How to ask for a raise with the best possible outcome
Hi friends! This is a follow up to my previous post, all about growing your confidence to get more of what you want and deserve. This is all about how to ask for a raise and set up conditions that promote the most successful outcome in that conversation and a new job interview.
If you prefer to listen, here’s the Podcast version of this post on Soundcloud and iTunes.
One caveat: this is based on my experience solely and I don’t want to push you to do something that would jeopardize your livelihood – so interpret and apply what I say based on the particulars of your industry. Don’t take these as blanket rules because my industry experience might be totally opposite yours. I’m talking to you just as I talk to myself. This is the advice and guidance I give to friends and coworkers in need of a pep-talk. So if it helps you feel more convicted in your existing beliefs, use it – if not, stick to your gut!
This episode is structured differently than past blogs. Part 1 covers ways to create more value in yourself as a professional and how to guide your life’s resume according to what you want to do more of. Part 2 is all about how to ask for a raise in the most hard-to-argue-with, amicable way possible. Part 3 gives you ways to prepare for a new job interview: how to create the right image and ask for what you want.
Your professional path is very much in your hands – a lot more than you might feel it is at any given time. Often you’re the last to recognize your own value and how much that can be used as a bargaining chip to leap to the next rung on your chosen ladder. By looking at yourself as a valuable asset, you actually paint a brighter picture to others. So thinking of yourself in this way is a win-win. Even if that’s not a fun or easy thing for you to do, you’ve got to start somewhere – and simply by aiming upwards you will automatically head that way more – as you move through your professional career. No matter where you are in life, you have to actively create your own value and guide your path by asking for what you want. Even if you are well appreciated by those you work with, it’s in their best interests to keep you at the price THEY are comfortable with. No one’s going to say, “You’re a gem. Here’s more money because you’re worth more.” And if they do, that is AWESOME! That’s a sign of a great manager who is preemptive. Appreciate that fact because at most companies it doesn’t happen without a bit of pitching and bargaining. Even if someone does want to give you a raise, usually they won’t until you ask – because waiting is just savings in their pocket.
Also – don’t be intimidated by what others tell you that you can do. A lot of the time people keep others down because they feel threatened. They want to keep others down to make themselves feel more adequate. If you want to do more of something in your life – you can do it! It’s all about taking the time to strategize about the best path. I know that it’s easy to get really frustrated and hopeless when you can’t find a path in certain direction – if you want something, work in little steps in the general direction. But whatever you do, don’t get stuck on hating the time it’s taking. That’s when the voices of “it’s impossible” “I give up!” come up, and your fear can talk you out of what you want to do. If you want to change careers, you can change careers! I am a firm believer that people are ambidextrous and can apply their skill-sets in totally different directions. If you apply your brain towards a new avenue, you can traverse industries. It’s all about building, shaping, and then working your story as an individual. Looking at everything you do in your life as an opportunity and something you can use for leverage. So hopefully I’ll tap into some of the ways you can start to do that.
Part 1: Ways of Being
I want you to start thinking of yourself as an object of value that increases with context. Just like vintage clothing can say something new when you give it clear contrast and meaning – so can the “experience” you bring to a job. You can enhance and craft that story – and create new value, from scratch. You don’t have to have the Ivy League University or experience at a popular new company. You can create a body of work and pull in references from unexpected places that tell those hiring you a different story that is unique but equally valuable. You have to always look at yourself as a soul and thinker, as your most valuable commodity. Look at everything in your life as an opportunity to create more value in yourself – you are an investment and you are constantly enhancing that investment.
There are a lot of people out there who are no more qualified than you, but they happen to have a lot of skill in HOW they shape their self on paper. So much is about the platter you serve the meal on – never forget that. You can tell someone the same facts but they will tell a totally different story depending on how you couch things. You want to always hone the best story when it comes to presenting yourself– based on the story they would want to hear. I know the instinct is to be “just yourself” or overly honest or humble – but get used to being your own promoter. It helps you AND it helps the person hiring you see you accurately. Why? Because when you don’t tell people the most ideal and curated story about yourself, you ask them to think. You call attention to irrelevant details for them to worry about. By not crafting your story to their needs, you make strangers have to WORK harder to interpret who you are and whether or not you are a match for the job opening. Remove the worry from the equation as much as possible for the other person who will be hiring you and make it easy for them to see how well you fit.
So what is the story you are going to tell? It’s a curated list of things you have done in your life that will ladder up to the job in question. Here are ways you can begin to populate that list with more of the good stuff – even if you’re trapped in a job you don’t want WHILE you do it.
Live Like a Resume.
Begin to look at everything you do as a potential item on a resume. Curate the image you want to portray – in contests you enter, sports you play, lessons you take, concerts you attend, conventions, online tutorials, social groups, any and all affiliations can ladder up to value you bring to your career. For example – an extracurricular activity can say to someone, “This person is passionate about bettering their expertise,” but it must be presented in the right context. What is your story? How will you tell it to others? “I’m a (xyz) person so I have been doing (fill in the blank new skill) for many years. That’s why I am perfect for (new job). It’s something I’ve been doing for (lots) years – in (x, y, and z activities). Make this story of your path as a professional shine through your life in everything you do.
Nowadays, in a lot of cases you get to choose an area of expertise and then you can invest in learning about it on the internet. So the “experience” piece of it is really what you are trying to present via everything you do in your personal time. This proof can be collected through diverse avenues, so look at all potential experiences through this lens. If someone asks you if you want to help them with their project – ask yourself, “How can I use this? Would this ever be something I’d be able to write on a resume?” Or even better, “Is this valuable JUST because it’s new to me?” I try to say yes to all new things that scare me – when it comes to the direction I’m trying to grow myself in. If it’s a possible proof point for me as a specialist, I’m going to do it – even if I have no idea whether or not it’s going to bear any value. You never know. Lean into maybes.
Think of your social life in this way: what does a person like me, do on a weekend? By this I mean ENHANCE yourself – have things to talk about with people you want to surround yourself with, other than the latest TV show. Having actually enriching experiences shows you have breadth that cannot be estimated. It shows another person that you might be able to bring more to the table.
When you craft this story that is your resume – be specific! This is super important. Make sure you are honing in on the job you’re trying to get when you present your story. Don’t claim to do more than the thing they want you to do, show them how you are passionately focused on the job they have open – and use your story to support that claim. If you present yourself as more than what they’re looking for, it can be a turnoff that makes them feel you don’t respect the job and its importance. For example – I used to have a resume that said I did both jobs in a partnership, (because I did) but that was suspicious to most people and they didn’t like hearing it. They wanted me to be one or the other because that’s the job they were filling. I was stubborn about it, but it eventually came down to choosing a story so they could see me clearly.
2. Google Yourself
This might not pertain to everyone’s industry, but regardless of the job – the people who meet you will likely Google you. It’s something do when you’re going on a first date or you’re at a new job interview. Control the outcome as much as you can by populating that search with things that will shine positive light on you. For example, build the right links and affiliations on all of your public profiles. Make a habit of checking in with those and making sure they’re up to date. Make sure you are highlighting the habits and passions that you want to be associated with if someone looking to hire you, checks you out. Think about the top results your name gets and make sure the story is the one you want to tell. If you’re not showing up at all or the things you don’t like are showing up, begin to populate more new content and connect it to as many other places as possible. It helps to have lots of connection points: a public Facebook account, Twitter, Instagram: all of these act as a curated gallery that gives someone a snapshot of who you are – their ideal employee. I think social media accounts are just another form of a resume – but they can help someone fill in the blanks of who you are and that can give you a leg up from another stranger applying for a job.
If you want to steer your path in a new direction, curate the additions you make. For example, if you are going to be hired for your design skills, make sure your Instagram has beautiful designs. If you’re starting from scratch, begin to add social media accounts and populate them with anything that presents your “presidential self” to the world. If you want to do more design work and you are traversing industries, do it for free for anyone you meet! This is all free material to prove to someone else you are credible. Add links and tags to all the random little awards and company involvements that make you look better or more ideal in your field.
Be in the Habit of Meeting People.
And be nice to everyone! You never know what random professional connection will arise down the line – so be in the habit of talking about what you do best, and what you’re passionate about. Converse at dinner parties and social functions about yourself professionally, as if it were a potential job opportunity. I find that most of my jobs have come through maintaining social connections with people in a range of industries. Talk about your ventures and projects and be passionate about what you want to do more of.
Always Be Aware of Your Value
Meaning, be in touch with what other opportunities are available for you and what they are paying. If this is an industry with multiple companies, interview often. Entertain as many other job offers as you can, just for the sake of meeting people. Even if you’re not ready to take a job, entertain new opportunities as often as possible. Open your mind up to “what if” and honor each new meeting. This is a way to stay aware of your value outside your office just in case you need to leverage that or you are getting frustrated. Be aware of other companies who do what you do – know what they’re doing that’s new and exciting. I have a policy of always entertaining new job offers if they’re of value to me in a direction I want to grow. For example, when I started directing I started interviewing at places that might invest in me doing more of that. It was a priority I set in where I invested in new meetings.
You Don’t Get If You Don’t Ask
The more you ask for a raise the more you will get a raise. Every time something happens in your workplace that gives you a spotlight of acclaim, use that as a moment to leverage your position. It’s also just a good habit to keep for yourself because this is how you advance most often. It will never be fun or easy – for most of us – but be in the habit of asking for more of what you want.
Keep a Good Track-Record
That means professionally and personally. Be good with your word, be reliable, honest and amicable in any environment. It’s important not to engage in unnecessary drama at any workplace. I know it’s one of those things that doesn’t seem relevant at any given time, but it’s not good to have conflict with anyone. No matter what happens or whether or not you’re at fault, always try leave things on good terms. You will absolutely cross paths with that person again one day, or at the very least, someone they’re friends with. Assume that your paths will cross and imagine yourself needing something from them one day. Also, it’s pointless and not fun to have bad blood with any other human. This is for the good of your holistic happiness.
Part 2: Asking for a Raise
I feel that you have to set up a habit of being great – prove your worth, before you can start making demands. It’s important that you build a history at a company before you ask for a raise. If you’re at a new job, give it a year so that you have demonstrated your value to your coworkers and superiors. They should see you as a person who is motivated, dedicated, talented and deserving of reward. Make sure your track record provides as little conflict for your superiors to say “yes” as possible.
Thinking of asking a raise? Here’s your Homework:
- Before you ask for a raise I want you to do some practical research on your field – including the financial climate. The goal is to try feel out what your value is in this market based on how many others are competing for your position. Also, factors like knowing how high the turnover is at your company. What’s their track record – have they let others walk in the past? Try to think of this situation from as many other perspectives as possible: It sounds cold, but ask questions like – are you cheaper to keep than to lose? Is your company slammed with business? Can they not afford to lose the man-power? Is there something uncertain coming up in the near future that would prevent them from investing more money?
- Second, I want you to try to do some casual asking around from others whom you respect: how are you perceived by coworkers, and especially your boss? Is your perception of yourself accurate? If you find out you have a negative perception you might want to work on shifting that before you have this conversation.
- Third, this is a bit like being a detective – examine the baggage of the person/s making the decisions. How smart is your boss? How in touch with what you do, is he or she? This is just about gathering observations about what threatens them, what makes them happy, what they like to hear, how they need to hear new information to have the best response. Why? There are a lot of narcissists in managerial positions, as well as people who are fearful, insecure, and/or totally socially inept. So if any of this is true, you might have to operate with a different set of sensitivities when you approach this conversation. You might be the most valuable employee, but if you have an idiot for a boss, they could let their own emotional baggage get in the way of their judgment.
I know this prep implies you would lose your job, which is not the case – the reason I want you to be so hyper aware of your value is it will make you more confident and convicted in the way you approach this. It’s also leverage for your argument to yourself, and your boss.
I want you to be very thorough in your research before you knock on that door. And whatever you do, don’t let ANGER and resent motivate you to do anything – because that’s when you don’t have an advantage. That’s when decisions come from the wrong place and they’re not tactical. Meaning you get less of what you want.
If you’re a very conservative person and you don’t like to make power plays like asking for more money, join the club! Neither does anyone! It’s super awkward and scary and it makes you feel unworthy immediately, but it’s not personal. It’s professional. And once you take your fears out of it, you will see that the person on the other end is looking at this as a business exchange as well.
If you know you’re driven by fear and “staying safe” then I would encourage YOU especially to push yourself to ask for what you deserve. Because this style of being can cause you to professionally plateau – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Be aware, it’s easy to let fear steer your life and at a certain point it can trap you in a place you feel resentful to be. I suggest to you in particular that yourself to get more and more comfortable with risk and unknown outcomes. I think when we fear what others might do, often we talk ourselves into accepting less than what we deserve – and if you know that’s your pattern, be aware of that and train yourself to grow in a new direction.
If you have been thinking you deserve a raise then you should ask for it. You don’t get them unless you ask for them. So don’t wait around for someone to see your value and give you a reward – it’s not in their best interests to do that unless they’re great bosses. And even then, it’s good to have a reminder. Be always looking out for yourself.
Caveat: If you feel like your boss might be looking for a reason to let you go or your company is downsizing, then I would say DON’T push for this unless you have a viable backup.
Know that you are the one who creates and shapes your own value in the eyes of others. The way you start is by asking for it. So if you’re comparing your value to someone else’s that is not a healthy habit. As there is no official answer to your value – therefore they likely just angled for what they got vs. you. There’s also a good chance that you have been stereotyped and given less because of bias. Either way your job is to be more aggressive about what you ask for. But as a general rule, leave the income of others out of your brain. It can cause you to be resentful when you would otherwise be happy.
So what I want you to do is craft the speech you are going to give, including the pauses and what position your body will be in. Think of what the boss will say in response and craft what you will say in return. And once you have that speech down – rehearse it. Over and over. Memorize it. Say it to the mirror. Get used to it.
Here we go with some specific tips on crafting that raise conversation script. Do this in person, not via email or the phone. You want to be able to see a person and for them to see your body language. It’s much easier to craft a “no” from the other side of a computer.
Anticipate Their Needs
Think of yourself from their side of the equation. This is a great way to prep for the talk. Ask yourself, what are their fears? What are they thinking you are going to say? What helps them most in this situation? What are they worried about if you leave or stay? What would paint them into a corner and make them angry? What are they going to likely say – based on what you know of their tactics? You want to think of all this so that you can craft your pitch according to what you know they are thinking. Your speech should curve in the right spots according to what they will be thinking. You want to make your ask into the answer to their needs, as much as possible.
Time it Right
Timing is an important element to your success, so as much as you can – wait to the perfect time. Sometimes you will have no power in this area because it will seem like it’s never going to be the right time. Regardless, know the stakes and try to plan according to when things look good for you and your company. If you have had a lot of success recently, this might be a perfect time. Or, if you’re in great demand and they know it. Become aware of the external factors: Are they looking to save money? Are there going to be layoffs? It’s not the time to ask if you think your company or your boss, is under any stress. Stress causes people to make the least tolerant and most impulsive decision possible. Which is why you never want to have your court case heard on a Friday afternoon!
Use Your Cards to Play Your Advantage
Think of this like it’s a card game. You automatically have an advantage because you know what you are going to ask for, so use this as a way to gather as many cards in your favor as possible. Whatever you have in your hand, you want to play and you want to do that in a way that leverages what you know and they don’t. For example – put your successes and sacrifices on their radar. You know that you have achieved xyz, that you have waited xyz amount of time, that you asked for this conversation to happen at this point when you started your job, that your company is doing well and you are a part of that, etc. Bring up an irrefutable presentation of facts in the most casual way possible. It shouldn’t feel selly, it should feel no-effort and obvious.
If you want the best advantage, come to the game prepared to take risks. If you really want them to give you what you want you can present them with the fact that you have another job offer. This will give you the most control in the outcome but it also requires you are ready to take a leap. You can’t play the same hand too many times so save them for when it really counts and you really mean it. In other words, don’t bluff unless you’re willing to make a move to another company. Have other offers and be ready to take them.
Always Come From the Positive
Present your case as the easiest path to take and the best solution for all reasons. Giving you what you want should feel like you will be happy and a better worker, and like it’s a solution to everyone’s problems. They should feel like a hero for giving you what you want, and not like an evildoer with a resentful child. The way you bring this up should feel good and positive. You want them to feel GOOD about promoting you and giving you more money. To do that, craft what you’re going to say based on the positive even when you talk about the negatives. The worst thing you can do is go into the conversation listing why you’re unhappy, why you shouldn’t stay, what’s wrong with the place etc. You have to explain why you are so valuable to them and why you want to continue to be a part of their team. This should feel like you’re asking for an opportunity for more growth. Explain your history at this company in a way that makes your value at the place obvious, then present your conflict as a positive:
I currently do (xyz high quality, high value work) for this company, but I am ready to (advance/do even better) – I already have (advanced/done xyz) in a short amount of time. It would me so happy to do that here, with you. I’m ready to do more (xyz level work), it’s where I am in my professional life – I really want to do that (xyz valuable work) here. So I thought I should talk with you, because you’re a great boss, and this is a great company that I love.
Always Leave a Window Open.
Craft your conversation so that it allows you to continue to work there if you don’t get what you want. Avoid playing hardball or giving ultimatums. Anything offensive or demanding that comes off as direct, can make someone angry and threatened – which doesn’t help your standing at all. You want things to seem like there’s no other solution – and if you could only find it, you would take it. Make it “not your fault” and obvious to the superior that you should ask for such a thing based on how much you’ve done. If you’re not ready to leave, then don’t present it as an ultimatum. Always be ready for the outcome you are hinting. I believe it’s best to avoid all bluffing – because it’s too dangerous – no matter how well you think you know the person you’re talking to.
If you have a boss who has been taking advantage of you settling and not getting a raise for a long period of time, it’s not your problem that they’re dealing with whatever problems they have. Don’t feel guilty about asking for what you deserve. You are allowed to ask for what you want – if it’s long overdue, state that in your case. It’s not personal, it’s just the truth. You can explain your case in a frank and direct manner as long as it’s respectful and not tainted with anger. I feel it shows your value when you are self-respecting and convicted in your own worth.
Embrace the Silence.
There will be a moment when your boss sits with silence and it’s up to you to allow it to happen. This is just a power tactic and someone who has had many conversations with employees over their pay will know how to use it. Silence is a weapon and it can be used to make others question their own value and second guess everything they thought before they walked into a situation. Whatever you do, stick to your script and let go of the fact that you are totally uncomfortable in the moment.
Whatever Happens, Say It.
I know asking for a raise can feel somewhat in your grasp when you’re on your own and then in the moment, it’s hard to get the words to come out of your mouth. It’s a test of every last ounce of strength in your body, and can be one of those moments when you feel like you want to retreat and swallow what you planned to say in favor of keeping things the same. But that instinct only lasts for that moment in time! So before you are in that moment, promise yourself that you will just SAY aloud exactly what you came to say. Stick to your script. Just saying what you know you want is hard enough and that in itself is a victory – no matter the outcome. Focus on that and let the rest go. You will be proud of yourself when you leave, no matter how terrible and awkward it feels while you’re saying it. Don’t doubt all the planning you did beforehand – you did it for a reason, so don’t second guess yourself.
Know that your boss has likely had this conversation before. Someone who is smart will know what to say and when to say it: they likely have had some practice in these kinds of talks, therefore they’ll know how to manipulate you and rebut so that they don’t have to give you any more money. Be ready to stand your ground and don’t let yourself be bullied into believing you are not valid in your ask.
If you’re worried about asking for too much or too little, I’d say if you’re asking for 10-35% you’re in “the zone” depending on the margins at your workplace and how long overdue this is. I’d say 15% is pretty standard, based on my experience – but don’t take my word for it! Do as much homework as you can, beforehand. Most importantly, don’t let money be more important than doing a good job and being happy while you do it. Money has the power to distract you and confuse you about your worth, whether or not you’re appreciated and whether or not you should stay somewhere. In reality, it’s an ever-shifting concept which has little to do with your happiness unless you allow it to sour your view of yourself. Try to always keep money in perspective – and make sure it stays below the importance of your holistic success as an individual. If you are doing something you love, money has less importance. Never forget that. It should never take precedent over the reason you choose to do something – it must always be kept in its place in the pecking order that is your happiness with life. When it comes to asking for more money, keep a safe distance from the outcome so that it doesn’t usurp your focus entirely. It should not be allowed to steal away your satisfaction with your craft. It’s not the end goal. Your life as you experience it is the most important part of the equation. So don’t let pay rob you of your happiness. Ever. Make that agreement with yourself. At the end of the day, money is a concept. It shifts in its value – it’s not a fixed definition of worth and it says nothing about you or who you are. Don’t let it define you – use it, make it work for you, but don’t let it distract you from what matters most: your life, your path, where you’re headed and how you choose to get there.
When you walk up to the door of that meeting:
Do the wonder woman. It’s a thing! Swear. Watch Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk. Basically, stand in a position that looks like Wonder Woman: hands on hips, feet spread evenly. Why? It increases your testosterone aka makes more confidence chemicals flow through your body. Practice slow, even breathing. This will give you a slight chemical advantage before you walk in there – meaning, it will make you more calm, confident and ready for tactical action.
Part 3: How to Interview
Before you pick your interviews, here’s my take on how to choose a job – all things being equal. What to look for, outside of money and reputation? Follow thinkers. Look for individuals, not companies. If you’re looking for a job that will add to your holistic value, look for the individuals who will be around you at that workplace, most of all – your superiors. I believe the most valuable factor in a place is the people you’re going to be learning from. Also it’s what will allow you to thrive the most – so if the person interviewing you is a douchebag, maybe DON’T force yourself to take that job just cause it pays well. As the old saying goes, “The carp rots from the head down.” Just because a business is cool and well known doesn’t mean it’s going to thrive under just any manager. I believe in following the individual in control and looking at where they are in their life and where they plan on taking the company.
Before you interview and fret over whether or not you’re worthy, simply let go of the outcome. Make peace with your lack of control. At the end of the day, the job chooses you. That might sound defeatist, but I believe it’s a positive. There’s a ton you can and should do to make sure that everything happens in the most ideal of terms, but past that, it’s very much not about you – it’s about if you match this thing they’re looking for, so let go of blaming yourself. Do your best, shine, be proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished – and then let the rest go. If they like you, they do. If they don’t, it’s not a fit – for now. When you find the position that’s meant for you, it will just feel right. It will be obvious for a lot of reasons – you will be ready and excited, and they will be looking for someone just like you. Like it was meant to be.
It should feel natural – like a courtship that benefits both parties, equally. It shouldn’t be difficult or worrisome but rather exciting and inspiring: you want to feel hope for the future, like it’s a new beginning with built in potential. If you the place you want to work doesn’t feel inviting or automatic, then there’s a good chance it’s not mean to be, just yet. That doesn’t mean you won’t get there very soon – if you choose to. It just means you’ve got to make another lap before coming back to this spot again. Something is yet to be learned that will make you a shoe in. Be patient and stay committed to what you want, and stay open and receptive to gaining new learning that might propel you. If you want something, you must commit to it – keep your eye on the prize and figure out ways you can support that dream in other areas. What else can you do on the periphery of that job that might enhance the self you’d bring to this?
Be a Happy, Comfortable Person
Even if your life is in shambles, you must present a balanced and ready partner for this company. As a general rule, be in a good mood, positive disposition – friendly, make eye contact, shake firmly. Sit straight up and watch that you’re not fidgeting or slouching. It’s helpful to watch how you are when you talk to others – most people don’t realize how much they fidget or where their eyes go in a room – so if you can, ask a friend to film you when you answer questions. It will help you choose how you want to alter your body language. For example, I tend to look around a lot when I talk which sometimes looks weird – so when I speak to clients I keep the movement and looking to a minimum. I stay as close to consistent eye contact as possible. I physically portray myself as calm. And the cool part is when you do that, your body will actually calm you mentally. s
Craft Your Story to Their Needs
Think of each interview like it’s a date with a celebrity – they want to know you are their biggest fan. Your enthusiasm and understanding of their background is important to how they feel about you as a candidate. You want to do as much research as possible about the company and the interviewers – know something about them and have it ready to go if you need to make idle chitchat. I recommend writing this stuff down so you can commit it to memory better. From my own experience, there’s nothing more disappointing than interviewing someone who has no idea what the company they’re interviewing at, does – and what they’re getting into.
Remove Doubt from the Equation
You want it to be as low-risk as possible for someone to entrust you with responsibility. Shaping your persona for an interview should be aimed at making yourself an easy “yes” as much as possible – so that means building a list of past experience with the right buzz words. People don’t want to see everything you’ve ever done, they want to see only what is relevant to the position they’re hiring for. I used to have everything I’d ever dabbled in on my resume and it painted a picture of me that people didn’t trust. It said, “you think you can do everything well” vs. “you can do the thing we’re hiring for.” It’s all about telling people the right story so that they don’t have to worry about hiring you on, including with the language you choose when you tell them about past experience. If someone says they hated their last job, so they quit, it would put me on edge about hiring them – because to me it says, “possible attitude problem.” Whereas if they said, “It was time for a change and I wanted to keep growing.”
If you don’t have work experience in a particular field, sometimes that’s not a make or break. If you have similar experience in an unrelated field, that can be just as valuable. That’s when you as an individual become the focus of your story: craft a resume based on what you do at each workplace – basically, describe all the responsibilities that this job entails in past work experience. Craft your story to reflect how you have gathered all these other amazing skillsets that ladder up to this particular job description. If it’s a job you really want to get into, consider starting at the bottom or working for free JUST so that you can get something to put on your resume. I firmly believe that starting at the bottom in a job you really want to do is better than staying at the top in a job you hate. It’s also really helpful to build a collection of the random mini-jobs that show some form of the work experience you’ll need to get into a new industry. Like, literally do freelance favors as long as it’s something you can list as “real” on a resume. If you can’t figure out how to get the freelance, try looking up companies online and cold calling. Ask friends, ask friends of friends of friends. Someone will eventually take you up on it. The hardest job to get is the one that gets your foot in the door. If you’re traversing industries, your goal is to get work experience even if no one is paying you and even if it’s just for you to post on a personal website. If you don’t make anything for a year, that’s totally worth it if it means you get to do the job of your dreams for the rest of your life. You’ve got to think of value as something in terms of future vs. status right now.
Prep Until You Barf
There’s no such thing as too prepared. Write down your script of what you’re going to say, read it back to yourself aloud, say it to a friend and say it to the mirror. Say it at full volume and include the pauses and casual mentionings in your rehearsal. Make it so thoroughly familiar to your ears, eyes and in your body positioning. The more you prep, the more comfortable you’ll be when you’re frozen in an intimidating situation. Before you go into the interview, have your script completely familiarized and work out to every last detail – including your asking price. Yes, I think you should know this ahead of time – even if you don’t know what they’re offering. Don’t say your number first! You want them to throw something out so put the ball back in their court. But then come back you’re your (marginally) higher number. Don’t waver from that number because you spent a good amount of time arriving at it. It’s helpful to have anecdotes ready that are interesting and endear you to them more. But be a good listener and don’t talk over the person. Smile but don’t go overboard on your positive attitude. Have questions ready that show you are coveting yourself and not just ready to jump in to anything – for example, asking how often you will get opportunities to grow in a specific direction at the company would show someone you’re motivated and not settling. I know all of this information sounds so generic and dry, right here – but when it’s put into your own words it will come out just as genuine and interesting as you are! Swearsies.
One last note: before you walk in the door, do the wonder woman! Don’t forget! You want all the leverage you can get. Including if you get a moment alone. You might go to the restroom – do it in there. Yes, I am being serious.
No Matter What, Follow Up!
After the interview, follow up within the week and preferably within three days. I always enjoy getting a card from someone, but nowadays a well-crafted and genuine email is good, too. There’s no rule that says you have to do it like that – I like to get inventive with my thank you’s. One year, I made everyone I interviewed with a custom silkscreened t-shirt. Whatever you do, keep the note short, clever, spelled correctly, and sincere. It’s a great way to show you are interested and excited about the job and also someone they’ll remember.
If you do get to the next level – express your excitement for the job and your eagerness to thrive with their company. Ask for what amount would make you happy – plus a tiny bit more. It should be an amount that will keep you happy for at least a year. You have the most leverage before you start a job. If you know you’ll be happy at a certain amount, say it before you start. Don’t hide it or lessen it out of fear, because all that will do is make you resentful of them and yourself. You want to thrive and be stoked to go to work. That said, be in the logical range of what this job pays. If you go way too high, they’re going to feel insulted, like you’re irrational. You have to be on the same page, somewhat. Let them set the first number – like, don’t volunteer your range. Get them to tell you what range they’re hiring for. You want them to play the first card and then negotiate from a higher point to a happy middle.
If you are freaked out about going higher, just caveat that you are very interested and you are passionate about the place. If they like you, they will come back to you and let you know the limits they’re working with. If they cannot meet your needs, ask them to give you a review time in the near future when you can re-approach that conversation.
If you don’t get the job – thank them for their consideration and continue to build a relationship for the sake of the connection. If you continue to build this relationship, there’s a very good chance they’ll consider you down the line. How to do this? Email them once every couple of months with articles or links that you think might interest them, and even better – with compliments of the work they’ve done. Keep these short and ask nothing in return, including a reply. Like, make it so they don’t feel bad just reading the email and not writing back. It’s a very effective way to build a relationship because it asks nothing of the other person, but it gives them value. They will not resent you, and they’ll remember you. I get emails once in a while from people who would like to get work from me, but because they send me compliments I smile when I read their emails and I remember their names, fondly. You want to build positive connections that keep you both on the same mutually respectful level.
Your value as an individual exceeds the job you are trying to get or the amount you earn. You are always worth more because of the rest of your person. You should never stop appreciating and acknowledging that value, because it’s always more important than any one role you take on. Your highest value comes from the value you place in yourself, as a human being. So invest in that 100%: have ethics, be kind, be committed to quality, honesty, and put in what you know is necessary. Never short change yourself in how you show up for others and never let the opinion of another dictate who you are, to you. Because whether or not you can see it, you tell yourself who you are, and your value, by how authentically you show up in all facets of your life. So if you invest in everything you do – you – will know it, and in turn, you will feel like a million bucks.
I believe you are capable and perfect for anything you choose to do with all your heart. If it is not in the cards at this moment, look for a new pathway – a side entry or a different avenue that grows and rewards that part of yourself. If you are stuck and frustrated by this hunt, check where your motivation is coming from. Sometimes when we are not making progress, it’s because some part of ourselves is muscling something when we need to learn another lesson. In my own life, I faced the most strife when I was choosing to ignore signs inside myself that the job wasn’t a good fit. It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be the right fit, someday – but life sometimes makes you take another lap to learn something before you’re ready to achieve a particular goal. Stay open and keep heading in the general direction of what you want and enjoy. If you’re doing something because you want to tell others you’re doing that thing, it’s not the right reason. If you’re doing it because it feels right and it makes you happy, then do it anyway. Follow your inclinations. Listen to what fits or flows. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you shouldn’t do something. They are saying that for their own reasons – usually fear, or deep unhappiness. This life comes down to YOU and what YOU decide you want to do during this part of it. No one else makes that call but you.
I hope this helps you get more money, more happy, and more super-awesome success! If you have a friend who could use this – please share it! It always helps me if you share my work. And if you have any thoughts, by all means let me know in the comments. Smile lovely friends! xox
Featured image via Flickr