Today’s job club speaker – Sheryl Freisz on compensation

Hi all you LaunchPad lovers,

I attended today’s Launchpad and came away with some notes that I thought I would share. Sheryl Friesz has been a corporate recruiter for the past 22 years and she shared her experience on that side of the table, as well as our side (she’s a job seeker herself as she moved her from the California Bay area).

I found most of Sheryl’s advice to be spot on. However, I believe there is a big difference between the Bay Area and Austin, TX in the approach companies use in hiring. Having moved here myself from California, this job market is much different – in my opinion. My hunch is that is because Texas is a right-to-work state, while California is not. California has a rich history of unions and organizing and I believe that history prevails in how companies treat their staff. (It could also have something to do with the amount of lawsuits won as a result of wrongful termination, poor hiring practices, etc.) — Enough said…..let’s get to the meat of Sheryl’s advice.

Sheryl spoke mostly that four-letter word that gets most of us to sweat — comp. As in compensation. Her advice is to get used to speaking regularly and freely about compensation before you get an offer so the very idea of it being discussed in a real situation won’t make you twitch.

Some great advice she offered was that regardless of how badly we want to be employed, the right job should be about a mutually beneficially relationship. Compensation is part of the value your employer puts on your skills and strengths. With apologies to those who must take a survival job, she said if you just jump into an immediate fix and take any position, you will soon be back in the process of job hunting and negotiation all over again.

Her advice was to set yourself up for success and make sure HR or recruiting also sets you up for success in the interview and in discuss compensation. It is incumbent upon HR to help you understand the compensation range and why it was setup in that manner. Your responsibility lies in researching salary ranges for both the job title as well as the responsibilities required of the position — and then merging that research together to come up with a salary range (minimum/medium/maximum).

So, GET OVER your fear of compensation. Remove the emotion! The more you talk about it the better able you’ll be able to handle this discussion during an interview. Remove the emotion! AND, especially don’t base your compensation discussion on the fact that “you have a wife, 4 kids in 7 different states, a chevy, a boat, you’re taking care of grandma. . . Any comment about your personal situation should not come out of your mouth when discussing compensation — no one wants to know this information. Just Don’t Go There. . . in the word’s of Kathy, that is swamp land. You need to keep the conversation intellectual and substantiate why you are worth what you’re asking.

To prepare for the compensation discussion, do your research. Read the company’s website, log on to the quarterly earnings call (if the company is public), read all the press releases, read the recent speech they gave as a keynote speaker at an industry event. All this and more if available on the company’s site, find out their goals for this year, and how their business has been going. This is information you can use to substantiate why you want the compensation package for which you are asking.

Sheryl does not agree that the first person to mention compensation loses. Her advice is the moment you submit an application, begin to figure out your compensation for that organization. Great places to find salary figures are at glassdoor.com and salary.com. Glassdoor.com is a newer site where employees of companies can post their title and their compensation (one area to note – employees don’t list how long they have been with the company, so take that into consideration when looking at salary ranges). Salary.com offers more detail on the job description and duties so she suggests looking both at the title of the position for which you have applied, as well as other titles that fit the actual job description. This will give you a good range of salaries to consider. Salary.com also offers the ability to put in the zip code where the position is located; as well as the number of employees working at the company — all important to consider when coming up with your salary requirements.

Good companies will realize if someone comes in with additional experience, more or advanced skills, and rerun the compensation numbers to be sure they are within range. They will also consider what others in the company are being paid percentage-wise so that your salary is in line with others. A good company will do those things as they don’t want to waste your time — or theirs.

Sheryl also cautioned that if during the interview process the company is behaving badly, not getting back to you following an interview, playing hard ball on the compensation that you need to decide if you really want to work for them. In other words, “welcome to their world” — these behaviors point to other areas where the company and its employees will be disorganized and behave badly. Is this really the situation that’s a fit for you? Sheryl recommends setting the stage — so if someone isn’t being professional, detailed or intellectual that you start things out that way and offer substantiated data and research on your compensation. In many situations, this will cause them to act similarly.

The key to opening a dialogue on compensation is “help me understand” why the compensation is setup as it is. Some words of caution: it’s too late to negotiate when:

– you have an offer in hand.

-when the offer has been put in the FedEx package.

-when an employer says “I want to bring you in as – insert job title – and you say yes.

-and when no one’s talked about compensation.

Offers don’t just get written and sent. There is an entire sign-off process. HR or recruiting is asked whether the compensation package will be accepted by the candidate. If so then the offer must be signed off by the hiring manager, a department VP, the CFO and possibly others. If you start negotiating after you receive the offer, then HR is faced with going back and explaining why you need an extra $5K, an extra week of vacation or something else — and the signature process begins again.

Start by having a mutually beneficial discussion on compensation with your new employer. If you feel the compensation being offered is low, then give them a better understanding of how your qualifications meet and exceed the job requirements. Go through what you can offer the company and take into account what you can’t offer them or areas where you don’t meet the job requirements. Always thank them for the offer and the opportunity to work there and then say “I just want to make sure this is mutually beneficial, where can we negotiate.” Then, STOP talking. Let the employer tell you where negotiation is possible.

Have this dialogue in a manner where you are creating a conversation and allowing them to share and communicate with you and you with them.

Be sure and follow Sheryl (sfriesz) on Twitter for more tips.

August 21, 2009 at 5:46 pm 1 comment

Been looking lately, Governor?

By now most of you have read or heard numerous news stories about Gov. Rick Perry rejecting $555 in federal stimulus money for unemployment benefits. Many of the reports implied that Central Texans on unemployment would see their benefits stop — which is not the case. I just read an opinion article in today’s Houston Chronicle that tells the Governor’s side of the story — see  http://tiny.cc/pf1vI. Whether you agree with the Governor’s decision or not, it is important to remain fully aware of decisions that may affect your benefits and to get your news from multiple sources. The gloom and doom headlines seen day after day often lead job seekers to get discouraged and throw in the towel. Remaining positive and keeping your enthusiasm and energy up are by far the most powerful tools you can use in your job search. I like to remember that it only takes 1 opening to move me to the employed category. Believe in yourself — the rest will follow.

July 30, 2009 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

Four things I know about unemployment

I’ve just been hired. Phew, what a journey. Looking back over my shoulder, this is what I know to be true:

  • There’s nothing like a good recruiter
  • You can make a difference with a little ingenuity
  • Investigate before you eliminate
  • Always bet on yourself to win

You already know about getting out and meeting people to make job contacts, but I would add that there’s nothing like a good recruiter to help you open new doors. And a good recruiter is a responsive recruiter. When I first became unemployed in March of 09, recruiters seemed nowhere in sight; that is no longer the case — a harbinger of good things to come I hope.

I’ve also found that you can make inroads if you try something out of the ordinary. I sent a resume package, Fed Ex, for a job I really, really wanted. I included a resume, business card, original content and value presentation in a folder with the cover letter clipped to the outside. It was an expensive tactic, but the VP who responded continues to maintain contact with me.

In the beginning of my employment search, I automatically scrapped jobs that referenced unfamiliar acronyms/programs/methodologies. That is, until I realized I either had the experience/knowledge/skill referenced in the job description or could teach myself what I needed to know. So unknowns are worth investigating.

Finally, this one is much more subtle. I always chose to bet on myself. That is, I acted as though I would be returning to work within a few weeks. I made that doctor’s appointment, ate well and purchased the things I needed to take care of myself. I’m not talking about spending money. I’m talking about a state-of -mind. I continued to invest in my best asset.

What’s on your plate?

July 9, 2009 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Newly unemployed? Don’t agonize, prioritize

If you are unemployed for the first time, welcome to the collective 13.7 million. You might be feeling overwhelmed right now, but help is on the way.

If you get started right away with your “to do” list, it will help to restore a sense of order and forward momentum to your life.

Part of the trick is knowing, not only what to do, but when to do it. To help you take one thing at a time, I’ve created a 20-step, loosely-prioritized quick-start for the journey ahead.

  1. Sign up for unemployment. Don’t put this off — there’s approximately a three-week waiting period between registering and receiving your first payment. But the good news is: Austin unemployment counselors are very responsive if/when you need help.
  2. Check in with your family members. They need you; you need them. This is probably the most important of all the 20 steps.
  3. Create a detailed budget. This will help you to get your arms around your financial situation. You may be able to get help paying your mortgage and/or credit card bills.
  4. Arrange for medical coverage. You can find a variety of relatively low cost options available on the Web.
  5. Think about what kind of job you want next. This step is harder than it looks.
  6. Build and expand your network. Step 2 may be the most important, but step 6 could easily be the most difficult. You may have to leave your comfort zone, but it’s been proven that the networking process turns up the most effective job leads.
  7. Connect with friends. You may not feel like a social butterfly right now, but friends can make you laugh, add perspective and help you with step 6.
  8. Join the LaunchPad Job Club (LPJC). This step is easy and very rewarding. Find your way to The Monarch Event Center in Lincoln Village, 6406 north IH-35, right across from the Highland Mall. The meeting for newcomers starts at 9:30 on Friday morning. Look for Kathy Lansford; she will help you with all of your questions. Membership is free, and everyone is welcome.
  9. Update your resume (notice this step did not come first, second or even third …). Once you have the basics down, you can get help tweaking your resume every Friday at the LPJC. You’ll also get help ordering business cards, practicing for interviews and much more.
  10. Learn about the job search sites, such as:

    There’s an abundance.

  11. Set up RSS (really simple syndication) feeds to your favorites. To create a feed, watch the video posted at the top of the side bar to the left of this blog, under the category “A little something to get you through the day …”
  12. Post your personal profile on Linkedin.com. Linkedin is today’s premier Internet networking tool. Many recruiters use it to find applicants. You can learn more about it in the LPJC handbook or ask someone at the next meeting.
  13. Grow something. All you need is a little container with a hole in the bottom, a bit of soil and a small plant to get started.
  14. Ask the cable/phone company to reduce your monthly bill. Sometimes they can reshuffle your services to offer a lower rate.
  15. Investigate the benefits available to you through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Attend an orientation to learn more. You’ll find details in the LPJC handbook.
  16. Check out meetup.com and door64.com for great networking opportunities, such as Job fairs, recruiter’s happy hours and much more.
  17. Give yourself credit — for knowing more than you think you know, among other things. For example, Microsoft tends to offer a similar interface throughout it’s productivity suite (and so does Adobe) . If you are proficient with one, you may be able to master another in the same suite more easily than you think.
  18. Volunteer some of your time. It may not lead directly to your next job, but it feels good, and you can network with the new people you meet.
  19. Treat yourself to good coffee, or tea or a vegetable beverage. You’re worth it, and they are still legal in most states.
  20. Whew. That ‘s a lot of imperative sentences, but they should get you off to a good start …

What else do you have on your plate?

June 18, 2009 at 7:16 pm 1 comment

What would Frank say?

The truth about unbridled peace and ever-lasting happiness.

Continue Reading June 4, 2009 at 6:15 pm 5 comments

Good unemployment in Austin

“We’re having a resource action and you’ve been affected.” You hear a phonograph needle skidding across a record, followed by breaking glass.

After a minute you breathe — and dig deep for intestinal fortitude.

You’re not sure how your intestines will help you here, but it’s worth a shot. You’ve lost your job at a very bad time for the nation’s economy, and you’re going to need all the help you can get.

The recruiters have all but left the building. You’re on your own, but you’re not alone. In April, the number of unemployed people in the U.S. rose to 13.7 million. And you are about to meet a few of them.

* * * *

It’s hard to turn around without bumping into someone who has been deeply affected by the crisis. In 2008-2009, a massive economic downturn flooded every state in the country and claimed thousands of jobs in its wake. In the meantime, the nation waits anxiously for news that we’ve finally reached the high-water mark.

Given the dark picture, a few lights are on. Monthly unemployment payments are significantly higher in Texas than they were a few years ago — and the government has tacked on a raise. The likelihood that you’ll get an extension to your six-month pay period looks good; sustained focus from Fed promises relief as stimulus money attempts to resuscitate the economy. And then there’s The Club.

* * * *

At first your universe shrinks and gets very small. But as soon as you learn the holy commandments of job hunting, your world grows bigger — bigger than before:

“Thou shall create a network greater than one’s self.”

“Thou shall not take a networking opportunity in vain.”

“Thou shall network like there’s no tomorrow.”

* * * *

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

—William Arthur Ward

Suddenly you are doing things and going places you never would have done/gone before. Sure, it’s not exactly what you had planned; and yes, you have to leave your comfort zone. But you meet some pretty remarkable people, and along the way you learn a lot about what’s important to you — and what’s not.

A few weeks or days or hours into the trip, you hear about The Club. The words go something like, “Join. It’s a no-brainer.”

* * * *

The first time you go, it’s pouring down rain — but there’s standing-room only in the huge meeting space.

You are surrounded by a bunch of above-average, good-looking people. Kathy Lansford welcomes the crowd, offering job leads, speakers, clublets and hot coffee. Week after week she’s there, giving her attention and her home phone number — yes, you read that correctly — to anyone who needs help. If you have to be unemployed, it’s good to live in Austin.

* * * *

lpjc-2The Launch Pad Job Club (LPJC) is practically a city landmark, if not an Austin treasure. It started in 2001 during the dot.com bust, offering support to record-high numbers of unemployed IT professionals. Since then, the LPJC, run by Kathy Lansford-Powell, has helped nearly 8,000 members acquire skills, find jobs and stay motivated — all free of charge.

That’s what I have on my plate. What’s on yours?

May 26, 2009 at 10:53 am 16 comments


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