Download PDF

Salary Negotiations, Moving Up, and Other Career Advancement Questions Answered

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Post Views 0


Job Training

Investing in your professional future: buying a corporate wardrobe

Salary Negotiations

Moving Up


Job Training

Dear Genie,

I just left a job as a systems analyst because I felt I was not being properly trained. In fact, no training or assistance was provided. I was basically given a desk and left alone. How can I determine if training will be adequate and avoid this happening again?


Dear Pavlov,

Ask! In most interviews, an employer will say, “Do you have any questions you want to ask about the company?” A perfect response would be, “Do you offer any formal training programs, and if not, how do you informally train your employees?” You can also ask whether training is continued throughout an employee’s career with the company.

Since informal training is as important as formal training, you should ask the person to whom you would directly report to describe her management style. How closely does she like to work with her staff? What kind of feedback does she provide? Keep in mind your tone should be friendly and inquisitive. You don’t need to explain that your concern stems from a negative past experience.


Investing in your professional future: buying a corporate wardrobe

Dear Genie,

I’ve gotten a summer job with an investment banking firm in New York. The VP told me they usually wear suits! Is there any way around that? I can’t afford to sink a lot of money on new clothes, especially stuff that I don’t wear during the school year.


Dear Not-Dressed,

You absolutely will need to wear business suits to work in an investment banking firm. If you plan to continue in this industry, it would be a good idea to start to accumulate a business wardrobe if you can. I understand that as a student you don’t have a lot of cash to spend. But keep in mind that this is not a frivolous expense. Think of it as an investment in your professional future. You should have at least one suit anyway for interviewing purposes.

Here are a few options for you to consider:

When going to buy a suit, stick with something conservative and all-purpose. Not only will this be the most appropriate for the job, but a conservative wardrobe will last you longer since it won’t go out of style next year. If you are not sure what to get, ask some questions. I have heard that if you go into a New York department store and tell them you need a suit for an investment banking job, they can point you to company “uniform” if you just mention the name of the firm. Before you make a big investment, you might try to find these same labels/styles at a discount outlet.

A lower budget option would be to go to a thrift store or consignment shop. If you choose this route, just be sure to get something in excellent condition, and again, stick with conservative. This is not the time to start sporting the retro look.

If you are really not in the position to buy a suit or two even this way right now, see if you can borrow a few for the summer from a friend who wears the same size.

Some advice for the future:

If you are offered a full-time position with an investment bank, you might be able to explain your situation to your employer and ask for a salary advance to buy some appropriate business clothes. This may feel awkward to you, but chances are, the firm will be willing to do it. An advance like this is not customary, but as a new employee, it is not an unreasonable expense for a firm to make to help you get started on the right foot. Three good suits should be enough for an adequate rotation. With a few extra shirts/blouses to vary your wardrobe a bit, this should hold you for quite a while.


Salary Negotiations

Dear Genie,

I am a recent college graduate and have been with an organization for one year. I enjoy the work, however I am dissatisfied with my salary. My employer is also very happy with my performance. How long should one stay in a career building position before moving on? I do not want a future employer to think I am job hopping, but I would like to earn a higher salary. Also what is the best strategy to negotiate a higher salary?


Dear Dissatisfied,

Before you decide to do anything, you need to assess your situation and determine the source of your frustration. Are you frustrated because you are not receiving a level of compensation you can fairly expect? Are you disappointed with the harsh realities of the current economic climate in the your industry. Or have you become disillusioned by a poor compensation structure in your field of interest? You need to do some homework to decide the best course for alleviating your dissatisfaction. You need to know what you want and need from a job, but you also need to learn what type of compensation you can expect in return.

If you find that the compensation is fair and competitive, but you still consider it unsatisfactory, you may need to reassess your career goals and examine your practical and ideological requirements. On the other hand, it sounds like this job has been a good experience for you so far and that there is still room for you to grow. This situation is very advantageous and already puts you ahead of the game. Your circumstances are perhaps less-than-ideal, but may still be negotiable. While you’re deciding what to do, keep up the good work.

Research shows that your chances are always better when negotiating a salary for a new position than renegotiating your salary in your existing job. However, you should also never leave a job before completing at least one year. Make sure you assess your situation carefully. There may plenty of good reasons to remain in this growth position longer, even if that means keeping your current compensation package for now and accepting a slightly lower increase.

You will always have your best shot at negotiating if you are fully prepared. Your first step is to find out what you’re worth, both in the industry and to your specific organization. You can determine this by examining industry trends. How many people have your level of skills and how many of them are competing for the same kind of jobs? How many such jobs are there available in your city or area? You should know the climate of mobility at the entry (or near-entry) level and what the going rate is for your level of service. A lot of this information can be found in published labor statistics and salary surveys. Many of these resources have been put out by departments of labor, professional associations, and other private-sector organizations. The career center at your Alma Mater will also be able to provide a great deal of information about the availability of jobs and salary ranges.

Next, you need to understand the salary structure of your organization. What are people with your background generally paid? Where do you fall in that category and how does that compare to the local industry standard? You should know if there is an internal raise structure in place, how often employees get reviewed, and on what criteria raises are awarded. You need to find out how the company is doing and if money is negotiable. You should know if the company is in the midst of a hiring freeze. In a large organization, a lot of this information can be tactfully found out directly through the human resources department.

Once you are fully informed, you should begin to feel more confident about your position to negotiate. You have a right to expect to be paid at least the fair market value for your job and be compensated at a fairly competitive level within the field.

Thirdly, you need to be able to document your professional worth to your organization. Be able to site specific, verifiable examples of your contributions that demonstrate your individual values and show that you deserve a raise. Write a list of your contributions to the company during your tenure there. Emphasize those accomplishments that make you stand out from the herd and situations in which you went above and beyond the call of duty. Your list should be specific and focused on how your work has benefited the organization. For example, when you developed that special system of cross-referencing work between departments, it dramatically reduced the repetition of work, saved the organization valuable time and money, and increased productivity by 5% over last year.

At this point, you should have a solid sense of your bargaining position and need to think about what your specific requests will be. Based on your research, make a note of what you feel would be a fair salary increase. Be prepared to ask for a little more so you have room to bargain down, but keep it within a reasonable range. Make a list of some other non-salary benefits that you would like that might also improve your current position—greater flexibility or a pre-determined bonus contract, for example. If you have a list of a handful of these, then you can use them as bargaining chips. If you can give up some of these up during the negotiation, it’ll make your boss feel like he/she is scoring some points, too!

You should also expect to get a certain degree of resistance to your proposal, and you need to be prepared to respond specifically to these points. This is where your homework comes in handy. For example, you can expect to hear about tight budgeting, to which you can respond that though you are asking for a raise, you have actually saved the company valuable time and money through your initiatives. Or, if you have determined that you are being paid less than the local industry standard, you can explain to your supervisor that you have discovered this in your research, offer him/her some back-up statistics, and explain how the company is doing itself a disservice by not paying a competitive rate. After all, if they expect top performance from you as an employee, and if they expect to hire and keep the best workers, they have to be willing to pay at least the going rate. And of course, armed with your list of invaluable contributions, you can demonstrate that you deserve more than that.

How you present this information to your superior is another important tool. Getting those good negotiation vibes going is really a combination of putting forth evidence and understanding psychology. After you have determined what you feel would be acceptable to you, set up an appointment in advance to speak with your boss and explain what you would like to discuss. Try to arrange your meeting for a convenient and low-stress time in your boss’s schedule. If it happens to turn out to be a really bad day, know when to bail out and reschedule for another time.

When the time comes for you to present your position, make it clear how much you enjoy working in the organization and that you would like to continue to have a mutually beneficial relationship. You want to emphasize how your proposal will further the needs of the organization rather than emphasize your own desire for personal gain. In this way, you can begin to demonstrate how it is really in their best interest to meet your requests. Be polite and professional—there is absolutely no need to be antagonistic or put forth ultimatums. You don’t want this conversation to take the tone of two opposing sides. Be prepared to be somewhat flexible. You can offer to accept a slightly lower raise in exchange for increased benefits for example. If you show that you are trying to be fair and willing to work together to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, then everybody can come out a winner.

The point is, you are very unlikely to get the raise you want based purely on your desire to bring home more money. This is not a personal matter, but a professional one, and you must understand it from the company’s point of view. If you can inform and prepare yourself, you can demonstrate the direct and positive professional impact you have had on your working environment and how you have helped your organization better achieve its goals. When you can convince them that you, as an individual, are the best candidate to fill your job, and call attention to how the company will benefit from improving your situation, then you will have succeeded in creating a better situation for everyone.


Moving Up

Dear Genie,

I took an entry level job hoping to gain experience and knowledge about the industry and to get my foot in the door. But a year later, I’m still just opening the mail! What should I do?

Going Nowhere

Dear Going,

There’s nothing worse than feeling stuck in a bad situation, but, actually, you have a lot of options. First, assess whether your situation is typical of entry level experiences in your industry. Does everyone in your position spend two or three years at the bottom, or just the people in your company? Or just you? If this is a normal occurrence in your industry, you may have to sit tight for a while until you’ve paid enough dues—and gained enough knowledge and skills—to move up. However, there’s no reason you should be bored stiff in the meantime. Take a career-related course or two at a local college in order to build your skills. Make it a priority to develop relationships with people outside your department—you never know where a job will open up. Ask your boss if you can take on more responsibilities within your current job—or better yet, think of two or three projects you’d like to pursue and then ask you boss if you can work on them. That way, when a position does become available, you’ll already have proven yourself. Also, ask yourself whether there is a need for an additional position in your department or company and whether you are qualified to fill it. The cliché that we have to create our own opportunities is absolutely true, but remember that while the necessity of self-motivation means greater pressure, it also brings the freedom to change course and customize our careers.

If your experience is not typical—either your firm takes longer to promote than other firms, or you are spending more time at the bottom than your colleagues—the same advice still holds. Do what you need to do so that you are qualified to move to the next level. However, if your company’s policy is what’s holding you back, consider looking for a job at another firm— unless there are good reasons for putting in the extra time where you are (such as, your company pays much better, your company has much more room for advancement after this initial step, or you like your company so much you don’t want to leave). If you are languishing at the bottom of the ladder far longer than your colleagues, take an honest look at the situation and ask yourself—and maybe a close friend or colleague—whether the problem is with you or with circumstances beyond your control. Do not let bad habits grow into career roadblocks. If you decide the problem is not you, you should probably leave your company. Don’t bend over backwards trying to fix someone else’s problem.


Salary Negotiations, Moving Up, and Other Career Advancement Questions Answered by
Authored by: Harrison Barnes