The $5 Task To Boost Your Professional Network

Sorry I don’t have a $0 weekend post for you (I’ve had one in drafts for 3 weeks now, just having a hard time finishing it up.. maybe next week!) but I recently thought of an idea that might be a benefit for those of you in school and looking for ways to build a professional network.

I’ve talked about how to maximize your LinkedIn profile before, but recently a new site has been on my radar called Ten Thousand Coffees. The mission of Ten Thousand Coffees is to “unlock opportunity” by providing the starting point to begin a conversation. While I love LinkedIn for connecting with professionals I already know offline, there’s no way to really get to know someone outside your network without stretching yourself through an awkward introduction.

What if you could know which professionals were open to meeting with you, even if you weren’t connected to them on LinkedIn?

Ten Thousand Coffees provides exactly that platform.

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While I was browsing experts a cool idea came to mind…

Starbucks is currently running a “tweet a coffee” promotion, where you can tweet a $5 Starbucks gift card at a person. If you’re one of the first 5,000 to do so (it’s already been on for a week or two), you will get a $5 gift card for yourself — essentially providing coffee for you & a friend for $5.

Why not tweet a coffee to the professional you’re interested in meeting with for an informational interview?

Using Ten Thousand Coffees you could find out who is willing to meet up with you, and then tweeting them a coffee with a link to your Ten Thousand Coffees profile would be a cool way to invite them to chat (and treat them at the same time!).

At worst they’d decline and get a free coffee, and you’d only be out $5 (or possibly nothing, as your Starbucks account would be credited $5 if you’re one of the first 5,000 to tweet a coffee) — but it’s such a creative hilarious way to invite them to talk, I’m doubtful anyone would say no. I know I wouldn’t!

Even if you’re not bold enough to tweet a perfect stranger a Starbucks card, Ten Thousand Coffees might be a worthy site to utilize to start building your professional network.

How To Negotiate Your Salary

This post has been a lot time coming, so I apologize for the delay. I was waiting until I completed my internship hunt before posting, because I didn’t want potential employers to know my tactics! Of course I ended up with a decent offer that didn’t require a lot of negotiation, except an ask for more vacation days which I’m not even using because I have no trips planned this summer =p Sigh. However, for the rest of you here’s the long-awaited post…

How To Negotiate Your Salary

Step 1: Know the business, industry, and what others are getting paid.

We all know there are higher paying professions and industries than others. Knowing what’s the norm and where you stand (either entry level or with a few years work experience) is crucial to making sure you ask for the right amount. Generally salary negotiation doesn’t work well, but is not impossible, in unions, not-for-profits, or internships. In these cases wages are usually fixed by pre-determined agreements or limited by lack of resources. Generally, all else is fair game. Researching your role and industry is the first step to making a reasonable ask of your current or future employer. If the average salary in your profession is $50,000, you probably can’t ask for $70,000 but if the average is $100,000 you don’t want to lowball with $70,000. Knowledge is power, kids, especially when it comes to the amount you should be paid.

Step 2: Be able to show your worth.

The single best thing I’ve ever done at each of my jobs is record everything I do in a small black daytimer. Why? Because when a project was executed successfully, I had a detailed record of it. Keep track of everything you do at work, particularly if you’re going above and beyond your regular job description. Whenever you accomplish something major, collect the results (ie. data from number of attendees at an event, financial results exceeding set goals, glowing reviews from key customers) and either put them in your record keeping book or store them in a folder to refer to later. You can’t just ask for a raise or higher salary because you want one, you have to be able to provide tangible evidence that you’ve earned a higher wage.

Step 3: Know when to ask.

There are no real bad times to negotiate your salary (except maybe if your company is doing major layoffs) but there are times that are better than others. The best times to negotiate your salary are:

  • Your first job offer of your first career role.
  • When you are changing roles within the same company.
  • Your semi-annual or annual review.
  • 2-4 weeks after you have successfully completed a major project.

If you’ve missed the above and haven’t had a conversation about your pay for a long time, gather the material from Steps 1 & 2 and set a meeting with your boss to talk about the opportunity to increase your pay now.

Step 4. “He who speaks first loses”.

I don’t know if this rule is necessarily true, but I adhere to it anyway. What it means is don’t be the first to throw out a number — let your employer suggest a salary before you do. Because you completed Step 1, you have a vague idea of what’s coming, but you should let them talk first to get an idea of where they are. Your employer’s goal is to pay you the least amount possible to get the most work possible, so their number is likely lower than what they’re really willing to pay. You need to hear it first so you can prepare an appropriate counter-suggestion. If they ask you for a number first, you run the risk selling yourself short by naming something to low, or discouraging them from hiring you by demanding something too high.

How to respond to the question, “What are your salary expectations?”:

“Based on my level of experience and educational background, I know your company will provide a competitive offer. I would prefer to discuss salary and total compensation when a formal offer is put forward.”

If they dodge the question and ask you again, this is the nitty-gritty of real negotiation and it’s usually uncomfortable. Don’t panic — or at least don’t let your panic show on your face. Stick to your guns and repeat your position. If they ask again, they’ll just make it awkward for both parties, at which point you can say, “I’m not comfortable discussing real numbers until I receive a formal offer”. But realistically they should give a figure, or will present you with the formal offer in a few days.

Step 5. Listen to their offer and provide immediate, un-detailed feedback.

When you receive your salary offer, express gratitude for it immediately. If it is good, say it’s good. If it’s bad, say it’s fair. If you are interested in the company even after they give you a bad offer, it’s best not to exclaim anything like, “is this a joke?” because chances are they thought what they were giving you was fair. Express which parts you’re concerned about immediately. ie. “I was expecting the base salary to be a little higher” or “I am a little concerned about the amount of work travel expected of me.” This is important because it gives them a clue to what you’ll be approaching them about in your counter-offer, and gives them some time to prepare something more generous.

Step 6. Don’t respond to their offer immediately. Take 24-48 hours to think about it.

This is the hardest part. People hate doing this if they’ve just been offered a job because you always have the sinking feeling that they’re going to ask someone else, but I promises you, if they’d made an offer, you’re the only candidate they want and you should not worry that they will rescind the offer they just made over the next 48 hours. What this usually does is actually gets the employer a little panicky that you might say no, which will make them more receptive to your demands.

Step 7. Ask for 10% to 15% more than they offered and other perks

Unless the initial offer was really low and you don’t mind scaring them off with big demands, you should aim to ask for approximately 10-15% more than you’ve been offered. I’ve had friends go for 25% or even 40% and pull it off, but those were unique circumstances, and unless you’re certain that should be your compensation, I would caution against it.

The second suggestion I would make is to look beyond the salary when it comes to negotiating your compensation package. Most people are so focused on the amount actually going into their bank account they forget there’s lots of room to get more money in things like employer matched retirement plans. By all means negotiate your salary, but you should also consider asking for:

  • More vacation days
  • Performance-based bonuses
  • Stocks
  • Increased health benefits or retirement plans
  • Other perks: Ask for an office with a south facing window, ask for an automatic monthly reload on your Starbucks card, ask to work from home on Thursday mornings, whatever. If it’s something you would like, ask for it. It’s hard for your employer to say no right now, whereas it won’t be hard once you’re in the job.
  • The opportunity to review your compensation package in 3 or 6 months.

This way, even if your employer won’t budge on your salary, you’re essentially receiving more pay in other forms for the same (or if you get more vacation days, less) work. The most important point on that list, however, is the opportunity to review because your probationary period at a new job or in a new role is 3-6 months. At this point, you will have hopefully proved yourself and are trained in your role, and therefore more valuable to the company than when you started.

Those are the steps & tips I have for negotiating your salary! Anyone else have any secrets?

 

Adulthood Truth: Finding a Job is Like Dating

I would like to dedicate this post to Mikhaila, who has been waiting for me to write it for over a year.

Online job boards are barely distinguishable from personal ads. Your resume is your dating profile summary, make it count.

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Just like you wouldn’t tell eHarmony subscribers you like long walks on the beach, don’t tell potential employers you’re “detail oriented”. Likewise, you might be tempted to share why a certain job/relationship will be so good for you, but this is about selling yourself to someone else. Tell your future employer (or love of your life) what you bring to the table in terms of skills and talent, and why they can’t let you get away.

Every interview is a blind date, and has the opportunity to lead to fulfillment of all your dreams… or end in disaster.

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Usually we go into job interviews and first dates with nothing but optimism — what if this is the one? Reality: it’s probably not. As any seasoned dater or interviewee knows, sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince charming. I have an outrageous collection of bad date stories (like the time a guy told me all women should get breast implants) and now I have some bad interviews to add to the list (like when a potential employer suggested I pursue an accounting designation. LOL no. Just no.)

It’s about compatibility.

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Often people are so hung up on making a date or interviewer like them, they forget that this is also your chance to determine if they like the date or employer! It might seem like the goal of an interview is to get hired, but it’s really about finding the right fit: somewhere where you want to work AND wants you to work there. Acing an interview for a job you don’t want at a company you don’t want to work for is not an accomplishment and wastes everybody’s time. If you know something isn’t going to work out, gently let the other party down and move on. Quitting or breaking up months down the road when you knew it was headed nowhere from the start is messy and best avoided.

And it’s about timing.

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You might be the right candidate at the wrong time. One of the most discouragingly encouraging things about my MBA internship hunt was seeing how few internships there were, but how many opportunities there were for new graduates. I realized that as much as I was struggling to find a position now, there would be tons of jobs for me at graduation. It was reassuring while at the same time being the most frustrating thing in my young professional life.

“We’ll let you know” is the “I’ll text you later” — it’s not happening.

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Three interviewers told me (and my other classmates who interviewed for the same positions) that they’d let us know either way. They didn’t. Waiting to hear back from a job is the equivalent of waiting for a text back after a date: the worst. Every single time I would have preferred even a curt email that said, “we selected another candidate #sorrynotsorry” over the excruciating radio silence that ensued in its stead. I know to give up on hearing back from a job after 1 week just like I know to give up on hearing back from a date after 48 hours, but a little part of you just holds on. It’s excruciating.

Likewise, asking you about salary expectations or talking about you in the context of having the position is equivalent to “can I see you again?”

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One of my questions at every interview is “who will I report to?” or “how will my performance be measured?”. Firstly, because those are just good things to know, and secondly because I can immediately gauge how the interview is going by how the interviewer answers. If they start off by saying, “the candidate will…” I know I haven’t succeeded at the interview and might be at risk of not hearing back at all. On the other hand, if they say “you will be…” I know they’re already picturing me in the role, which means I’m at least partly (or even fully!) hired in their mind. Another clue is if they ask you about salary expectations. This might seem like a standard interview question, but I find it usually only comes out if the interview is going well and they’re planning to follow up.

When you find The One, nothing else matters.

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When you find it you’ll know. Everything about it feels right, and you feel unbelievably lucky that an opportunity so good even came a long. Suddenly every failed attempt to get any other job makes sense, and you know everything happened exactly as it should have to lead you to this moment.

More posts on my winding job hunt to follow!

Leaving Your Job? Do Your Research!

Employment. It’s a big watchword in today’s economic doldrums, with employment (or unemployment) figures being carefully analysed, dissected and disseminated on a regular basis. The general gist seems to be if you’re in employment then you’re lucky, and if you’re unemployed then your chances of landing another job are slim (but improving, if latest figures are to be believed).

But what if you’re in a job you’re unhappy with? Don’t let the media hype deceive you, there are still jobs out there and you should approach job hunting with the same caution you did in the first place. Receiving a job offer is a big thrill but tempting as it is, don’t just accept your first offer without careful consideration. There are several things you need to mull over before signing on the dotted line.

Location

Maybe travelling for two hours a day doesn’t bother you. But if you have other demands on your time – a young family, perhaps – then you might want a job which is closer to home.

Salary

Most people go out to work to earn a living. Of course, it’s important to be doing something you enjoy and which is fulfilling, but at the end of the day you need to know you’ll be earning what you’re worth, not to mention what you need as an income for your lifestyle. Perform a webcheck to see what others at your level expect to earn, and ask any contacts in the industry you may have, to see if the new job is presenting you with a fair deal.

The Only Way Is Up

If you’re ambitious, then it’s important to know that your new job has some prospects for promotion within the same company. Otherwise you’re likely to be job hunting again before too long.

Enjoy the Challenge

There’s little point moving from one job to another job which is exactly the same. You need to know that you are professionally capable of doing the job, and that it will give you a challenge and be fulfilling, without giving you additional stress levels which you can’t handle.

Get to Know Your Colleagues

Ultimately, you can end up spending more time with your colleagues than with your friends. Check out the company’s culture before you say yes; you need to be working with likeminded people, even if you don’t agree on everything all the time.

Do Your Research

It’s easy to do a simple webcheck to find out things about a company which may not have been apparent at interview. Getting a new job is a great achievement and one you should be proud of, just make sure that you’re not making a rash move.

8 Books You Need To Read To Launch Your Career In Your 20’s

Finding a job post graduation is one of the biggest challenges 20-somethings face. Despite obtaining a formal education and a number of new skills, many grads feel inadequately prepared to actually begin building their career. Is there a life hack to get you started on the road to professional fulfillment? Maybe there’s no single silver bullet, but there is some good advice out there. Below are my 8 favorite books to starting and building your career in your 20’s.

1. What Color Is Your Parachute? 2014: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

If you’re going to build your career, you need to start with a job. This is my go-to recommendation for 20-something job-seekers, so naturally it had to come first on this list. What Color Is Your Parachute? is the ultimate text for everything from resume writing to networking. If you’re on the hunt for a job, this is your manual.

2. How to Win Friends & Influence People

It’s no accident this book has made the bestseller list decade after decade. I’m a huge fan of Dale Carnegie, but this work might be my ultimate favorite. This is an extraordinary guide to developing essential people skills that will take you from generic cubicle employee to rising star. If you think that’s too much praise, just read it. This book will improve your working environment as well as your relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances.

3. The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less

The 80/20 rule or the “Pareto Principle” is a well-known pattern that manifests itself in business, and as the author insists, everything else. Essentially the gist of it is that 20% of your efforts should produce 80% of your results. This is an especially helpful director when you feel your skills or talents are dispersed across a number of different things.

4. 10 Make-or-Break Career Moments: Navigate, Negotiate, and Communicate for Success

I stumbled on this book by accident, but I’m thrilled that I did. There is a wealth of wisdom and guidance in this short book, covering everything to how to talk to your company’s CEO to how to quit your job with grace. This book literally went from completely unknown to a must-own for me. This is a perfect gift for new grads.

5. How Will You Measure Your Life?

I received this book as a gift last Christmas, but when I was hunting for textbooks at my university bookstore, I found it under required reading for a second-year MBA class. This is an excellent book for directing your professional pursuits with a sense of greater purpose, the primary emphasis on maintaining and nourishing close personal relationships. If you want to establish a long-term healthy work-life balance, this book is key.

6. The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

I’ve mentioned The Dip previously in another post. Though it’s a super-short read, the message is to the point and motivating. How do you tell the difference between a rut and a dead-end when it comes to career stagnation? This little book gives the required push to stick it out for long-term benefits, and some guidance on when to bail.

7. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

This is a book if you have trouble getting motivated. We all procrastinate — heck, I procrastinated finishing this book! But once I did, the take-away lesson has stayed with me. “Eating a frog” refers to a task that is necessary but you don’t necessarily want to do. Instead of putting it off, the book teaches you to do it first — but the overall message is just shut up and do it. I particularly liked the advice about if you have multiple unpleasant tasks: if you have two frogs to eat, eat the ugliest one first. Now when I have a lengthly to-do list I’m much better at tackling it, perhaps because it is much less threatening when I think of it as a collection of frogs.

8. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated)

This book has been referred to me over and over again by peers in all types of industries. I liked it, but I haven’t quite bought in with as much enthusiasm as some of my friends. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t take some of the lessons to heart. After I finished the 4-hour Work Week, one of the first things I did was hire Gillian to help with publishing content on MAG, freeing up some time for myself. I don’t think all of the methods of this book are realistic for everyone (ie. working 1 day per week from home for my last employer was a possibility), but the lessons have streamlined my productivity enough that I’m reaping the benefits of a larger income with less hours of hard work.