Friday, June 20, 2008

Uh-Oh: You May Not Be Worth What You Thought

If you were offered a job you really wanted, would you be willing to accept less money than what you expected?

That's the question many people are facing these days, even in those positions that were in such high demand they were supposedly bulletproof.

According to a JobFox survey, some median annual salary ranges dropped $10,000, compared to a month ago. Some examples include software design/development; product management; networking/system administration; finance; and government contracts administration.

These numbers reflect what the Department of Labor is saying, that wages are failing to keep up with inflation. That's pretty grim news as we face rising prices for energy and food, while coping with huge credit debts.

Still, there are some ways to cope in this economy:

1. Don't become overfocused on wages. Look for the growth opportunities in a job. You want a job to increase your knowledge and skills, and make you even more marketable in the future.

2. Ask for reviews. When you take a new job, ask for a review in the first 90 days to review your performance. This helps set the groundwork for a salary bump before your annual review. If you're already in a job, ask your boss to set up some quarterly meetings to review where you stand and make sure you're on target to meet goals.

3. Negotiate for other compensation/benefits. If an employer isn't offering you the salary you desire, ask for training opportunities -- either in another department, or to attend an industry event where you'll not only learn something, but make valuable professional contacts. As for other benefits, I know one worker who nabbed a good laptop from her company for $75 when the employer decided to upgrade. Make sure you're friendly with the office manager and the IT people so you know when good stuff may become available for purchase. Or, see if you can work from home at least one day a week to save on fuel costs. Some employers will pay the cost of monthly Internet service if you put in work time from home, or pay your cell phone bill if you spend time using it for business. The point it to be creative in presenting win-win options to your boss.

4. Ask about tuition reimbursement. Some companies still offer the benefit, and any education is worth the time. Recent schooling always looks good on a resume, and many companies cannot offer higher salaries unless you meet certain educational or training requirements.

Still, the question of whether to accept a job at a salary you believe is too low is a tough one. In this economy, it can be difficult to negotiate when employers are cutting back not only salaries, but positions.

Do you think it's a mistake to accept a job for less money than what you desire -- or is this a salary trend we must learn to accept?


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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I’ve Stared Into the Abyss…and Seen a Lot of My Friends

If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention.

Bad times are here, folks. Those people who make the numbers 4 and 5 are busy printing them up as fast as they can for gas stations. As in: $4.00 a gallon. $5 a gallon.

The front page of AJR (American Journalism Review) reads:"Maybe It Is Time to Panic."

And here's a press release from JobFox: "While the value of the dollar is shrinking, many job seekers - including in-demand technology specialists - must accept new positions at lower salaries than they did just a month ago."

OK, you don't have to beat me over the head with it. I get it. It's bad and it's time to take action and not just sit around and wring my hands.

So, in the last two weeks, I have:

*Networked with dozens of new people and established contact with them online and via phone.
* Done detailed research about where new opportunities are being predicted and how I can move into those areas.
* Checked in with all my bosses and clients to make sure they still find my product of value.
* Began adding "extras" to my work -- and letting my bosses and clients know about it.
* Checked into new technology and researched where it can help me do my job better. I'm ready to make an investment in voice recognition because my bad elbow is seriously hampering my productivity.

So, what are you doing about your current career situation? Are you hunkered down and praying the next business or economic downturn will pass you by?

I want to know: What are you doing to UP YOUR GAME?


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Monday, March 31, 2008

The Dreaded Performance Evaluation

Everyone hates performance appraisals. Bosses hate them because they have to come up with phrases like "does not model significant think-ratio standards throughout processing" and say them with a straight face. Employees hate them because they know that somehow, someway, the evaluation is going to be used to try and screw them out of a raise.

But here's the truth: Performance appraisals aren't going away. Try as they might, the critics aren't going to get rid of a tool that the analysts and bean counters love because, well...who knows why they love stuff like that.

Remember that performance appraisals are sort of like your living epitaph. See them as written in stone, following you throughout career eternity. Past performance appraisals are studied closely when you apply for a new position at your company, when you ask for a raise or when promotions are handed out.

That's why you should put as much effort into your performance appraisal as you did your NCAA basketball bracket. You want to be prepared for anything. Your input — both written and oral — should focus on the great things you have done in the last year, positioning you as an invaluable member of the workforce team.

Here are some things to get you started to performance review greatness:
· Keep a record. If you haven’t been doing so, begin immediately writing down your accomplishments, no matter how small. Maybe you only lent a hand for a day or two in another department, but this shows your willingness to pitch in, learn new skills and be an enthusiastic worker. By jotting down your day-to-day activities, you’ll not only start to track your strengths and skills, but provide solid evidence of your capabilities.
· Get compliments in writing. If a supervisor, or co-worker or customer appreciates your efforts in writing, hang on to those letters or e-mails . If kudos are given orally, write them down, noting the date and circumstances and person involved.
· Study the field. Who is going to be involved in your performance review? What kind of forms will be used? This helps you develop a “game plan” that looks at what subjects will be reviewed, how your performance will be judged, and who will be providing input. If you’ve had a difficult time with a supervisor, prepare to offer evidence on your improvements or commitment to the job. Don’t be defensive or on the attack: let the facts speak for themselves.
· Stay cool. No one likes criticism, but a performance review session often points to your accomplishments as well as your mistakes. If you worry you may get angry, practice with a trusted friend or family member to work on staying calm and focused. Also ,work on your body language — don’t assume a defensive or hostile stance. Maintain eye contact, and try to keep your body relaxed, but attentive.
· Use it as a road map. The performance appraisal process should be a clear indicator of where you need to go in the next year. If a supervisor fails to make this clear, ask for it in writing, or if this doesn’t work, write your own review of the information, and ask a supervisor to read it. This way, you can refer to this map all year long, noting the progress you have made, and will be a key part of your next appraisal.

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