Answering What You Want is Not So Simple

iStock_000006026345SmallI typically spend time role-playing with clients. I know, doesn’t it sound horrific? No one wants to be put on the spot. No one wants to show that she truly did not understand some part of the negotiation training. No one wants to show how nervous she is about negotiating her pay. These are exactly the reasons we role-play.

I find one stumbling point very interesting. I ask the question, “What do you want?” while playing the manager. The reply often is a laundry list of WHY the woman should get more pay, better perks, or that promotion with no reference to the WHAT she wants.   I then ask the question again. “Tell me what would make you happy?” Again no direct answer is given.   I come out of manager character and ask the client to listen and answer just the question being asked. Back into manager character I ask, “If I could give you everything you want, what would it be?” This is after determining goal pay, a counter-offer, and the benefits that matter to the clients. Still no direct answer.

My clients are not alone getting tongue-tied. Many of us struggle to be direct and speak our mind. To successfully negotiate anything you need to KNOW what you want before you can get it. Then you need to be able to STATE what you want. I think the issue lies more in the knowing than the ability to state it based on my non-scientific research of clients, students, and workshop attendees.   So much pressure is put on the answer that you may freeze.

What if you can’t achieve what you want? Then you try again.

What if no one will give you what you want? Then figure out a way to get it yourself.

What if you are not deserving of what you want? Of course you are deserving. You are YOU after all!

What if what you want is crazy? Great, because it’s the crazy stuff that is really worth going after.

What if what you want changes? Of course it will. I still don’t want to kiss Danny Bonaduce of Patridge Family fame.

Sure, in my personal life I want love and companionship and world peace yet what I really want is to eat chocolate every day and not gain a pound nor worry about my cholesterol. In the business world I want a job that I’m good at and enjoy while being paid appropriately. I want to be acknowledged for that work. I want to have a strong enough network that I know I can find a job should I suddenly be without a job. I want to understand the signs at work that I’m never “suddenly without a job.” I want my job to be an interesting part of me but not the definition of me.

Now tell me, what do you want?

Employees aka Employers’ Customers

iStock_000016323356SmallAlthough we do not think of ourselves as customers of our employers and their jobs, we are. Government agencies, companies, and non-profit organizations create jobs and end jobs. We do not control those factors yet when it comes to filling a job the burden suddenly lies on us, the individual candidates, to create individual “pricing” for ourselves while it is actually the job that has market value. Typically the first salary offer is based on our previous pay and how we responded to the “desired salary” question. That’s individual pricing.

I know, it’s a different way to look at the hiring process but let’s face it candidates are not in control. Employers are in control. They decide when to create new job openings and when to shrink the number of jobs. The government covets these jobs. Local, state, and federal government offer great incentives to employers to ensure a presence in their neighborhood and to hire their citizens. These incentives are in tax breaks. They are offered because getting more citizens hired will create even more money through income tax, sales tax (when we are employed we buy more), and through property tax (when we are employed well we buy homes). All are the fuel that keeps government agencies running. Also, the more employed, the less government services we use which saves the government even more money.

So it is not little ol’ you and me who are selling to employers the need for a new employee. It is the employers selling their job openings to little ol’ you and me. With the hangover from the recent recession it is easy to forget that employers need to sell themselves to good candidates.   And of course, you are a great candidate and an even better consumer.

Women are amazing customers. We make more than 80% of all purchasing decisions. 80%! And we are educated about these decisions. 83% of consumers research online before making an electronics purchasing decision. On average all customers visit three websites before buying. We probably should spend the same effort into understanding the price (salary and benefits) a job should have as we do comparing the price of gas, a cell phone, a car, or a house. Understanding this can mean an increase of 10% or greater in pay resulting in thousands of dollars per year to you plus the increase in 401K contributions potential, social security contributions, and everything else that are based on your pay.

You already know how to compare pricing and you are damn good at it. There are online sites, mobile apps, professional and trade associations, and headhunters to help understand the price (salary and benefits) of your job.  Now it’s time to start researching job pay just like the price of any purchase.

It’s Not Our Job to Pay for the Sins of Your Past Employer

Seven dealdy sins signpost“The most you should expect is an increase in pay of 25%. That’s the max and it’s pretty standard.” said a headhunter to a woman looking to leave a company that was notorious for underpaying their employees. An increase of 25% would not even get her to what she should have been making at her current job. Accepting a new job at 25% increase would keep her pay far under the current going rate for her next job.

As the headhunter explained, “you can’t expect your new employer to pay for the sins of your former employer.”   No one was asking this yet it seems to be a common rallying call. How is paying the current market rate for a job an extra burden to an employer? It is not.

Yet, she was not asking for the new employer to go back in time a la the Delorean with a flux capacitor in Back to the Future and pay her the 30% under market she was making for 3 years. That money was lost. Somehow, though getting pay at the current going rate for a job would be a penalty for the new employer since the standard is to add 10% – 25% of a person’s previous pay regardless of where it lands you in the market.

This is the embedded discrimination that lives under the guise of a hiring best practice. Once a person accepts a job for low pay whether discriminatory or not that person is forever punished.  I argue that the continuation of under payment is a form of discrimination. Luckily, I don’t have to make this argument on my own. The courts agree. Specifically in the Glen v. General Motors (11th Circuit) ruling the court found that previous pay is not a legitimate business reason to have pay disparity.

According to data from the US Dept. of Labor, women and people of color make less than white men. Women working full-time typically earn 23% less than men working full-time. African American men typically are paid 22% less than white men. Latino men typically make 28% less than white men. The maximum of 25% increase for changing jobs in all cases keep these demographics from earning the market value of the new job.

As a new employer you may couch it as not paying for the sins of former employers but by using past pay and limiting future pay to a certain percentage increase then you, the new employers, are actually piling on to the sins of former employers.

Career Management Includes Taking Calls for Jobs

I hear it often,  “this headhunter emailed and bothered me with a job opportunity.”  I wish they would stop.

STOP, heck no.  Sure there are many jobs you do not want which reinforces that you are at the right job right now.  Yet,  someday you are going to want a new job.  As I say often, every job has an expiration date.  Either you decide it, the company decides it, or the economy decides it.  With that in mind, accept the request to connect, respond to the email, and listen to the pitch because one day there will be a job that is just too good to be true.  And they came to you!

Knowing what kinds of jobs are available in your industry is a critical part of career management.  Don’t let false loyalty to your current employer take your eyes off of managing your life.  Don’t let bruised egos due to headhunters with jobs that are beneath you swear off ever talking to another headhunter.  Spend five minutes once every six months or so when you get such interest and be grateful you get the interest.  Some day there will be no inbound interest and  you will be looking for a job.  Who can you contact then?  Not the people you ignored when you were happily employed.

Even better, you can ask for the moon when they come to you and you like the job you already have.  Everyone of us should experience that at least once.  Here’s one story.