It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…
1. My employer is sticking me with part of the bill for out-of-town travel
My employer wishes me to work out of town occasionally. I have to stay in a hotel and obviously feed myself regularly. The company gives me a per diem rate of $110 to cover all my expenses. Unfortunately, this NEVER even comes close to covering my hotel costs — and I am not even being particular about a hotel. The city is Calgary, Alberta and take a peek online, there is nowhere that I can stay that will give me anything leftover for food costs.
I have explained to my employer that I am always out of pocket and I cannot afford to do this anymore. They have stated that this is all they will pay for my expenses. What are my options?
Sit down with your manager and say, “It’s costing me an average of $X of my own money each time I take a trip. I can’t continue to cover these costs, which are being incurred by our work, not me personally. I’ve looked for every place I can cut costs on these trips, but they each require around $Y, not the $X I’m allotted. Since I can’t continue to pay for them myself, what should we do?” If your company still won’t budge, then you’d be left to (a) refuse to take more trips, which may or may not jeopardize your job, (b) accept that you’re going to be paying $X in order to stay in your job, or (c) seek a new one, at a company that pays its own expenses.
2. Independent study as a way to stay current in your field
Your answer to the question in yesterday’s short answer post about taking a back-up job while continuing to seek work in your field, particularly the end where you mention being prepared “to talk about what you’ve been doing to stay current in your field,” prompted this question. What do you, as a hiring manager, think of independent study as a way to stay current in your field when your current job isn’t related to it or isn’t enough? I have been out of school for a little over a year (graduated May 2012) and while my current job looks relevant on paper, I actually don’t do much at all and don’t have any opportunities to develop skills, despite reaching out several times to my manager about this.
I am searching for a new job, but in the meantime I’ve been compensating by studying on my own time. I read books (ones I bought for classes and newer ones I’ve acquired since graduating), follow germane and reputable blogs, and learn software. Since I can’t “prove” I’ve been doing this, not with hard evidence anyway, would it be worth mentioning it in a cover letter or interview? I mean, anyone can say they’ve been keeping up on their own time, so maybe a hiring manager would either be skeptical or not care one way or the other if I bring it up. I’d really appreciate your insight.
Yes, absolutely you should mention it! If it makes sense to mention the software on your resume, you can list that there, and you can talk about the rest of it in your cover letter and interviews. Hiring managers love to see this kind of thing — it indicates a passion for your field, a desire to continue improving your skills, and self-motivation to do that stuff even when it’s not required; it’s the mark of a better-than-average employee, by far.
3. What leverage do I have in negotiating a higher salary for my promotion?
I literally fought for my promotion after being in the current role for 5+ years. Finally I made them budge by suggesting that I was going to apply for a higher position in a different department within the same company. I made up my mind to really move to that position, in case things did not go my way.
Now I am being offered a promotion with a 6% raise and was told either to accept it or stay in the current position. I was expecting at least a 10% raise and I know others in the promoted role are being paid at least 20% more than what I am making today in my current role. I want to know what leverage I have now and how to negotiate for more.
The leverage you have is your willingness to walk away from both jobs, and how much they’d care if you did. I don’t have any sense from here of how much they’d care, but you probably have at least some idea. (Be aware, though, that sometimes people overestimate that.)
You can certainly make the argument for the work and your skills being worth a higher salary, and you can back that up with market research, but they may or may not budge. If they don’t, you’ll have to decide if you’re interested in the terms being offered or whether you’d rather stay in your current job or look for one outside the company.
(Also, did you really “literally” fight for your promotion? That seems like it would be a firing offense.)
4. Is it better to hire for skills or attitude?
I am a fairly new manager, and I am in the position of having to hire new staff. One of my staff recently accepted a promotion so her position is vacant. My supervisor has told me to focus on skills when creating the job description — that it does not have to be the same exact position title or position as before. I am excited about the opportunity to shape my team, but I do have a dilemma about this. I have two junior staff on my team, and both of them have come to me about the position. One has the right can-do attitude, completes any task given to her, and she is looking to move ahead in the organization, but she lacks technical skills. The other has more technical experience, and she told me point-blank that she would be resentful if the other junior staff member got promoted because she feels that she would have to train her to be able to do the job she is promoted to. I made no promises to either of them and thanked them for expressing their views.
My question to you as I write the job description — is it better to have someone in a team lead role who has a strong work ethic and is all around positive and can learn the skills or is it better to hire someone based on skills only? What is most important — the skill set or the attitude and growth potential?
It depends on the job. There are some jobs where it might make sense to hire for attitude and teach the work itself, when it won’t require a major investment of time to do so. There are other jobs where experience and a pre-existing skill set are essential. I don’t know which you’re dealing with, but I do know that what you never want to do is hire only for skills. That’s a recipe for disaster. You might require the skills to be there, but you should always require the right attitude to be there — because that’s something that you can’t really teach, nor should you spend your time trying. So if your second staff member has a poor attitude, I’d discount her based on that alone.
That doesn’t mean that you should hire the other one though … which leads me to this: Is there a reason you’re determined to pick between these two people, rather than opening the job up and comparing these two to outside candidates? You might find a candidate who has the skills, attitude, and growth potential that you want — and you should hire the best person for the job, not confine yourself to a choice of two.
5. Should I evaluate my current job on where it might take me in 5-7 years?
I have been told a few times that if I want to be promoted, I should be evaluating my current positions on a 5-year basis — i.e., if there is no room to move up in the next 5-7 years, I should leave the company and find a new company with more growth potential. Do you think this 5-year plan is a valid theory, especially with the high unemployment rate?
I think it’s useful to think about where you want to be in 5-7 years and whether your current job is positioning you well for that — but that doesn’t mean that it has to provide you with room to move up within the company. Your current position might have no growth potential internally but might be positioning you really well to eventually move up outside your company. It’s about growth potential generally, not specific to your current organization.
6. Should I cover scars on my arms for interviews?
I graduated school back in December and have been applying to jobs ever since. More recently, I have been going on interviews that have gone quite well. I would love to get one of these jobs, but I was cutter for about ten years and as such have scars from it (a lot of scars and some that are quite noticeable). I read your post about bruises and cuts, but my question is should I keep my scars covered in interviews, and while I am at work in general?
I worry that it will cause potential or future employers to worry about my mental health, and thus whether if I would be a good fit. I tend to wear a lot of cardigans because I love them, but also don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable, but this has raised a lot of questions in the warmer months. I am hard worker and I tend to be private, and don’t want what was a past problem to be cause for concern now.
I’d cover them for interviews, mainly because you don’t want an interviewer focusing on anything about you other than how you’d do in the job. But I wouldn’t use a cardigan for that — in most industries, that’s too informal for an interview. You want a suit jacket for interviews.
Once you’re in a job, you have a lot more leeway. If you don’t feel like covering your arms, you shouldn’t have to — but if you feel private about it, there’s no reason you can’t wear cardigans (lightweight ones in the summer). If anyone asks you about it, you can simply say you get cold easily. And given the prevalence of overly air conditioned offices, you’re probably not going to be the only one in a cardigan anyway. Good luck.
7. Should I jump ship or stay where I am?
I work in an industry (media) where building my profile outside the company is really important.
I work for a smallish company that’s doing pretty well, and I recently asked for my job title to reflect the job I’m actually doing (which I started doing when the person who was doing it was fired).
The company is dragging its feet on this. I never get a “no,” I just get a “Well, there’s a lot going on right now and I’ll have to think about it.” I’ve asked three different people at various levels of the command chain about this over the past six months, and all that’s happened in the meanwhile is that my workload and responsibility — and to be fair, my level of public exposure — have increased while my pay and job title have not.
Meanwhile, there’s an opening at a competitor at the level I’m looking for that I could probably get. But it’s a back-end job that won’t see me building as much of a profile outside the company as I am now. Should I cut my losses here and jump ship? Or will moving into a back-office role not be worth the pay raise in the end?
I don’t know — which will better serve your long-term professional interests? It sounds like your current one might, but there’s not enough information here for me to know.
What I can say for sure, though, is that your choices aren’t to stay in your current job or to take a job that doesn’t sound like it would serve your professional interests as well. Your choices are to stay in your current job or conduct a search for work elsewhere — not just at this one competitor.