Recently, Paysa asked me to share insight on career planning, including when to switch careers and asking for a raise. You can see the original post here.
Can you tell us about your professional background and your interest in helping people advance in their careers?
My interest in career development comes from my background as a military spouse. I followed my husband throughout his military career; we moved every three years or so. We were stationed in eight states and once in Europe. Each time we moved, I had to rebuild my network, reimagine my career and reinvent myself. Eventually, I became more and more efficient at figuring out what comes next. I developed resilience and confidence, and I’m thrilled to have the chance every day to pass some of my hard-earned wisdom on to others.
What’s your philosophy or approach to career coaching? How do you advise your clients on charting their careers?
I believe that everyone should have three jobs: one that pays the bills, one that builds your skills and one that gives you chills.
So even if your day job is not exciting, you can view it as a way of funding your dream career. You should always have a master plan that outlines where you’re headed, and you should be working on acquiring the skills and experience that will put you on that path to success. (Building your skills can even take place in a volunteer job or apprenticeship, since your day job will be paying your bills.) And you should always have a side gig that you do for the joy of the work itself. I’m a firm believer in diversification of your income stream; when you have several ways to make a living, no one person can put you out of work. You control your economic destiny.
I practice that philosophy myself. I have a day job with CareerSource and I teach at a local university several times a year. I also have my writing and editing practice that brings in revenue and allows me to expand my skills and sphere of influence. I love the work, which brings me great satisfaction, so although I may be busy, I almost never feel stressed feel stressed.
What do you think are the most common mistakes individuals make when navigating their careers?
I think the most common mistake is allowing themselves to become complacent in their careers. They slip into a comfortable job, stop networking and forget to grow and learn. When the market changes, or their company makes a decision to go in another direction, they’re caught flat-footed. They find themselves without a support system or network outside their industry. They have to start over again, and it can take years to rebuild their careers and income. It’s important to think like a consultant, even if you’re tethered to a company. Stay hungry and think like a gig worker, even if you’re not basing your income on gigs.
What are the best methods for individuals to grow their salaries in a given field?
Your value goes up when you develop a specialty or expertise that’s rare and valued. Taking on the most challenging projects builds your experience and your reputation, which will in turn build your value.
Expanding your skill set to include writing about or training within your profession will also provide opportunities for consulting or other side gigs, which, as you can see by now, I always recommend for any professional who wants to increase or diversify her income.
What advice can you offer on approaching your boss about a raise? What are the dos and don’ts?
I recommend that professionals keep a career journal as a way to remember your accomplishments and outcomes. That will be a great way to build your case for an increase. There are really only two reasons for a manager to justify a pay raise: increased value to the company (a bigger role or more valuable skills set) or an adjustment to meet current market value for your role. Either way, it’s your job to collect the data and package it for your boss to consider.
It’s important to make your case on data and not personal needs or wants. It’s always harrowing to ask for a raise, but the asking itself makes you stronger, even if you don’t get what you asked for.
What are the best reasons for considering a career switch?
If you feel that you’re not growing or being challenged any more in your current role, you should definitely start planning a change. (Which may not always mean leaving your current company, by the way.) Becoming stale is the worst thing that can happen in your job.
You should also leave if your company doesn’t treat you as the valuable asset you are. No one should work for a company that doesn’t value its people. Life is too short to stay in a toxic work environment.
Where should individuals start when planning a career switch? What shouldn’t they do?
Research is a critical first step. Learn about the current market for your skills, then decide in what direction you’d like to move. You can make a lateral move in which you do what you do in another industry or new company, or you can decide to move up to a more challenging role. Invest some time in meeting with people who can give you insights into the careers you’re exploring; ask them what lessons they learned along their career path.
Ideally, you can also have a frank conversation with your manager about your plan to consider other opportunities. Presumably, your loss will make a difference to the company, and you may be able to negotiate changes that improve your job satisfaction without leaving. There’s even a term for this: a “stay” interview (rather than an exit interview.) Give your boss a chance to make you want to stay. If it doesn’t work out, at least you’ll both be clear on your goals and the company will be more prepared for your eventual exit.
How should job seekers use sites like Paysa to improve the quality of their job hunt?
Since research is such a key part of planning your career, sites like Paysa should play an important role in your decisions. Knowing your market value is critical to your success, whether you’re planning a move or asking for a raise. And Paysa offers resources to help you in negotiating a salary offer, asking for a raise, and understanding your value to the company. You’re never alone in the process when you have that kind of powerful information available to you.
What career advice do you find yourself repeating to clients over and over?
You are responsible for your career growth. Not your boss, not your company. You. If you’re not growing, learning and being challenged every day, you’re not headed in the right direction.
We’re all like sharks. (I’m from Florida; we know sharks.) If you’re not moving forward, you’re sinking. When you’re in charge of your own professional development, you’ll grow your confidence as well. You’ll be able to say, “I have something better than job security. I have talent.”
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