Ask For Even More, Part 2: Negotiate To Help People Help You

Client got 10% more. I was more excited about severance – @SixFigureStart

That was a Tweet I wrote for my recent Forbes post on Ask For Even More: Five Items Even Savvy Professionals Forget To Negotiate For. My client came to me for negotiation support on her multiple six-figure package, and we did get it up 10% but she also asked for and received a guaranteed severance package of one-year’s salary in the event of a restructuring or some other involuntary termination. This is significant because most companies tie severance to tenure, and it would take years, even decades, to get up to one year’s worth.

When we think about negotiation, it’s often in the context of salary or something else involving money or price (yard sale! Is anyone else a fan of Flea Market Flip like I am?). But negotiation is much broader than money – negotiating terms, such as severance, for example. Negotiation also applies to your day-to-day work. You negotiate:

  • Deadlines – is the report really needed in one hour?
  • Resources – can you get 50% of superstar junior person to help on project Amazing?
  • Responsibilities –given that you introduced client Lucrative to the firm, could you oversee that relationship?
  • Boundaries – given that colleague Shirks-a-lot oversees executive compensation, would it make more sense for him to also draft the options grant communication instead of you?
  • Information – do your colleagues and/ or senior management have data, contacts, or institutional best practices that are critical to getting your job done? Do you need more feedback or direction?

In the ideal world, people would share openly, never overstep, give you responsibilities commensurate with your skills and contributions, grant you the appropriate level of resources and set deadlines that are reasonable and fair. But things are not often ideal, and not because the outside world is out to get you. People are busy and preoccupied with their own workload. If you need something, you will have to ask for it. Help people help you.

A deadline might be imposed from three departments removed, and they have no idea what you’re working on or how long what you need to do will take. Don’t get defensive; just be clear. Let people know competing deadlines. Give people an estimate of how long requests take. Don’t just agree. Propose the deadline that works for you

Resources might be available but if you don’t ask, management assumes you don’t need. Why should they volunteer something that is costly and limited? Don’t just assume that you have to do everything yourself. Ask for additional help – budget, staff, consultants

Responsibilities consistently change, especially in today’s changing market. Maybe you absorbed something when budgets were tight or a deadline loomed, and it was all hands on deck. This doesn’t mean you need to do this forever. On the flip side, maybe you want more responsibility because your scope of work isn’t critical to the new business initiatives. Don’t assume that your management knows what you’re working on and is proactively thinking of the best next development steps for you. Identify the clients, projects and role you want, and ask for these

When people are preoccupied about their own work, they may unknowingly overstep on requests and push your boundaries. If a colleague, boss or client is imposing too much, say something. Come up with an alternative solution and propose that – so you’re not just saying No but actively trying to work together. But don’t just agree and seethe in silence. They may have very willingly agreed to a compromise, but you didn’t ask

Finally, don’t forget about asking for information – feedback, data, contacts, institutional best practices. One client was tasked with growing a new business unit over 300% in the next two years. Her boss has extensive connections in this area. Has she asked him for introductions? No, she thought it best to prove she can do it on her own. Does he help other people? Why yes he does, and he likes playing that role….Presto! She will pull together a list of target companies and review with him where he can generate leads

One of the things I love about coaching is that it self-selects for people who take action. They’re getting coaching because they want to fix a situation, to improve on their personal best, to hit an outrageous goal. These actionable people are so used to doing that they forget to ask for help. But it’s rare that an outrageous goal can be met alone, and generally speaking, people want to help. Help people help you. Ask for even more than you normally do.


Unconventional Business Advice From Author And Small Business Expert Pamela Slim

Pamela Slim, author and small business expert

We all need each other – Pam Slim

I am a Pam Slim fan from her early days with the Escape From Cubicle Nation blog and book to her latest coaching offerings, most recently the Indispensable Community Tour. I attended the NYC leg of the tour, and it was an interesting half-day of meeting new people (and reconnecting with some old friends), as well as hearing Pam’s unconventional tips for business owners. Here are my three favorite takeaways:Pamela Slim, author and small business expert

People are connected by mission, not by demographic

So much of traditional marketing advice is about knowing your customer’s demographic – age, income, gender, race, etc. But Pam highlights that we don’t self-identify that way. Demographics frequently cross over by mission, interest, value, and need. My A-ha moment? Focus on what mission you’re serving, and build your community this way, not the typical by-demographic school of thought.

A community needs to be continually nurtured

You can’t just build a rabid fan base one time. You need to continually check-in, provide service, and foster member-to-member communication, in order to form lasting community. This is a great reminder not to fall for the get-rich-quick schemes that flood the business blogosphere. I also love the choice of “nurture” as the action here. My A-ha moment? Continue to serve, well after the initial exchange.

Work yourself out of a job – you are but one part

Picture a circle with your customers at the center, and you are one part of the circle supporting them, but there are others – other business owners, information, organizations, opportunities. Traditional advice encourages business owners to think of themselves as the center and their offerings as the parts. Pam calls this empire-building. Community-building puts your customer in the center, and you as a supporting part. Ideally, you even work yourself out of a job as your community builds its own leadership capacity and can exist without you. My A-ha moment? You can still serve your community, even as you move on to other things, if you’ve built up a community to lead itself.

The Indispensable Community Tour is still roaming North America. Let me know your A-ha moments if you attend!


***For more career advice (this time, from Connie and Caroline and this time, RE: employment, not small business), join us for a free webinar series: Confessions of a Former Recruiter. We’re both former recruiters, hiring entry-level thru executive for multiple industries, and we’ll share what works and what doesn’t for resumes, interviewing, negotiation, and more! Join us, starting September 9.***

A Souvenir From Ireland: Career Advice From Oscar Wilde

I just got back from a glorious 10-day trip to Ireland – Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands, Dublin city center, and all of the usual (but still extraordinary) tourist sites. One of the places we visited was the Writers’ Museum in Dublin, and there were a number of quotes from Oscar Wilde that made me laugh out loud AND provided great career advice. So a souvenir of Ireland from me to you is career advice from Oscar Wilde:

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination. – Oscar Wilde

I don’t take this as a call to overspend, but instead to dream bigger. In what ways can you imagine a bigger, more challenging, more rewarding career?

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde

If you do the same things day by day, you’ll get exactly the same results. If it’s working, great, but you run the risk of plateauing. If you’ve already plateaued or you’re stuck, what alternatives can you imagine and take action on today?

If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you. – Oscar Wilde

Great reminder that it’s hard to deliver the truth sometimes so communicating in a lighthearted way is a good skill to have. This includes talking hard truths about yourself in a job interview or performance review (e.g., weaknesses, mistakes, areas of improvement). How can you be truthful but still engaging?

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. – Oscar Wilde

Even back then, Wilde knew the importance of branding. Do you put yourself out there?

It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating. – Oscar Wilde

Even Wilde knew the importance of a strong financial foundation. Good personal finance habits enable you to take risks, have the courage not to settle, and get by the employers who check your credit (as many do!) Jobs are not permanent income as they can go away. You need your own savings, investments and perhaps even businesses. What are your permanent income streams?

To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable. – Oscar Wilde

Don’t be the person who says they want something more than anything in the world (a career change, a successful business, a fulfilling career) and yet not do anything towards these goals. What are you proactively doing?

Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes. – Oscar Wilde

Speaking of actions, don’t be paralyzed by fears of making a mistake. Wilde is quite insightful here that most regrets are around what we don’t do, rather than what we do, even what we mistakenly do!

One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead. – Oscar Wilde

I know many professional’s whose life work is not necessarily their professional work – it is a personal hobby or a social cause. That is totally fine because sometimes you thrive with a separate “money job” from passion pursuits. But sometimes the professional career takes over and the passions fall away. Perhaps you’re telling yourself that someday you’ll get back to what you really want to be doing….Just remember that the only life you have is right now. Whether you follow your bliss professionally or just personally, are you leading the life you intend to lead?


***For more career advice (this time from Connie and Caroline), join us for a free webinar series: Confessions of a Former Recruiter. We’re both former recruiters, hiring entry-level thru executive for multiple industries, and we’ll share what works and what doesn’t for resumes, interviewing, negotiation, and more! Join us, starting September 9.***


Sins of Omission: Seven Career Mistakes Caused By Inaction

career mistake

After I heard about the 7,800 layoffs coming at Microsoft, first it inspired my advice post on Forbes on career mistakes caused by not acting when layoffs are imminent. Then I checked on a former colleague who was there, but luckily she had already moved five months earlier. She mentioned that it was obvious things were going south and wondered why more of her colleagues had not decided to leave earlier, before everyone who waited would flood the job market at the same time. Failing to act is something many professionals do, not just in response to layoffs. Here are seven common “sins of omission” – career mistakes caused by inaction:

career mistake

Weak connections

Connecting to people is never urgent (unless you need something in which case it’s transacting and not genuinely connecting). If you don’t take the time to build a relationship, the networking police won’t ticket you. But you’ll have weak connections that won’t support you in a pinch.

Small network

You might think you’re OK because you have a handful of strong relationships. A small, dedicated group of friends is a blessing, for sure, but a strong network is about quantity, as well as quality. The bigger the network, the more likely you will have access to what you need – different industries, different sectors, different professional questions — at any given time. If you don’t proactively expand past your inner circle, you’ll be limited in how much your network can support you.

Insular thinking

Quantity is also about diversity of ideas and news. If you interact with the same group – from the same region or the same level or the same way of thinking – you won’t hear about an innovative approach to a problem that one industry is doing that could be relevant to something you’re doing. Expanding your thinking is not just about variety in your network but also about variety in the information you consume, events you attend, and activities you participate in. No one is going to force you to switch up your reading or attend a different conference or experiment with a new hobby, but too much of the same thing invites lazy thinking.

Career plateau

Doing your day-to-day job is not the same as managing your career. You can perform on the job and still plateau. The inaction is in not asking for a promotion review or a bigger scope or a different scope (growth isn’t always upwards but can be laterally as well). I have seen many capable professionals who let years go by before questioning if they are at the right level or even in the right career.

Compensation plateau

It’s not just your role that is danger of stagnation, but also your compensation. How many people do you know who are longtime at their company and making less than a counterpart who is new? These longtimers failed to mark their compensation up to market value. Inaction shows in not keeping up on information about what is fair compensation and not asking for what you deserve.

Mission drift

I also hear from professionals who are fine with their level and fine with their compensation but have a general malaise around “is this all there is?” In the busyness of day-to-day, the meaning behind why we do what we do is easily lost. If you don’t proactively think about the weighty issues like legacy, purpose and fulfillment, they will likely only surface in a crisis.

You “let yourself go”

The other day, my teenage daughter started playing around with the piano in our living room (currently used more as a coffee table than a performance instrument). She asked me if I could still play all the scales. I trained at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music but decades ago at this point (wow, I’m old!), and I hadn’t played in years. Yes, I could remember the scales mentally but my fingers wouldn’t follow so easily. I had really “let myself go” regarding my piano skills. Letting yourself go professionally might show up in a slovenly look, a little less punctuality, or coasting at work. It’s diminished effort over time in the small but important habits that turn into barnacles that sink the submarine. It’s not what you did; it’s what you didn’t do or stopped doing.

Proactive action steps include maintaining good habits, following and nurturing your inner compass, marking your value to market, managing your long-term career not just your job, expanding and maintaining a diverse network, and expanding and maintaining a diverse body of knowledge and way of thinking. Where are you falling into the habit of inaction? How do you remind yourself to focus on important, but not time-urgent priorities?


***For more career advice, join us for a free webinar series: Confessions of a Former Recruiter. We’re both former recruiters, hiring entry-level thru executive for multiple industries, and we’ll share what works and what doesn’t for resumes, interviewing, negotiation, and more! Join us, starting September 9.***

The Employment Numbers That Really Matter to Job Seekers

In my latest job search advice post for and, I write about the employment numbers that matter, and they’re not from the Bureau of Labor! Here is the unedited version:

I was recently asked to comment on what the latest employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics mean for job seekers. Unless you’re an economist, employment statistics for the country don’t matter to the individual job seeker. If you really want to impact your job search, pay attention to data much closer to home. Here are 10 numbers you want to track closely:job search tips

Your employment statistic

Whether the market is at 5%, 10% or 50% unemployment, your number will always be 0% or 100%. You either have a job or you don’t. If you do, focus on whether you like your job, whether you’re fairly compensated, and whether you’re continually growing your skills, network, or expertise. If you don’t have a job and aren’t independently wealthy, prioritize your job search.

Interview invitations

The easiest way to see if you’re on track is to count the number of interviews you are invited to. If you’re not getting interviews, you’re not getting the chance to get hired. Since employers interview multiple people for every one job, you can’t be assured that you’ll be the one. You need to have multiple companies in play at any one time. Aim for five to ten interviews per week. Remember that some roles will not be filled at all or will go to someone internal or will go to another candidate.

Callbacks made

Getting an interview is one thing, but moving forward in the process is a separate issue. Companies don’t normally hire after just one interview, so you also need to track whether you are getting callbacks. If not, you need to work on your interview technique. You want to get called back after every interview. Even if you’re not interested in the job, you want to know that you did well, and you want to be the one that says No, not the employer.

Meetings scheduled

If you aren’t getting callbacks or even interviews, then you’re not putting yourself out there enough. It’s easy to send resumes – too easy in fact, so most of your competition will do that. What’s harder but much more effective is networking – meeting with people to learn more about the companies and roles you are interested in, hopefully get referrals to companies, or even turn that networking meeting into an actual interview. Aim for five to ten meetings per week. If you’re well-researched and meeting with the right people, these five to ten meetings will turn into interviews as your search progresses.

Leads identified

How do you get the networking meetings that lead to interviews? You can cold call a senior, influential decision-maker, absolutely. However, when you get started, unless you’re a trained salesperson, the thought of cold calling might be overwhelming and therefore not so productive. Start with people you know – family, friends, former colleagues, classmates. You know more people than you think. These early leads will enable you to practice your networking skills in a supportive environment, collect information about companies and other people (who then will be warm leads, not cold calls!), and might even become more formal meetings or interviews themselves.

Companies researched

When you exhaust your friendly leads, you may have to cold call to supplement your pipeline. In order to identify the appropriate people in your area of interest, you need to know the companies active in your area of interest. List out all of the companies, organizations, agencies, and trade associations that are of interest so you can research the right people to target. You also want to make sure you’re going after a large enough pool and not being so narrow there aren’t enough jobs. If you want to work as a grant writer for a children’s-related non-profit, how many of these non-profits are there in your market? If you live in a major metro, there are probably enough to sustain a search. But if not, you may want to also look at schools, government agencies that serve children, for-profit daycare and learning centers, etc. Make sure you have enough target companies that there will be enough jobs and people to go after.

Distance to the decision-maker

So you itemize your family and friends and you have your company target list to add even more names. But how powerful are these names? If you’re the aspiring grant writer, do you know senior people in the development department specifically? You want to know and network the people you will ultimately interview with and who will ultimately make the hiring decisions. Sure, it’s also useful to know the IT or finance or other people at a children’s non-profit, but given a choice, you want the shortest distance to the decision-maker.

Time spent on your search

As you can see from all of the people you need to keep up with, the job search takes time. How many hours per week are you spending your search? Many job seekers get in trouble because their search stops and starts. They spend hours one day researching companies or applying to jobs, but then they don’t follow or continue to add more leads. They just wait and do other non-job related things. Aim for 10-20 hours on your search if you’re employed and double that if you’re unemployed. If you see that you’re spending too little time on your job search, fill in those extra hours with rekindling friendly connections, cold calling new connections, identifying more companies, and booking more meetings. There is always more to do!

Money in the bank

Unless you’re independently wealthy, your severance, savings, or whatever is filling your bank account outside of your job is what is funding your job search. If you have six months of expenses covered, your job search pace and strategy should be much different than if you have six weeks left. Be mindful of your cash cushion so you don’t go too slowly and then are pressured as funds run out. If you are employed and have a paycheck for your “money in the bank” then focus on doing well enough on your current job to keep it. You will need your current job for strong references as well.

Time elapsed since you started

Finally, another key number to track is the overall length of your search. If you are one month into your search, your expected results are different then if you’re six months into your search. For example, at one month, you should have itemized your networking list, gathered your marketing documents and started your research. At six months, you should be well into the callback interview stage, if not totally completed with your search. Aim to complete your search in 3-6 months. That represents one to two business quarters. Market conditions change every quarter (in volatile times, it could be more frequently than that). If you run a slow job search that spans over multiple quarters, you have a new market to tackle every few months, rather than building on your efforts within the same market conditions.

Given that there is so much to do and so many more important numbers to track, you can now save some time and energy by not tracking the BLS numbers. Focus on your own efforts instead.


***For more career advice, join us for a free webinar series: Confessions of a Former Recruiter. We’re both former recruiters, hiring entry-level thru executive for multiple industries, and we’ll share what works and what doesn’t for resumes, interviewing, negotiation, and more! Join us, starting September 9.***

Five Career Temptations When Saying No Might Be The Best Response

It’s scary saying No. When it comes to career decisions, second-guessing is rampant: Should I keep looking rather than accept this opportunity? Should I take that meeting just in case? What if I drop this project or client or activity and regret it?

Sometimes it feels crazy saying No but it is the best thing to do. My recent Forbes post is about when saying No to a dream job actually makes sense. Here are five other tantalizing possibilities to which saying No may actually be the better move:saying no

The latest trend

Periscope, anybody? If you’re a social media marketer, you should jump on Periscope because it’s your job to stay cutting-edge. Or if you love all things technology, then by all means, check it out. For everyone else, you don’t need to adopt every new social media tool or network. Wait and see if it gains traction. Learn more about it to see if it makes sense for your branding and networking. Check your schedule and priorities to confirm that the timing is right to take this on.

The go-to resource

Not everyone should join their main professional association or attend the industry conference or get the certification that everyone else seems to have. There are legitimate reasons to buck generally accepted practices in your career field. For example, if you’re looking to target smaller employers, it may make more sense to canvas meet-ups on specialty niches in your sector rather than the main professional association. Depending on your individual career objectives, the best industry conference to attend might be where your clients are, not your colleagues. Depending on the rest of your background, a certification may not be required or a different kind of training may be more beneficial.

The unsolicited invitation

Just because someone invites you to coffee doesn’t mean you have to accept — even if you know you should be networking more, even though the best networking is about giving and creating meaningful relationships (which often requires face-to-face investment), even if a chance encounter might turn into something more. Depending on your other commitments and how this invitation fits in with your overall strategy, you may have to respectfully decline. Will you seem standoffish? Will you burn a bridge if this person doesn’t ask again? Will you potentially miss out on something? Yes, there are costs to turning down invitations. In addition, many clients I work with do too little networking, not too much, so even I hesitated to write about saying No to networking. However, if you’re a people pleaser, you may fall into a trap of accepting too many of these invitations and not enough of drumming up your own targeted networking leads. Most networking is good networking but you still should prioritize it in context of everything else you have going on.

The extra project

It’s often true that you need to take on the bigger responsibility before you get the official promotion to go with it. However, it doesn’t mean that every extra project pays off. Is this project a top priority for your boss and the other decision-makers at your company? Will this project allow you to develop new skills? Can you do this project exceptionally well, while keeping up with your existing responsibilities? If this is a request from your boss, you may not be able to say No, in which case you need to focus on delegating other things off your plate, lobbying for additional resources, or extracting some other concession – i.e., don’t just say Yes unconditionally. You want to be helpful but preserve your boundaries.

The bigger role

You may prefer to be an individual contributor over a manager. You may not want a promotion because your priority is something outside your immediate job (e.g., getting a second degree, a family issue, an entrepreneurial venture, more self-care). You may not want a bigger role because it would mean focusing on different clients or niches than your specific interest. There are many legitimate reasons why bigger is not better. Saying No to a bigger role could mean saying Yes to something more important to you.

To be clear, I do think people should welcome bigger roles even when they’re scary, or extra work if the long-term payoff outweighs the short-term push, or the unsolicited invitation since many people don’t network enough. I also think go-to resources are go-to for good reasons, and you want to make sure you’re getting the professional development you need. It’s also a good thing to stay updated on trends. Saying Yes to the latest trend, go-to resource, unsolicited invitation, extra project or bigger role could be a very good thing. But not always. So stand your ground if you want to say No.


***For more career advice, join us for a free webinar series: Confessions of a Former Recruiter. We’re both former recruiters, hiring entry-level thru executive for multiple industries, and we’ll share what works and what doesn’t for resumes, interviewing, negotiation, and more! Join us, starting September 9.***

Avoid The Slowdown: Summer Job Search Strategies

In my latest post for I cover strategies specific to the summer job search. Here is the unedited version:

It’s a myth that people don’t get hired over the summer. Yes, people are on vacation, so hiring typically slows down as interviews are harder to schedule, but people do get hired. As a job seeker, this means that the summer is a great time to rev up your search – your competition may take time off, assuming a hiring slowdown. Your hard-to-reach networking contacts may have a lighter, summer schedule and actually be reachable. Depending on your search goals, you might even have new opportunities because of the summer season. Here are three ways to tailor your job search activity for the summer:

schedule time

schedule time

Make it easy to schedule time with you

Summer is already a scheduling nightmare on the employer side because multiple vacation demands need to be considered. Make yourself readily available. Always carry an updated calendar with you — sync your phone with your main computer if you keep calendars in different places; sync your family calendar with your business one. You might also try an online scheduler, like TimeTrade or ScheduleOnce, where you can provide a link for the other person to see your availability and schedule directly.

Incorporate summer’s unique value proposition into your search activity

Propose outdoor networking meetings to take advantage of the warm weather. Reconnect with lost networking contacts by asking about vacation plans or sharing exciting plans of your own – the conversation may turn back to business but in the meantime at least you’ve kept in touch. If you have kids at sleepaway camp, take advantage of the quiet time by adding evening networking events. Many people work better when it’s brighter so exploit the longer summer days and get up earlier to put in extra research time and stay out later to add in more networking.

Pitch for summer “internships”

Many companies offer a summer internship program to take advantage of the off season for students. But with more of the workforce now in freelance and temporary roles, experienced professionals should consider tapping into summer opportunities for their own employment prospects. After all a company might need vacation coverage for experienced employees that is beyond the scope of what an intern can provide. Or the company may want to get a jumpstart on a longer-term project during the lighter summer season and could use extra experienced hands to get started. If you have only been focused on permanent, full-time jobs, consider adding consulting services to your pitch.

If you’re just starting your search, don’t assume the summer is too slow to gain traction. Use the summer to research company targets, update your marketing material, and rekindle personal contacts so that when the busy fall season hits you’re ready to move quickly.

If you’re in the busy part of a search and the summer vacation scheduling has put a delay in otherwise fast-moving interviews, don’t get discouraged. Check in regularly with whomever is coordinating your interviews — HR and/or the hiring manager. Give them lots of availability, and keep them posted if other prospective employers are moving faster than they are (employers are competitive and will not want to lose you to their competitors).

Regardless of where you are in your job search, summer is still a good time to stay active and make progress.

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