Rule 1: Selling yourself cheap to get a foot in the door can
mean a broken toe. Good employers aren't looking for bargain employees;
they want ones with commitment and self-value. A common salary boost
when changing jobs is 10 to 20 percent. Giving up salary in exchange
for nebulous prospects of advancement is iffy; a new post is a chance
for a jump in pay that will reverberate for years as raises compound
on your higher base (the same is true of any benefits tied to salary).
Rule 2: Don't forget the halo effect. Compensation experts
say someone whose pay starts high is likely to get a hefty boost at
the first salary review as well. One strategy is to advance the date
when the first salary review will come–perhaps to six months instead
of a year.
Rule 3: Think signing bonus. Thorndike Deland Associates, a
New York search firm, says three quarters of 700 firms it surveyed now
offer signing bonuses. Such bonuses vary widely; $2,000 to $5,000 is
common, sometimes more. A number of firms pay on the day you start,
others wait three to six months or even a year. Bonuses ostensibly cover
the expense and strain of adjusting to a new job, but they're also a
way for a firm to offer a fillip without upsetting an established salary
Rule 4: The cost of living varies widely. A $75,000 salary
in Atlanta may buy the same as a $98,000 one in Boston or a $68,000
salary in San Antonio, according to calculations for midlevel managerial
and professional lifestyles by Dowden & Associates, which analyzes compensation.
Such comparisons are only a rough guideline, but you can use an online
calculator at www.datamasters.com to check Dowden comparisons for other
cities. Another site, www.aboutwork.com, offers many job resources,
including a breakdown of specific living costs by area. Pay scales at
many national companies for middle- and upper-level personnel are sometimes
fairly standard across the country, so moving from a high-cost area
to a low-cost one may pay off. A third site, jobsmart.org, has links
to salary surveys for a variety of industries and positions.
Rule 5: Pay attention to stock options, both coming and going.
Start-up firms are often cash poor, and many offer incentives such as
stock options and other deferred compensation to make up for modest
pay and fringe benefits. The upside is that you'll get stock at a bargain
price if the firm and its shares prosper; the downside is that you assume
more risk. If your current firm offers deferred incentives, check out
the rules. Stock options may need to be exercised before you leave,
but exercising them might subject you to a noncompete agreement that
limits whom you can work for or the clients you can solicit.
Rule 6: Forget about a contract. They're rare except for the
topmost spots and special situations. But it's smart to ask for a letter
detailing your agreement and any promises that were made to you.
I would be glad to receive any offers concerning work or business.
I am open to listen and to discuss them.