Monday, January 17, 2011

Mackay: Less pay may be the path to opportunity

It's a great opportunity, maybe even your dream job. All the stars are lining up - the company you've admired, top-notch staff, terrific benefits, ideal location. You've aced the interview, and you know you'd be a perfect fit. What more could you ask for?

Maybe that's the wrong question. Maybe you should be asking, what less would you be willing to take?

A 2009 CNN Money report says, "With more than three job seekers for every opening, more workers are having to take significant pay cuts to find employment."

Current employment figures are not much brighter. Experts predict we will not see job numbers improve to pre-recession levels for at least five years. And though unemployment benefits have been extended, they are no match for a rewarding, fulfilling job. That's a message I hear repeatedly as I release the paperback edition of my book, "Use Your Head To Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You."

Many are out of work through no fault of their own and can't afford to wait for the dream job to open. Others discover the jobs they had weren't right for them - too much responsibility, too many hours, burnout or philosophical differences. Whatever the reason, plenty of qualified people who are looking for jobs have real challenges convincing interviewers that they can work for less and be content.

Shrinking company budgets force managers to get maximum bang for the buck while finding ways to maintain or grow business. Hiring decisions have greater impact when fewer employees must carry the load. A bad hire can be disastrous.

Try to explain to a hiring manager that you are interested in taking a job that includes a pay cut, and a number of questions pop up. Were you overpaid at your last job? Will you jump ship the minute a more lucrative opportunity is presented? Will you be able to survive on a smaller salary? If you are such a bargain, why hasn't someone else hired you already? Are you willing to work harder for less money? Do you have some ulterior motive?

Hiring managers look for competent people who are confident in their abilities. Your biggest selling point, surprisingly, isn't your price tag.

You have demonstrated that you are flexible, willing to take on a new challenge, bring great experience with you and can't wait to get started. You are prepared to work as hard as you can to advance the company's goals. The interviewer is starting to wonder why any company would have let you slip away.

The biggest mistake you can make at that point is to show any bitterness about your situation. Instead, seize the day by radiating your most positive face. Your last company's loss will be your next employer's gain!

As an astute person, you know that salary negotiations come much later, after you have convinced the interviewer that you are the best candidate for the position. Be honest when you are asked why you are willing to work for less.

- "I know that the market can't support my previous salary, so I have committed to downsizing my lifestyle. I decided having a vacation home was becoming more work than pleasure."

- "I love my work and I was sorry when my former company eliminated our department. I am willing to demonstrate my ability by working free for 60 days."

- "My company relocated to another state. My wife's job is here, and we chose not to move our family even though it meant giving up my job."

- "I know that times are tough everywhere, and I am willing to help the company move to profitability knowing that the employee contributions will be rewarded at a later time."

Stating your reasons in direct, honest terms will mitigate fears that you are looking for a glorified temp job until something better comes along. Few companies have been exempt from downsizing or budget reductions. Relating that reality to your personal situation can reassure the interviewer that your expectations are reasonable.

One cautionary note: Don't apologize for showing interest in a lower-paying job. Your worth can't be measured only in dollars.

Mackay's Moral: The difference between "survive" and "thrive" is keeping your options alive.

by Harvey Mackay January 17, 2011

Mackay: Less pay may be the path to opportunity

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