers, a short term job will be a very large red flag.  I told her to be prepared to talk about her reasons for leaving a job after less than a year.  I also recommended that she always remind potential employers that she had been at her previous position for more than ten years with a strong record of achievement.  If an employer has a closed mind, no explanation will be sufficient.  Most employers, I think, will be more open minded.  If my client can focus on her strengths and what she will bring to the new employer, a short term job will not be deal breaker.

Posted: March 28, 2015
By: Clay Cerny


In the wake of the German airline disaster, Bloomberg reports on an employer’s right to assess their employees’ mental health. As the article notes, this situation is very sticky. Employees fear they will not be hired or get promotions if any employer discovers that they suffer from depression or a related illness. On the other hand, as the case in Germany shows so well, employers can claim that they need to know to protect their customers and their business. This is a situation without an easy or good answer. We need to protect employees’ rights while protecting people they serve.

Posted: July 30, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


One of my clients just called with good news. He received a job offer two days ago and another one today. Better still, he interviewed for a third time with a potential employer who will probably make him an offer tomorrow. What should he do?

Take the time to make the best deal. He’s already gotten both of the companies that have made offers to wait until Friday to let him make a decision. He’s asked the company making a lower offer to raise it. And he’s informed the company that has not made an offer that he has two other potential employers waiting for him to make a decision.

This is the ideal situation, and it doesn’t happen often. Be sure that you are communicating clearly and honestly with your prospective employers. If you’re going to use multiple offers to ask for more money, know that there is a risk that an employer will retract its offer. However, if that employer really wants you, they will pay more or find some other way to compensate you.

When you’re in a position like this, be calm and strategic. Make the deal that works best for you.

Posted: July 10, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


I’m coaching a client whose been offered a job as a tutor. The employer offered $15 per hour, but said he is open to negotiation. My client is currently making $20 an hour at a part time job, and she works an extra job she will have to give up to take the tutoring position. She wants the job as a tutor, but wants to make at least $18 an hour.

We practiced role playing for a negotiation session. My client, speaking in a muffled voice, said she really needed $18. Playing the employer, I responded that the best I could was $16, and my client meekly replied, “O.K.” That’s not a good negotiation style or strategy.

The first thing we worked on was sounding calm and confident at all time. Even if a negotiation doesn’t go the way you want, it is important to sound like you are in control, the equal of the person you are negotiating with. Practice your negotiation pitch, and listen to yourself. Keep practicing until you sound calm and natural.

The second step is to develop a strategy to obtain the wage you are seeking. When my client started by asking for the wage she wanted, she was setting herself up to get less. What should you do? If you want $50,000, ask for $53,000 or $55,000. These amounts will give you room to negotiate down. I practiced with my client so she would ask for $20 per hour with a goal of going no lower than $18. If she’s lucky, the employer will pay the higher amount.

The third step is to develop reasons why you are worth what you are asking for. The employer really doesn’t care about what you need. They need to know why you are worth what you are asking for or why you have something now that will let you walk away from the offer. My client currently makes a little more per hour (at a part time job). She also has training in an area that few other tutors have, which is another reason she should be paid more. Before you negotiate, have some reasons why you are worth what you’re asking for.

Finally, know your limits and risks. If you negotiate in a way that is disrespectful or out of line with standards for salary, an employer could pull an offer. Do homework on salary rates before negotiating. Be respectful, but focused on your goals. If you negotiate in a strategic and professional manner, the employer will respect you and accept some or all of your terms.

Posted: May 12, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


Have you ever quit a job or declined to take a promotion because you felt you were going in the wrong direction? A few of my clients have. Most, however, follow a path set for them by their employer. They are passive in following a path that is meant to do what is best for the company.

I met a client today, we’ll call her Jane, who didn’t follow her employer’s path. She achieved a high level of success in technical sales, and her employer wanted to assign her to a key account. The good news would be that her salary would have $100,000. However, Jane had just gotten married and wanted to have a family. She declined the promotion, quit her job, and started a business she has run for the last 8 years.

Now Jane is looking to return to corporate America. A few employers will not hire her because she has not worked in a corporate role. Others will look at her career and see someone who has corporate experience and entrepreneurial success. Jane took charge of her career and now is making another change that serves her goals, not simply doing what is best for her employer.

I often cite the writer Seth Godin. One of his favorite mottoes is to “draw your own map.” I can’t think of better advice for career success. There will be obstacles and diversions as we plan where we want to go. The alternative is to do what someone else wants to you do. That can be the path to a good income and a fancy title, but it’s just as often a road to frustration. Do what makes you happy and lets you live the life you want. Do it thoughtfully and strategically. Make the map you own.


Posted: May 11, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

Two of my clients are facing problems with their current employers.  In both cases, the clients -- let's call them Mary and Bob -- neglected to read employment documents before accepting a job.  Mary works in education as a administrator.  She was recently laid off with no warning.  To make matters worse, she was informed that the employer would not be paying her final check or vacation pay because she had signed a form calling her initial pay during a probation period a "loan" which the company would collect if the employee was terminated.  I've never heard of such a thing in the 13 years I've been working as a career coach.  However, I believe Mary told because she the story in a convincing manner and says she has a  lawyer helping her.  The problem is that even if she gets the pay she deserves, a good part of it will go to her attorney.  Had she read her employment agreement before signing it, Mary could have asked to have this clause removed or she could have chosen to work for another company.

Bob has an even trickier problem.  He works in a very specific area in IT.  When he graduated from college in 2009, it was difficult for a new graduate to find a job.  Bob joined a company that required him to sign a non-compete agreement.  This means that he cannot apply to the companies that would be most likely to hire him.  Bob was so excited to get an offer that he didn't notice the non-compete agreement, which lists 10 specific companies that he cannot work for in any capacity.  The good news is that Bob thinks he can get a job in consulting that would led him fill a function not covered in his employee agreement.

These examples demonstrate the importance of reading anything given to you by a potential employer.  If you don't understand something, ask if you can have it reviewed by a lawyer.  Any employer who will not let you do this is probably trying to manipulate you.  A good employer will have nothing to hide and will welcome a review.  Before accepting any job, remember this simple principle:  Read before you sign.

Posted: April 27, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

Clearly Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is a racist fool. He’s also an ungrateful employer, a bad boss. During a taped exchange with his girlfriend (I’d now assume former girlfriend), Sterling says,

“You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?”

Sterling shows no sense that the players who have worked for him over the decades that he’s owned his team have contributed to his wealth. Instead, he uses words like support and give, almost as if he should not have to pay the employees that bring fans to the arena. It’s not pay or compensation. He describes his employees as receiving gifts. Maybe he thinks he’s Santa Claus.

Even beyond his racism, Donald Sterling is an ungrateful jerk.

Posted: February 19, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

I’ve come across several resume experts who say that it is impossible to convey personality on a resume.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Soft skills and qualities give an employer a good indication of the kind of person you are and the kind of worker you will be.

For example, a word like flexible indicates that someone can fill different roles.  It is important to follow up on this point in the resume and show how you are versatile and able to take on different roles.  Similarly, a popular word in job postings that I often use in resume is proactive.  Someone who is proactive either prevents a problem from happening or solves it without being told to do so.  These are just two examples of how a personality can be conveyed as part of a well-written resume.  Here are a few other terms that you can use to give an employer a sense of what you offer:









Many job posts include these terms.  Find a way to integrate them into your resume so the employer can tell who you are as well as what you do.

Posted: December 16, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Is it fair that workers are producing more wealth for their employer and not seeing a share of that wealth?  Writing in Daily Kos, Meteor Blades reports on some alarming data from the Department of Labor.  Productivity is increasing at an annual rate of 3% while labor costs are down and wages are stagnant.  Blades does a great job of historical analysis, showing that wages began to contract long before the “Great Recession” of 2008.

This sad story is another reason why workers need to be in a constant job search.  If your current employer is asking for more and not rewarding you, it’s time to test the market.  For many workers, that will be the only way to get a significant raise.

Posted: December 3, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I met with a long time client today.  He had a short, unhappy stint with a company that paid a low wage and had high turnover.  He asked me what could be done to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.  I told him to ask this question: What is the employer investing in you?

If an employer pays a low wage or works by a commission with small/no base pay, that company is telling you up front that they do not value you as an employee.  If you perform well, you will be underpaid and maybe complimented.  If you do not meet performance goals or dare to question how employees are treated, you will be replaced.  A good employer will pay a decent wage and have clear rules for performance.  This type of company usually does not have high turnover.

I understand that many of the jobs currently being created are low wage.  Some people will have to take such jobs because they are low skilled or live in an area where unemployment is high.  However, if your skills, experience, and education qualify you for something better, keep working hard to get the job you deserve.  If possible, don’t take the bad job.  If you have to take it for income, keep looking for work and quit as soon as you find something better.  Show no loyalty to an employer who will let you go without thinking twice.

Before accepting any job offer, ask this question: What is this company investing in me?  If the answer is “Not much,” keep looking for a job that values what you have to offer.