Let’s Talk Money

It’s that uncomfortable part of every job seeker’s journey to a better opportunity—the salary discussion. Part of my job is to negotiate salaries, so I know it can be touchy subject. But without a recruiter to have the “money talk” for you, how do you ensure you’re paid what you’re worth? Here are some tactics I’ve seen work over the years:

Speak up
Ask and you shall receive…something, at least. Don’t expect to get what you want right out the gate. You will need to be direct in communicating your wants. If it’s more money, say it. If it’s a relocation package, say it. If it’s stock options, say it. Now’s the time to negotiate the terms of your employment, not after you’ve already been hired.

Be realistic
Not all companies have the cash flow to offer up huge monetary incentives right out the gate. If this is the case, you may want to negotiate incremental pay increases based on performance, bigger commission percentages or bonuses. Remember that cash is not the only pawn you have to play. Incentives can come in the form of more time off, flexible work schedules and benefits. Just make sure all that’s promised is written down in your offer letter and/or contract.

Be bold
Be resolute if the offer given to you is less than you deserve—lean in! You don’t have to be combative and make heavy-handed demands, but you may have to be willing walk away if the answer is no. Above all, stand up for yourself and do what feels right for you and fits your career goals. It’s better to turn down a job offer that you don’t want than be stuck in position that you hate.

What negotiation tactics have worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re looking for a new high-tech sales position that fits your bill, contact me.


Career Advice To My Younger Self

Wisdom comes from living.
Anthony Douglas Williams

I’m a corporate war dog. I’ve seen it all over the course of my long career and my life experiences have shaped me into the kind of professional I am today. While I have to vantage of hindsight, as a novice, you don’t. If I could roll back the clock and mentor my younger self, this is what I would say:

“Take your education seriously.”
While I received a great undergraduate education (I’m a Temple alum), it’s going to take a bit more than that in today’s business landscape. I’m seeing more and more employers requiring a higher level of education these days. And while it may sound elitist, companies (especially the most prestigious ones) care about where you went to school, especially when you’re just starting out. Gaining acceptance into a top MBA program will pave the way for a long and prosperous career. These programs have an amazing network you can tap into and give you an edge when competing for internships and jobs.

“Make that first real job count.”
While it may sound exciting to join a startup right out of business school, getting your feet wet within a Fortune 500 firm will shape you into a more well-rounded professional. I would look at companies with a strong management trainee program that will allow you to experience operations within multiple departments. After you’ve gotten a grasp of the way big business works, feel free to venture out into alternative career paths—especially if you know climbing the corporate ladder isn’t right for you.

“Learn how to play the game.”
Whether it’s at a large corporation or within a small team, you will need to learn how to navigate office politics. Corporate culture varies from place to place—even from department to department—so know what you need to do to build alliances that will keep you doing your best work.

“Be comfortable with getting uncomfortable.”
Early in your career, you will likely be asked to do a lot of “grunt” work. And later in your career, you may need to diversify in order to keep moving forward with your career. You need to get over the anxiety associated with stepping out of your comfort zone if you want to succeed. Understand that fear can be an asset if you handle it correctly.

Hopefully, you’ve learned something from my experiences and incorporate my advice into your own career path. What advice would you give your younger self? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Drowning in Work

Is your to-do list turning into a to-do document? Are your unchecked voicemails and emails amounting to an all-day task? Does it seem like you’re being pulled in a million different directions? Relax. You are not alone. Many of us get overwhelmed from time to time. So, how do you knock that mountain of work down to a manageable size? Here are some tips that always help me cope:

Get organized
Start by prioritizing what tasks need immediate attention. It may seem daunting, but making a task list is key. If you have access to scheduling or project management software—like Podio—you can use that to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Once you’ve got all your tasks in a row, you can start tackling them one by one.

Be realistic
You are only human. Be honest with yourself and don’t over promise. Most clients and colleagues can relate to having a lot on their plates, so be upfront with what they can expect from you. If you are already spread thin, minimize your commitments or scale back on the ones you already have. This may mean turning down lunch meetings or opting out of employee committees until you are able to handle the additional responsibility.  

Ask for help
Before you burn out, get some help. If deadlines are quickly approaching and inflexible, ask your colleagues and/or supervisor to help out. This may mean hiring some temporary help or shifting some of your responsibilities to others. Find ways to get the job done without dropping the ball.

Now that you know what to do, get to work and pull yourself out of the trenches. I’ll see you on the other side!

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? I’d love to hear your tips.


Guide on the side

Be a Guide on the Side in Corporate America

The way we communicate and the way we conduct business has changed drastically over the course of my career. So it’s no surprise the way young people are learning nowadays has evolved too. To adapt, the role of the educator has largely shifted from lecturer to “guide on the side.” Teachers are no longer the source of information, they are facilitators and curators of information—empowering students to think for themselves. So how can we apply this model to a professional setting? Here are some tips on how to adopt this methodology and reap the results in the corporate world:

Ask, Don’t Tell
A cornerstone of guided instruction is the notion of student-centered learning. With this approach, students are encouraged to contribute ideas and even help plan curriculum. Lessons are initiated with questions, not long, drawn-out lectures.

Similarly, many innovative companies have adopted an employee-centered work environment. Google allows its engineers to construct their own work spaces. Zappos has weaved in team building activities into its company culture. At Apple, your work isn’t only evaluated by your superiors but by your peers as well.

Companies such as these have realized that good ideas don’t necessarily come from the top down. And just like educators have observed in student-centered classrooms, employee-centered workplaces offer better opportunities for internal motivation, goal setting and perseverance.

Change the Game
What works for some, may not work for all. It’s up to the educator or manager to recognize this and change their approach when needed. National educational consultant and author, Rick Wormeli has said, “I might teach the way that’s uncomfortable for me, but that’s fine. My success comes from my students’ success.” Same goes for managers. Their team’s success is a reflection of how well they lead.

Teaching strategies like think-ask-tell and KWL foster collaboration and critical thinking that can be implemented in department meetings and performance reviews. Using the KWL technique as an example, employees would be prompted to state what they know about their current role and what they would like to learn as they progress. Then, when the next performance period rolls around, that supervisor can review that employee’s initial thoughts and ask him or her to reflect on what he or she has learned.

Certainly, applying new managerial strategies are not easy and require effort from all levels of employees. But, fostering a collaborative, engaged team that is passionate about the work they do will only generate positive results.

Do you work for an employee-centered organization? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the effectiveness of this environment.

Hello? How well do you phone interview?

As more hiring managers are pressed for time, phone interviews have become commonplace as an initial screening for candidates. While not fighting traffic and interviewing from the comforts of home sound amazing, there are some downsides to the phone interview. You won’t be able to rely on visual cues or exude professionalism with your appearance. So, how do you prepare? Here are some tips to make sure your phone interview leads to a face-to-face:

Can you hear me now?

There’s nothing more annoying than dropped calls. If you’re planning to use your cell phone, make sure that your battery is fully charged and you are in an area with good reception. Even moving from one room to another in the same house can make all the difference. If you have a smartphone, make sure you turn off your notifications for the duration of the interview. You don’t want to get distracted with personal text messages or email notifications. Additionally, turning on your “do not disturb” setting will avoid interruptions by incoming calls.

Be serious, yet, positive

Don’t underestimate the phone interview, it might be your only shot at the job. Some candidates find standing to be empowering. But if that makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, just sit up straight. Regardless of which technique works for you, be confident. Go beyond the traditional “hello” when greet your interviewer. Business guru Brent Peterson suggests you start the call by saying “Hello, this is [your name]” or “Hi [interviewer]. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.” By stating your name or the interviewer’s name, you put the interviewer at ease that they have reached the right person and that you are ready to talk. Keep this positive momentum going: unclench your fists, relax your facial muscles and put on a natural smile.

Say it like to you mean it

During an in person interview, tripping over your words or speaking over the interviewer may not be as noticeable. You don’t have this luxury over the phone. Answer questions directly and elaborate when necessary without being long-winded. A good rule of thumb is keeping responses to under two minutes. Don’t “confuse the interviewer’s silence…as an invitation to keep talking,” advises UNC-Chapel Hill career services director Jeff Sackaroff, “wait for the interviewer to respond.” Keep in mind that how you speak is just as important as what you say.

Avoid distractions or being a distraction

Just because you are conducting an interview from home, remember that you are working. Your full attention must be on what the interviewer is saying. Now is not the time to fold laundry, update your Facebook status or tidy up. Block off up to an hour for the interview, ensuring your interview space is quiet. Likewise, don’t be a distraction. Avoid nervous ticks such as tapping your pen, rocking back and forth on a squeaky chair or breathing heavily are sounds that can be very distracting for the interviewer. Another tip: Stay hydrated. You will likely be talking—a lot. So, avoid an uncontrollable cough or incessant throat clearing with a glass of water at your side.

Want to talk more about phone interviews? Leave me a comment or give me a call.


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

We’ve all been there, that moment in your career when you must make the decision whether to stay or go. It may be a decision based on circumstances: The need for a job closer to home, relocating or wanting to stay home with your new baby. The decision may be based on ego: There is no upward mobility at your current job or maybe you simply don’t like your current role. But if it is that proverbial itch, that feeling that there may be something else out there that’s better for you, take a moment to see if the glass door is truly shinier on the other side.

  1. What’s Ahead – Looking ahead and planning helps in any situation—especially when your career and your future are at stake. Is there room for advancement at your current company? What does your position look like in five years, 10 years? How stable is your company? Is there a sound strategic plan in place for the business? If there is amazing opportunity for growth, flexibility in your position and a stable outlook for your company, staying put may yield better results than starting over again. However, if the future looks bleak, I would turn the passive job search into an active one.

  2. Good Compensation, Great Benefits – Enough said, right?  If your benefits are good or even decent, you may want to keep your job. If you are lucky enough to be employed by one of the top 25 companies with the best compensation and benefits, I would never leave! But, if you are lacking in the benefits and compensation department, then finding a firm that takes good care of you will definitely make you a happier employee. Even small firms who can’t offer massive salaries or 100% health care coverage, but instead provide free yoga during lunch and flexible work hours may be the perfect fit for you.

  1. Can’t Do it Anymore – So it’s not an itch, it is a full blown rash. You dread going to work, you pray for extreme weather or, even worse, you have started calling in sick when you are perfectly healthy. If that’s how your days look, do yourself a favor and start looking for a new job. And if you feel terribly stuck, there are coaches, recruiters such as myself and friends/family who can help provide some clarity during this trying time.

I wholeheartedly believe in the saying that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. We all know that every day isn’t a bed of roses but, if you love your job, those hard days won’t seem so difficult. So if you have that perfect job but just need a reminder of how awesome it is, hopefully we helped. And if you realized you are done—completely done—give us a call. We’ll help you find your dream job.


Baby boomer

Baby Boomers in the Workforce – What’s Next?

I recently blogged about the Truth about Millennials in the Workforce. I hope that I displaced some of your misconceptions and offered you a new perspective on this misunderstood generation. Now let’s take a look at baby boomers and what lies ahead for this group of workers.

The U.S. Census defines baby boomers as people born during the Post–World War II era between 1946 and 1964. For boomers like myself, our careers are likely winding down. We’re thinking about retirement. Yet, many baby boomers are choosing to stay in the workforce. About 35 percent of workers continue to work past the age of 65. The reasons for staying employed vary—from financial need to wanting to work.

There is also a concerted effort by employers to keep skilled professionals in the workforce, creating more of a phased approach for the exit of those within retirement age. Businesses are trying to Stave off the Brain Drain, because there are not as many qualified professionals ready to assume the positions of those retiring. Companies are creating flexible work hours, additional benefits and more opportunities for those reaching retirement. Anything to keep older workers engaged so they can train and mentor younger employees.

However, this trend will surely have a ripple effect down the road. The prolonged rate at which people are retiring will certainly impact opportunities for younger generations, who will now have to wait longer to gain seniority.

But what I find most interesting is some of the commonalities between the two generational spectrums—millennials and baby boomers. While the millennials make demands for life/work balance and company authenticity, baby boomers are looking for much of the same. I think both groups can find common ground on many things, learn from one another’s experiences and work together to create a more skilled and happier workforce.

Are you baby boomer who is choosing to retire later? What would be your advice to millennials and vice versa? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Truth about Millennials in the Workforce

We’ve all heard of the plight of the Millennial. The child that was over indulged in her youth, treated as if he was extraordinarily “special,” and is now looking for affirmation and adoration wherever they may land. In the workforce, some consider them more of an Achilles heel rather than an asset.

At Kaczmar & Associates, we completely disagree. We’ve had the pleasure of placing millennials in promising positions where they are thriving and employers are benefiting from the not-so-new kid on the block. Here’s the truth about what we’ve seen from this misunderstood generation of workers:

Authenticity – After living through the public collapse of Enron, it is refreshing to see a generation demanding transparency from corporations. This transparency makes everyone more accountable, even the employee. This also speaks to the fact that Millennials have been at the root of social media and authenticity is social media’s core value.

Family First – It was once customary to show your commitment to a company by staying late, working weekends and putting your job first before anything else. Millennials feel quite the opposite—they demand quality time with their family. This doesn’t mean they aren’t hard workers, or that they work less. Quite the contrary, they manage their time and use technology as their tool to make them more efficient. And ultimately this makes them happier people, which result in happier employees.

Power in Collaboration – Millennials thrive in a collaborative setting. This not only comes from their ability to multitask but also from confidence. They don’t see their boss as an expert but more of a mentor/coach. They value their superior’s opinion but also have the resources and tools to develop their own. We often forget that there is amazing value in collaboration because an individual usually takes the credit for his/her masterpiece. But take a closer look, because behind every figurehead there is most likely a very powerful collaborator.

Purpose – What is most refreshing about millennials is that they don’t work for the paycheck; they work for a purpose. This reminds me of my father’s generation, who took such pride in the company that they worked for and the values it held. There wasn’t conversation of big salaries and bonuses, but why their work mattered. Companies that are looking to make a difference and do right by the employees and the world – whether it is environmental or social – and will capture the hearts and careers of millennials.

Before you pigeonhole that millennial sitting across from you at an interview, I hope you’ll remember some of the finer points of this generation. We certainly do.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What’s your take on millennials in the workforce?

What Type of Employee Are You?

I saw a great post on Linkedin recently about the four types of employees you find in (almost) every workplace. It’s a great exercise for supervisors to assess their current teams. But I think it’s an exercise that employees could benefit from as well. Here’s how you can determine if you are a star, student, land mine or not yet gone:

Start by asking yourself what you do for your company that contributes to its success. Are your sales numbers off the charts? Are you a master at building client relationships? If you don’t have a clear idea of what your strengths are, ask a close colleague what they think.

Then, evaluate how you fit in. Do you and your colleagues share similar interests? Do you believe in the same core values as your company? Think big picture. You don’t have to be the most popular guy or gal around the water cooler to align with the culture of the company.

Take some time to reflect.

The Good
Star: If your contribution and cultural responses are an emphatic “yes,” you’re likely a shining star. You lead by example, take pride in your work and are an asset to your team.

Student: If your contributions seem minimal but are growing steadily, you’re likely an apt student. A star has probably taken you under their wing and is cultivating your potential. This is a good position to be in. You can only go up from here.

The Bad
Land Mine: You’re a model employee – on paper. You meet your quota but that’s as far as it goes. Your passion – if you ever had it – is gone. You know it; something is missing. If this is the case, you’re in land mine territory. If it’s a temporary rough patch (i.e. a challenging project, personal hardships) you have the potential to jump into bonafide star status. If it’s more than that (i.e. change in company policy, leadership or direction you wholeheartedly don’t agree with) then it may be time to move on to another organization that shares your priorities.

Not Yet Gone: You’re delivering subpar results and time isn’t making it any better. The sad truth is, your employer probably wants to give you the boot but is hoping you resign before a replacement is found. Look inside yourself and find out why you’ve strayed. Maybe you’ve just lost interest in your career. Or, you may feel like an outsider within your organization. There was a reason you were hired in the first place. So let those qualities shine once again with a new employer.

New Hires
If you’re a hiring manager, just because a candidate isn’t a star, doesn’t mean they are unhirable. Think about your company’s needs and don’t rule out a rising star who would make a great addition to the team.

What do you think? Are you a star, student, land mine or not yet gone? Share your comments with us below.