So, you believe that you are job-search ready.

But, have you considered the financial cost of this job change to you and your family?

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How prepared are you to discuss compensation or the cost of benefits for the new position or a promotion at your current company?

As you job search or interview for a new position, this thorny but not unexpected question interview question arises. A question that not everyone knows how to answer or has prepared for properly.
Answer it incorrectly, and you may receive an offer that you may be unable to accept. Or you may later recognize that you may have sabotaged an actual pay rise by compromising in the wrong area.

And, you may be left with the new reality of having to pay for items, tools, or transportation that your current company is paying for or subsidizing. At one interview during my powerlifting days, one manager gushed about the free gym in the building and excitedly took me to show off. The gym was well turned out and extra clean, but I was left to wonder inwardly:
1) Where were the real weights?
2) Would the two guys at the front desk be willing to dangle on either side of the straight bar so I could do my four-hundred-pound plus squats for reps?  
3) And who was going to spot me, maybe the guy doing bicep curls with the ten-pound dumbbells?
4) It was clear that this free gym could not be my gym, so there were no savings. But I digress….

Among the key areas to do comparative costs comparisons are the Bonus and Commission structure, and when they are paid, Profit-sharing distributions, paid time off (vacation days, sick days, and holidays), Insurance (medical, dental, disability, and life), Tuition Assistance, Childcare Assistance, Employee assistance programs that offer legal advice, gym memberships, retirement plans or career or health-related counseling and other services.

Many candidates make the mistake of accepting an offer because it is a pay rise, a perceived gym benefit, or the simple fact that the request exceeds their current base salary when the benefit-cost details a slightly smaller base from a company with excellent benefits may mean a larger take-home salary.

Do you truly know if your total compensation from the new position would satisfy, match, or exceed expectations before starting your job search? And, do you know what the benefit-cost details are before you accept an offer at the new company or a promotion at your current company?

Handling Gaps in your Work History

How prepared are you to respond to questions regarding a Gap in your work history? Being laid off or fired is infuriating, especially if you are dumped by an organization that you were thinking of leaving anyway.

Maybe the timing is terrible, but consider yourself rescued and liberated, PLUS you get to keep your “I am not a quitter badge”!

Is there is a plus side? Yes indeed!

You are being forced to reconsider your career options and proactively restructure the next phase of your career. If you got a decent severance package – HURRAH! You are being paid while you make this career upgrade.

Here are some recommendations for processing and handling the work gap in the initial phone call with a recruiter or hiring manager:

1)   Develop a concise non-emotional explanation for the gap. Was there a company-wide layoff, did your department fold, was there a personal health issue, or did you move to a new city?

2)   Do not fudge the truth. Do not change a full-time tenure at the company to a contract or temp role. Lying about your employment can be damaging. The wise among us realize that being dumped can be a good thing. So, evaluate what you have gained from working at the company that set you free.  

3)   One of the funnier moments in my coaching history is a candidate explaining that she was fired, but not really.

In response to my quizzical: Say What? She said that she was the only one laid off in her division, so she felt she was fired. Too much info…. Was the severance reasonable? I asked, she said yes. I suggested that we will call it a “dissociation.” It is incredible what language can do to improve one’s view of things!

4)   Explain what you were doing during gaps between jobs. Think hard. Did you volunteer, take classes to upgrade your skills, travel, or use the time to take care of a relative. Did you attend webinars take online courses etc.? In short, were you productive?

5)   Unless you are good at disassociation, try to subdue your maverick go-it-alone approach. Consider engaging a professional to help you sophisticate your resume and prepare for this and other tricky interview questions.

6)   Invest in yourself and your career, and above all, do not wait until you are at the interview itself to craft a response to what you have been doing the last three or six months. Above all, do not slime the people at your previous employer; they can be excellent sources for referrals.

Being laid off or fired can be a shock.

For some people, being laid off or fired leaves them feeling angry, ashamed, or resentful. For others, the response could be, “Well, that was interesting. Time to move on. NEXT!”

But remember how quickly you bounce back and begin to represent yourself and your expertise as valuable to another company is always going to be your choice. 

A fast recovery depends on how quickly you accept that while you have had done interesting work, it is time to move on to better things. So, give yourself space to work through your feelings. Don’t let this setback diminish your pride in your otherwise successful career.

Put your redundancy package in perspective. Does it allow you to survive in the near future, or are you stranded? When your career game is interrupted, middle inning, it helps to remember that the sun is shining elsewhere, it is not raining everywhere, and you should remember to let that sink in.

Here are some other survival tips:

1.  Although a quick bounce-back might be a struggle, you will need to project a positive image to persuade your friends and potential employers that you are still in one piece. Focus on the highlights and achievements in your career. That helps to minimize the emotional fallout.

2. A layoff might free you up to explore a new career path or reassess your strengths, values, or where your career interests truly lie. Layoffs affect everyone in the department. Those who remain with the company quite often feel like they have just won the booby prize.

3.  Focus on your achievements in your former role. Use short and factual explanations. Too much detail can sound defensive rather than accepting of the situation.

4.  Laid off due to a merger, restructure, or downsizing? Use a broad brushstroke: Use all-encompassing language. “Unfortunately, I was laid off along with other colleagues.”

6.  Management change or a shift in direction: My skills and expertise are no longer aligned with the projects or the new manager’s priorities.

7.  Fired for performance reasons? Briefly explain the circumstances and what the experience has taught you. Then move on to what makes you a good match for the current position.

8.  Try to stay steady? Avoid responding to a deluge of jobs in a desperate attempt to get any new job. Instead, update your resume and shift your focus towards what you can offer.

Finally, accelerate your networking. The more active you are in your professional communities, the easier it will be to ask for and get help.

Thanks

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High Maintenance Job Seeker

The high maintenance jobseeker views the job search process and interviewing as a highly competitive structured process that should run at a clip. Many try to force things and cross over into Jobseeker Uptighterati territory, in an attempt to get an edge over other job seekers.

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Recognizing the High Maintenance Uptighterati Jobseeker in yourself:

1.      In addition to applying to the job online, the high maintenance jobseeker sends their resume or project samples to Human Resources and the Hiring Manager by the next day post.

2.      Many job seekers use colorful paper or ink or graphics in their online resume in an attempt to stand out.  This may render a fair portion of the resume unreadable and look ever so slightly like a craft project gone wrong.

3.      Once contacted for an interview, they need to think about it, research, or look at their schedule. Then bombard the recruiter or manager with a series of “I would like to know emails” or calls before setting up or attending the interview.

4.      Resist your tendency to be a Uptighterati by showing up half an hour early for the interview to see if the manager is available and can meet with you a bit earlier. Adhering to your punctuality principle, then trying to make reality conform to it, can be very annoying to others.

5.      The high maintenance jobseeker brings a series of show-and-tell items, awards, projects, reference letters, etc., to the interview and constantly interrupts the interview to show the items.

6.      Is accompanied to the interview by a friend, who sits glumly in the lobby, or worse, wanders around, peering into the interview room or other offices.

In an attempt to stand out from other candidates, many jobseekers inadvertently commit one or more of these interview mistakes. Qualified for a position, had the first interview you are not asked back for a second interview? Check the items above. Did you commit any of these blunders?  Have you turned into a High Maintenance Uptighterati Jobseeker?

Job Searching? Checked in with your References lately?

At some point during your job search, the potential employer will request references.

Typically, it will be when the company is seriously interested in you as a potential hire. You should be prepared to provide a list of employment references who are knowledgeable regarding your expertise in the skills and qualifications that you have for the job you are seeking.

Plan ahead,  get your references in order, before you need them. It will save time scrambling to put together a list at the last minute. Keep in mind that good recommendations can help you clinch a job offer, so be sure to have a substantial list of references who are willing to attest to your capabilities.
Do not use someone for a reference unless you have their permission.

How to Ask for Reference
You you need to be sure that you are asking the right person to write a letter of reference or to give you a verbal reference. You also need to know what the reference giver is going to say about you. Ask the reference writer if you can use them as a reference. Update the potential reference regarding the type of positions you are applying for, so they can tailor their recommendation to fit your circumstances.

Who to Ask for a Reference
Former bosses, co-workers, customers, vendors, colleagues, and college professors are good references. If you area recent grad just entering the workforce or if you have not worked in a while, you can use personal reference from someone who knows your skills and attributes.

Company Reference Policy
Be aware that some employers will not provide references. Due to concerns about litigation, they will only provide job title, dates of employment, and salary history. If that is the case, be creative and try to find alternative reference writers who are willing to speak to your qualifications.

Make a List
Create a document listing your references. Do not add the list of references to your resume. Create a separate reference list, add an email in addition to the telephone number. Have it ready to give to employers if requested by phone, or at the end of the interview. Include three or four references, along with their job title, employer, and contact information. If the employer asks you to email your references, paste the list into the body of any email letter, rather than sending an attachment.

Paper vs. Personal
It is a good idea to have a couple of written reference letters, especially if you are graduating from college, relocating, or the company you work for is going out of business. Most companies prefer to speak to a reference so they can ask specific questions about your background to find out what type of employee you were and why you might be qualified for the job.

Request a Reference Letter
Every time you change employment, make a point of asking for a reference letter from your supervisor or a co-worker. That way, you can create a file of recommendations from people you may not necessarily be able to track down years later.

Keep Your References Up-to-Date
Let your references know where your job search stands. Tell them who might be calling for a reference. When you get a new job, remember to send a thank-you note or email to those who provided you with a recommendation.

Requesting Permission
A prospective employer should ask your permission before contacting your references. This is especially important if you are employed – you do not want to surprise your current employer with a phone call checking your references. Finally, it is perfectly acceptable to say that you are not comfortable with your current employer being contacted. However, do have a list of alternative references available.