When Good Luck is Bad for Your Career

EPSON scanner imageIn the first grade, I wore cat eyeglasses and an eye patch, had chipped buckteeth and a pixie haircut with cowlicks. And in the first grade, I wanted to model when I grew up. Buckteeth and an eye patch, and I was certain Vogue Covers were in my future! Sorry, I have no pictures of me with the eye patch; my mother would not allow it. Yet, had a Vogue Cover ever happen, I’m pretty sure luck would have been the reason, not my six-year-old self’s confidence. Or should I say delusions?

Women often attribute their success to luck and so do others. Sure luck plays into all of our lives. As Oprah says, “I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been ‘lucky.'” She’s not the first to have this opinion. The philosopher Seneca is attributed with originating it. Yet somehow, many women forget that preparation part of luck.

Perhaps one of the reasons some people credit luck instead of their ability and preparation is because they know about their missteps along the way. The stories are pretty common: the entrepreneur who opened three businesses before the fourth one succeeds; the start-up that triumphs with its third product, not it’s first; and Oscar winners who went to hundreds of auditions before getting the first small bit part. In a recent study on corporate innovation the “only thing that correlated definitively with consistently successful innovation was the amount of times a company tried.” That’s a nice way of saying the successful innovative companies fail multiple times for each achievement.

“Won’t employers expect the same if I put specific results on my resume? I don’t know if I will be that lucky again.” I paused for a moment the first time I heard a client say such a thing. By now, I’m used to it. I hear versions of this all the time.   The problem is that employers hire known entities. You can establish yourself as known by giving specific examples of results. Sure, future employers will expect you to accomplish similar results for them. They really don’t care if you luck into them; white knuckle your way to them; or calmly and steadily progress to them. Employers want results and candidates need to sell they can bring results. So if luck is keeping you from owning your achievements then luck is also keeping you from progressing in your career.   Try letting education, training, ability, experience, talent, and determination join luck as reasons you triumphed. That mindset will help you succeed even more.

Get Higher Pay by Focusing on the Meal not the Ingredients

f96db88c-35c4-4faf-8db9-09bd0f390154Showing financial impact is the best way to get a raise from your current employer and a high first offer and ultimately an even higher final offer from your next employer. If you are like many working women, you probably don’t think you have much financial impact making it hard to get higher pay.   My advice to you – Think Recommendations and Decisions, Not Reports.

I can’t remember the last client who did not have a least one line on her resume about the amazing reports she created. They were sexy. They had pivoting charts. They were 3-dimensional. People wept when they read them. Unless you are an administrative assistant, report specialist, or report designer the inclusion of them on the resume lessens the value of your work. Oh, I know, reports take time. It takes time to pull all the data together. It takes time to organize them in a meaningful manner. It takes time to design them so the important information stands out. What would a business meeting be with a report or PowerPoint presentation to mull over? How dare I say reports are not important!

The thing is that it is not the creation of the report that is meaningful. It is either the recommendation you make to the people who see the report or the decision you make based on the information in your report that is important. For example here’s a line from one client’s resume:

“Created tracking & reporting tools to measure progress, improve budget accuracy and aid forecasting.”

I asked her about the decisions based on these reports.   For one project this report saved 3 months work. Three months of payroll. Three additional months of being able to sell the finished product. Her ability to make decisions that save three months are what people want to hire. The ability to save $X and generate an added $Y is what employers pay good money for. The new bullet point on her resume now looks more like this:

“Created a net increase of $W by eliminating 3 months in project time by consistently reviewing progress, budget, and forecasting metrics in my own proprietary reporting tool.”

A similar example is:

“Conducted cost benefit analysis, modeled long-term costs, presented data for Executive review.”

When we were done discussing it became:

“Proposed $X in savings to the Executive team based on cost benefit analysis and modeled long-term costs.”

Good recommendations and decisions are made based on information. The collection of the information is not the end result. It would be like a great chef listing that she can shop for good ingredients. That she can tell when a tomato is ripe. A good chef boasts about her signature dishes, her Baked TroutZagat’s ratings, and her Michelin star ratings.   It’s not the collection of ingredients that is important. It is what she does with them – the finished dishes – that are important. In business the finished dishes are your decisions and your recommendations. So stop flaunting that you know how to grocery shop and start getting your future employers hungry to hire you for top dollar by telling what you make – amazingly good and profitable decisions.

Writing Resumes that Command Higher Salaries

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto

Photo provided by iStockPhoto

Developing the business arguments for why you deserve the high-end of the salary range is probably the hardest part of salary negotiation.  Your business arguments should not be new information at the negotiation.  If it is important enough to get you higher pay than it is important enough to help you land the job.

Revisit your resume and ensuring that it supports higher salary offers.  Most people believe their resume does this.  Unfortunately, most people would be wrong.   The focus tends to be on the effort and not on the results.  Results are what employers want and what they will pay dividends to get.   Many people believe they are showcasing their results but the results are unspecified or are focused on tactics.

This is such an important aspect to salary negotiation that I thought I would revisit it and include some examples from actual resumes.

Resumes with Unspecified Results Examples

Actual Resume:  Increase sales through designing branding and loyalty strategy.

Higher Salary Support:  Increased sales by $1M through designing branding and loyalty strategy.

Actual Resume: Minimized cost of supply orders by monitoring spending and optimizing order volumes

Higher Salary Support: Decreased cost of supply orders by $100K by monitoring spending and optimizing order volumes.

Resumes Showcasing Tactics Instead of Results Examples

Actual Resume:  Increased efficiency in workflow process and shortened delivery times for clients by redesigning work teams

Higher Salary Support:  Decreased cost of project delivery by $1K per project by shortening delivery times through improved efficiency in workflow process.

Actual Resume:  Developed a multi-category brand licensing strategy

Higher Salary Support: Increased revenue by $1M through the development of a multi-category brand licensing strategy

Learn the Financial Impact of your Work

Are you unable to include the financial impact of your efforts because you do not know what it is?  You are not alone.  That is a very common challenge.  My advice is to not wait until the next time you are updating your resume but to start now and learn the financial impact of all your work.  It will make you a better-informed employee for your current boss and an amazing candidate for your future bosses.

© 2013 Katie Donovan

Write Your Resume with Your Salary Negotiation in Mind

iStock_000019475455XSmallMost people do not negotiate their salary.  At least that’s what people think but the salary negotiation process actually starts in the job post.  Employers have the goal of getting the best candidate at the lowest acceptable pay so they begin the process by not including the salary range or minimum salary in the advertisements of a job opening.  I know one woman who looked at 189 job openings and only 4 had any reference to the pay.  Employers continue the process by getting your salary history and desired salary before they bring candidates in for an interview.  They refer back to this information after deciding whom to hire.  Often job offers will be 10% higher than the current salary or the stated desired salary regardless of where accomplishments, experience, and education put a person in the salary range for the job.

Salary Negotiation is Part of the Entire Hiring Process

Typically, candidates don’t think about salary negotiation until the job is offered to them.  At that point two-thirds of the negotiation has occurred.  Would a marathoner end the Boston Marathon after completing Heartbreak Hill? No! Heartbreak Hill is the climax of the race.  As the saying goes, it’s all-downhill from there but the finish line still needs to be crossed.  Similarly the job offer is the climax of the job search but we still need to finish the race by ensuring we get the market value for the job by making the business argument for higher pay.

Rewrite Your Resume Highlighting Financial Contributions

I recommend candidates incorporate salary negotiation throughout the entire process since the employer does.  Let’s start with the resume.  A good resume will be results oriented; include “action” words such as lead, initiated, designed, and completed; and will put some quantification to the results, i.e. 8% conversion rate, designed 10 new products, and processed 10% more.  These are great starts but one more element is needed to work towards the end goal of market value for the job – the money.

All employees are either part of a cost or revenue center.  To truly negotiate more pay one needs to show how s/he saves costs or adds revenue to the company.  Unfortunately, the resume rarely drills down to the dollars and cents of the candidate’s accomplishments.  The candidate should take the 8% conversion rate from the example above one step further and calculate the revenue generated with that 8% conversion rate.  For example, this conversion rate could mean 2000 sales at an average price of $1,000 per sale. The 8% conversion rate would equal $2,000,000 in sales.  Do you think $2,000,000 will resonate more than 8%?

Incremental Cost Savings and Revenue Growth are Important

Use some comparisons to add to the impact of the 8% conversion rate.  Is 8% higher than the company norm?  Is 8% higher than the industry average?  If so, what is the dollar amount of the unexpected incremental revenue from the 8% conversion rate? Let’s say the company average is a 4% conversion rate.  That means half of the revenue was expected and the other half  – $1,000,000 – was your amazing above-and-beyond contribution.

Resumes that Highlight Value Support Higher Salaries

Rewriting the resume will take some time and effort but the impact of such changes will be three-fold.  Firstly, you will stand out even more from the rest of the candidates helping you to get the next job sooner.  Secondly, you will be talking in the true language of business – money.  For a business, any business, to stay viable the profitability of the organization is tantamount thus money is always part of every business decision.  Hiring is a business decision and money is part of the decision so let’s talk money. Finally, you are laying the groundwork for the last stage of your salary negotiation.  The salary included in the job offer will be lower than the best salary available for the job and you will be ready for it.  You will simply emphasize what was in your resume instead of needing to start a new argument at this stage of the hiring process.   Stating you know the salary offered is lower than the market value PLUS you will give your new company the same kind of results as the extra $1,000,000 you provided your current employer will be a breeze. I bet the hiring manager can find $10,000, $20,000 or more in salary to gain $1,000,000 more in revenue.

© 2013 by Katie Donovan