There are critical issues to consider here and career ‘life skills” to master.
Show me the Money!
The most obvious skill relates to salary negotiation. According to a recent study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, failing to negotiate on an initial job offer could mean missing out on over $600,000 in salary during a typical career. We are talking about serious stuff here!
However, there are two other issues that many people ignore – to the detriment of their security and their happiness.
Evaluating Job Offers
First, you need to evaluate the job offer and complete your due diligence to assess whether it is the right place for you to work.
Don’t let your excitement over receiving an offer keep you from seeing that offer objectively. Job change decisions are complex. The immediate results of a choice are easily identified and quantified, but the more important long-term ramifications require research, interpretation, and a bit of conjecture.
How do you evaluate a job offer and make the best decision?
It’s no easy task. It’s a mixture of “touchy-feely” considerations and objective research and analysis.
Putting an employer under this kind of scrutiny takes a lot of thought, research and time spent talking with the people who will affect your future. But, once you have the information you need, you’ll be able to put everything into perspective when deciding whether to accept the job.
TIP #1: MAKE SURE YOU’LL BE WORKING WITH GOOD PEOPLE.
A job application should cut two ways: they get to know you and you get to know them.
Don’t base your decision to take a job solely on the people the organisation wants you to meet. Once hired, you will likely spend more time with people you’ve never met than with the person who hired you - and you’ll be affected by the decisions these people make. To assess the fit of other people in the organisation you have to explore much further.
1. Do a search online for the key players in the organisation.
If possible, see what the press has to say about them. At a minimum, review the information on their LinkedIn profile.
2. Tap into your networks to find out about your target organisation and its people.
LinkedIn is an excellent starting point to identify contacts who can give you valuable information about your target.
3. Talk to the people who depend on the organisation for their own success.
Track down the organisation’s customers, its vendors and its competitors. Each of them will give you a different perspective on the business.
4. Probe for character.
You don’t want to accept an appealing job, only to find that the people you have to work with (not necessarily in your own department) are inept, unmotivated or unenthusiastic - or that they have a completely different work ethic.
5. Ask to meet the key players before you accept the role.
Many organisations will be surprised when you make this request prior to accepting an offer. That’s why it’s sometimes best to wait until they’ve made a solid commitment to you. Once you have the offer, you have more control and they’re less likely to refuse.
TIP #2: CHECK THAT THE ORGANISATION PRODUCES A GOOD PRODUCT OR SERVICE
A few years ago, I worked with a client, Dimitri, who won a role with one of the most notorious organisations in Adelaide. He received plenty of warnings about the place but he chose to ignore them and accepted the role. Dimitri lasted just under 3 months there and then had to start his job search all over again. He was not a happy chappy, as you can imagine!
Take the long view. Judge an organisation on what it successfully ships out the door and on how happy its customers are, because that is what will pay your salary and provide you with more work. If the product isn’t a good one, neither is the job offer.
1. Compare the service or product to similar products.
You can also try to benchmark the product against itself. What did it look like a year ago? How has it evolved to meet the needs of customers?
2. Check the support.
How much does the organisation spend on R&D? On training? Does the organisation develop its “people assets” as aggressively as it develops technology? Does it demonstrate that it’s a long-term player in its industry?
TIP #3: DELAY YOUR RESPONSE TO A JOB OFFER
Don’t accept an offer on the spot. Express your appreciation and strong interest in the job. Request at least 24 hours to consider it, even when saying “Yes.”
1. Make a list of the pros and cons of the job offer.
Assess the job offer in terms of your needs, benefits, and long-term career and life goals.
2. Communicate with clarity.
If you want the job, make it clear. If you are uncertain, state there are some items you would like to discuss before you can accept the job. Suggest meeting further to talk about the offer.
TIP #4: MANAGE AMBIGUITY WITH FINESSE
Job Search is not always straight-forward. You may have queries, multiple offers or you may want to turn down an offer. Finesse is the key here.
1. Juggle multiple offers skilfully.
Unless the immediate offer is for your ideal job, this is the time to get on the phone and obtain an up-to-date reading on all the situations that are in play.
2. Get the timing right with multiple offers.
If your skilful push accelerates negotiations with one or more of your prospects, then the question is whether it is practical and prudent to delay your response to your No.1 job offer while you bring one of the others to a close.
3. Factor in the risks.
This sort of delaying action requires judgement, finesse and a bit of luck. At some point, you may have to accept or reject the offer in hand and bear the consequences.
4. Refuse gracefully if you decide to decline the offer.
Even when saying “no,” leave the door open to negotiation. It could be that six months from now, they will remember you favourably when a bigger job comes up.
Lawyers at Fifty Paces
Once you have decided on a role, the second critical skill relates to your employment contract.
You should not be afraid to negotiate an employment contract that fully protects your interests. The whole point of having a contract of employment is to provide certainty in what is invariably a complex business relationship.
Indeed, an astute employer will recognise that your ability to look after your own interests will hopefully translate into an ability to fight for the organisation’s interests.
TIP #5: GET THE EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT RIGHT
An employment contract is an essential part of protecting the interests of both you and the organisation.
1. Check whether the terms and conditions are reasonable.
Many employment contracts are constructed to protect the employer and may cause you considerable harm e.g. what prohibitions or penalties will prevent you from joining a competitor? If the contract provides for termination “for cause”, what would constitute adequate cause?
2. Protect yourself from takeovers and acquisitions.
Aim for your employment contract to contain a clause which guarantees you a relatively painless landing if you get merged out of a job.
3. Consider other professional advisors such as an accountant or tax lawyer.
If your package includes complex programs (stock, benefits, etc.), it is advisable to check with experts before you make your final decision.
All you can control in life is your own behaviour
You are no longer operating in an economy where you work for 30 years and retire with a gold watch. In fact, you are likely to switch jobs every four to five years on average. So, being able to identify whether a role and an organisation is right for you and then negotiating a favourable employment contract are critical skills:
- When it comes to evaluating the offer, don’t fall in love with being loved. Separate out any wooing you receive from the prospective employer. Do your homework, stand back from the situation and talk to wise people in your life. And then make a sensible decision.
- And, in regard to contract negotiation, the only safety net is the one you negotiate yourself.
Now is not the time for impulsive gestures. Moving to another employer will invariably involve certain risks. You need to do what you can to minimise these risks and optimise the benefits.
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aBOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert. She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au
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