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Top Myths and Realities of Salary/Job Offer Negotiation

Receiving a job offer is one of the most exciting events for job-seekers it means all your hard work in tracking down job leads, submitting resumes and application packets, and preparing for job interviews has paid off. Receiving a job offer, though, is also one of the most stressful times for job-seekers, as many people agonize over the terms of the offer and whether to take the plunge into negotiating a better deal.
Negotiating a better salary — or other terms in your job offer — should not be feared or loathed… as in buying a car or a home, a job offer is a starting point. The offer could be the employer’s best offer, but more than likely there is room to negotiate as long as job-seekers understand the rules and overcome some very common myths about the process.
Here is our list of the top myths along with the realities of salary and job offer negotiation.
Salary Myth: Asking for a Lower Salary Will Improve Chances of Hire
If you do not believe in your worth in the value you will bring to the job why should the employer? Most employers are not looking for the cheapest hire, but the best hire for the job. By requesting a lower salary for yourself, you set yourself up for failure (either in not even being considered for the position, or, if hired, struggling to overcome the low salary).
Special note for new college grads and career-changers: Because of your inexperience level in your field, you may need to start at a lower salary than others with relevant experience, but that does not mean you should automatically downgrade your salary request. Always conduct your research and be realistic in your salary request.
Salary Myth: Negotiating Salary of Other Parts of Job Offer Frowned Upon
There’s a common fear among job-seekers that employers frown upon job-seekers who want to negotiate part of the job offer. As long as you respect and understand the process and do not ask for unattainable or unrealistic changes employers generally respect your desire to receive the best possible offer.
Note: Some employers absolutely refuse to negotiate any part of a job offer, but they generally state that up front in the process. For these employers, any attempt at negotiating could result in the employer rescinding the job offer.
Salary Myth: Accepting First Offer is Safest Strategy for Job-Seekers
Job-seekers often have the sense that if they don’t immediately accept an employer’s job offer, that the employer or hiring manager is just waiting to make the offer to the next job-seeker on the short list. The reality is that the employer chose you as the best candidate for the position and bought into you as the top choice so you should not feel pressure to immediately accept the offer. And if you are also interviewing with other employers and close to receiving another offer, you should at least negotiate more time to consider the offer.
Note: Be wary of employers who try to rush you into accepting an offer or who want a decision on the spot. Even if you have no other employment possibilities, always request some time to consider the offer before making a decision.
Salary Myth: Negotiating Salary in a Weak Economy is a Bad Idea
Some job-seekers mistakenly believe that a weak economy means that employers don’t have the money to pay better salaries, but these employers would not be hiring if they did not have the resources to pay new hires. While it’s true that job-seekers may find fewer job openings and have fewer job offers in a weak job market, once you are the person the employer wants to hire, you have room to negotiate.
Note: In a slow or weak economy, some employers might be a bit more sensitive to negotiating salary, but still open to negotiating other aspects of the job offer. Research is again key to knowing the best strategy to follow.
Salary Myth: Believing That Everything is Negotiable in Job Offer
Typical advice given to job-seekers is that all aspects of a job offer are negotiable, but the reality of your situation depends on several factors. As mentioned earlier, some employers simply do not negotiate job offers. In other cases, the level of the job dictates the amount of room for negotiation. Typically, the lower the level of the position, the less room for negotiation. Thus, college grads may find little room for negotiation while mid-level and senior management job-seekers may find the entire offer up for negotiation.
Note: The best source for determining your ability to negotiate one or more aspects of your job offer is an inside source. The power of a strong network is not in just helping you secure job leads but in providing you with key insider information that you can use to receive and negotiate a job offer.
Salary Myth: Asking for Offer in Writing Will Offend Employer
No one should ever accept a job offer without receiving the terms in writing whether in the form of an employment contract or job-offer letter and no legitimate employer will ever question your motives for asking for such. When you receive a job offer during an interview or over the phone, the best strategy is to probe for some of the details (most hiring managers don’t know all the details) and then ask when you should expect the offer in writing.
Note: Another benefit of receiving the offer in writing is that it gives you more time to understand and evaluate the full offer (including salary, additional compensation, and benefits/perks) and whether you want to negotiate any of the terms of the offer.
Final Thoughts
While receiving a job offer is exciting for job-seekers, it’s important that you understand the realities of salary and job-offer negotiation as well as the rules.

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10 Expert Tips to Increase Your Salary Beyond Your Expectations

Determined to increase your salary? Follow these tips from Reesa Staten, vice president of communications and director of research at recruiting firm Robert Half International and Anna Ivey, a Boston-based career and admissions counselor, to increase your salary this year:

1. Get comfortable negotiating salary raises.
“Women fall behind here, because they generally aren’t as aggressive and fall farther and farther behind with their salaries. You can’t be shy about asking to be paid what you’re worth,” Ivey said. Along these lines, she said, it’s important to keep detailed documentation of your achievements.

2. Research and compare your salary.
Staten urges workers to make sure they know how much their skills are worth before they pursue a different position or a promotion. Compare your salary.

3. Become an indispensable expert.
Continue to learn about your line of work, so that you stay current with trends and developments. Your strategy might include going to industry conferences, reading industry publications or setting up regular lunch meetings with others in your field to exchange information and ideas. This is a key to increasing your salary.

4. Make yourself visible.
Network and mingle, making sure you are continually visible to others in your industry and your workplace. At work, take on difficult challenges and make sure that management is aware of your contributions.

5. Update your skills.
Consider training or certifications that could lead to a promotion. “In some companies, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you can’t advance to the next level. Some jobs require an MBA; get as much education as possible,” Staten said. Search for online learning that could help increase your salary.

6. If you return to school, make sure that it will pay off.
Ivey said it’s important to investigate degree programs before launching into one that might not increase your salary and could end up costing you more in the long-run. Also, find out what continuing education benefits are offered by your employer. You may be able to “earn more” by getting your employer to cover tuition costs. Research the best college degrees for higher earnings.

7. Absorb and adapt to new methods.
“Things are changing quickly; what is state of the art now will be obsolete 10 years from now,” Staten said. When things change at work instead of getting grumpy, be the first to jump on board. Your enthusiasm for change and adaptability to new systems and ideas are to how your employer values you and could lead to a salary increase.

8. Be receptive to criticism.
Constructive criticism can help you improve your performance, Ivey said. Not only is it important to be able to gracefully accept criticism from your coworkers and boss, but integrating that feedback into your work can win you points and opportunities for promotion.

9. Sharpen your communication skills.
“I don’t care what role you’re in. If you can read and speak well, you are way ahead of the pack,” Ivey said.

10. Get comfortable with math.
“A lot of people coast through college without number knowledge just basic knowledge, like how to read a financial statement. We live in a Sarbanes-Oxley [SOX] now. If you work in a publicly traded company, you will be affected by SOX. Accounting is a great skill to have in your tool set,” Ivey said, referring to the federal law that tightened corporate governance standards.
By Kristina Cowan

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