As 2010 unfolds, it’s natural to think about your career and what the future has in store. Whether you’re unemployed and looking for a job, currently working but considering a new opportunity or hoping for a raise, the year ahead likely holds many questions. Fear not! Here are answers to several of the most common career-related queries today’s professionals have:
“I’d like a raise. Is it OK to ask for one?”
Let common sense dictate whether or not you ask for a salary increase. If your firm recently announced decreased profits or continues to reduce budgets, it’s probably not the best time to ask. However, if your company is on solid financial ground, it may be safe to do so.
When meeting with your manager, make a case for why you deserve a bump in pay, based on your performance, not personal needs. As much as possible, quantify the value of your contributions to the company. Also know what the going rate is for someone with your skills and experience by reviewing government data, trade association reports and compensation surveys. If your manager rejects your request, ask for a roadmap outlining the steps you must take to reach your target salary.
“I don’t like my job. Is it a good time to leave?”
Yes and no. Although the U.S. unemployment rate remains high, and some firms are still reducing the size of their workforce, there are bright spots in the employment market. Highly skilled tax accountants, credit managers, network administrators, system engineers, and executive assistants, for instance, may have more opportunities than those in fields where the demand is lower.
For those in specialties that may be less robust, a good tactic is to lay the groundwork now so you’re ready once the job market recovers. Dust off your resume and make sure it highlights your most recent skills, areas of responsibility and accomplishments. Update your professional profile on networking websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook; this information can serve as an informal resume for recruiters. And, last but not least, continue to expand your network of professional contacts.
“I’ve been out of work for six months. How can I jumpstart my search?”
First, make sure you’re not limiting your search. In addition to online job boards, explore social media sites, such as Twitter, and specialized industry publications. Leverage your professional network as well. Tell everyone about your job search. You never know who might be able to provide a job lead or referral.
Also make sure to customize your resume and cover letter. Use information from the job posting to explain how you can meet a particular employer’s needs by adjusting the content and focus areas of your application materials. And, perhaps most important, try to keep a positive attitude. The job hunt can be frustrating, but don’t let that show when interacting with potential employers. Turn to friends, family and other contacts for inspiration and advice.
“I was offered a great job, but the pay is low. Is it appropriate to negotiate?”
You may be surprised to learn that the answer is yes. A majority of hiring managers polled by our firm said they’d negotiate higher compensation for qualified candidates. Keep in mind, however, that professionals with in-demand skills have the most leverage during salary negotiations.
Before countering a prospective employer’s compensation offer, make sure you know your market value. Robert Half’s annual Salary Guides provide information on starting salaries for several industries and markets. Also keep the big picture in mind: A generous benefits package, flexible scheduling options or tuition reimbursement opportunities may make up for a lower starting salary.
Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit roberthalf.com. For additional workplace articles and podcasts, visit workvine.com.