Benjamin Franklin wrote: "Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste."
Too often job seekers are in a hurry to make things happen. They want to write their resume in one day. They want to receive a job offer after one interview. They accept the first job that is offered to them. Listen to Wise Old Ben. Take the time to get things right. This doesn't mean taking forever, or using "getting it right" as an excuse for doing nothing. Have a plan and a schedule. In most cases, this means a few days, not weeks or months. Review what you have done, and ask for opinions from people you trust. It's good to have a sense of urgency, but career management is all about making strategic decisions that will affect the rest of your life. Take some time to make those decisions.
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.
One of my clients called today. He’s received a job offer from one company. However, another company, one he’d rather work for, hasn’t gotten back to him after three interviews. He asked me what he should do. My answer is simple: Follow up.
There is no harm in letting a company that might be interested in hiring you that another employer has made you an offer. What do you have to lose? Both companies have shown interest in hiring you. The one that has not made an offer might be dragging its feet, but it could still be interested. You’ll never know if you don’t follow up.
The job market is challenged. Salary offers tend to be low. The only way to get a good offer is to give yourself every opportunity to test the market. If you’re lucky enough to be involved in multiple interviews, follow up on the offer.
When I first meet clients, they often present themselves in terms of what they lack: “I don’t have a college degree.” “I just graduated, so I don’t really have experience.” “I don’t know how to use Excel.”
My answer is simple: Sell what you have. Market your strengths. When we think in positive terms, we are able to present ourselves with confidence. The language we use is stronger and more convincing. Most importantly, we are giving employers good reasons to make a job offer. I’m not saying that we should ignore gaps in our resumes and careers. If an employer needs something we don’t have, we need to be able to offer some alternative selling point. Be ready when an employer brings up what you don’t have. Show why what you have is more important than what you lack.
Too often job seekers confuse interviews with tests. They struggle to get the “right” answer to questions and, in the process, tie themselves up in verbal knots. Rather than thinking about answers as right and wrong, focus on what the employer is really looking for – a good employee.
Shape your answers so they show why you will be a benefit to your new employer’s company. Rather than simply repeating what you have done in the past, look for ways to show how your experience and skills will benefit you in your new position. You can underscore this point by saying on the order of, “Just as I did X for my previous employer, I can fill a similar role with your company.”
The best answers at interviews will also speak to what the employer is interested in. That’s why listening is more important than talking. If you understand what the employer wants, you’re more likely to engage in the kind of conversation that leads to a job offer. A good answer is one that address not just an employer’s question, but the concern behind it.
When preparing for an interview, don’t get too caught up in scripting questions. Know your strong points and be able to sell them. Know potential weak points and be able to address them. If a question has given you trouble in previous interviews, think about how you can answer it differently, but don’t obsess about it. If you stay focused on the interviewer and what that person is looking for, it will be easier to deliver the best answers, the kind that bring job offers.