You don’t have a lot of bargaining power if you receive a job offer these days. But there are some rules to keep in mind that will help keep your expectations in line and guide you through the process.
There are usually two distinct types of candidates when the job market is tight like it is now. Those that won’t budge on their expectations and those who would sell themselves for a buck just to be employed. Neither strategy is going to get you anywhere.
For those that will ‘take anything’, even a 35% pay cut and a junior-level title, you won’t get hired. Period. And you’ve shot yourself in the foot for being considered for a more senior and appropriate position when it comes available with the company because you’ve devalued yourself in their eyes by applying to positions you are majorly overqualified for. Even if you are desperate, you must be smart about your choices. Trying to talk your way into being considered for a role that's simply wrong is going to waste everyone's time.
And then there are those of you out there as well who don’t appear to understand the change of power that’s occurred in the past 12 months. Unless you invented the internet, it’s probably time to make some concessions. No one in their right mind would be happy about a reduction in salary but these are times like most of us haven’t experienced before in our working life. There are compromises that can and should be made regarding title, salary, and perks and there are actually some guidelines to go with them.
First off don’t sweat it – ever. This crazy industry has so many titles for the same role that it’s ridiculous. But titles do exist and a good rule of thumb to follow is to be open to 1 level back from your most recent title. More than 1 is too much of a step back and will reflect poorly on your resume in the future, but everyone will understand a small step back in title in the future that occurs during 2009 or even 2010.
This one is tougher because if you’re open to relocation then cost of living comes into play. So let’s assume apples-to-apples. In good times, it is realistic to expect about a 7-10% increase when changing jobs. These are not good times and you should think seriously about your financial position and know where you can make cuts in preparation for a 5-10% reduction in salary with your next position. (Perhaps you can actually afford more. Get out the calculator and determine your bottom number now).
It’s a buyer’s market and even a lateral move just might not be realistic. It’s ok – you can make it up in the future. If you are hired by a company for less money than your last job, make the best of it by looking for opportunities to grow your skill set so that when the market comes back, you can make a jump up to pre-recession paycheck levels because you are bringing more to the table.
I think I need to throw this one in as well. If it’s humanly possible, open your mind to a new city. Likely a less glamorous city. In the last employment downturn (2001 & 2002) there was relatively consistent hiring in the middle part of the country. That seems to be holding true in 2009 as well. With the right attitude, you can make any town or city livable for the life of the job. And hey if not, consider it an experiment in anthropology - learn about a new culture.
When you apply to positions in other cities, you should always state whether or not you expect relocation assistance. Most everyone thinks of this as a given, but not right now. If you can throw it in a U-Haul and start driving to Anytown, USA then make that known. It can up your chances significantly. And if you own a home and are open to relocation, get it ready to rent. It’s a bad time sell anything right now, houses included. The market is flooded with families who need to rent because of mortgage foreclosures.
We will eventually come to the other side of this downturn/recession in the job market but in the meantime it’s more important than ever to manage your career and be aware of the impact of decisions you are making now. Things may be painful at the moment but with some smart moves you can position yourself to be in a good spot when this turns around.