Is Salary King When Picking a New Career?
To our readers: GoodCall® continues its look at switching careers and strategies for it. Earlier, writer Marisa Sanfilippo recounted how the experts advise creating strategies for a change. Below, contributor Maria Baranowska examines what part salary should play in picking a new career.
Changing a career can be big decision. After all, it has major ramifications on the rest of a person’s daily life. There are many reasons for wanting a change: Some people like the challenge of an entirely new career and might jump from accountant to software engineer, while others might want to stay in the same sector but look to improve employee benefits such as salary and flexible working patterns.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that, on the whole, women are “uncomfortable with the idea of negotiating” when it comes to salaries, but truthfully that is an area that everyone could do better with more practice.
It might seem like a glib comment to make, but the hardest part of finding a new career actually making that first step toward admitting that something new is attractive. Feelings of boredom and lack of fulfilment can prompt it; so can being presented with the right opportunity at just the right time.
Regardless, admitting that change might be good is the first step. To paraphrase movie director James Cameron, making the first move is the hardest part – everything else is just negotiating a budget and fee, which in the case of a new career means salary. But how does one know whether he or she is significantly under- or over-selling when it comes to the requested salary?
Anchors a way to set a baseline
When it comes to negotiating salary for a new career, it’s good to have an anchor, a figure around which expectations can be based. If you are in the same sector and are moving jobs then it might seem sensible to base your expectations on what you currently earn. But you could be doing yourself a massive disservice.
You should also look around to see what others in the same or similar roles earn. Now, not everyone is open to revealing what they make – salary is still a taboo subject in many quarters. Anonymous salary surveys can offer great insight into the current salary market and can act as a good starting place for discussions. With salary surveys, you do need to take into consideration some factors: Geography, age, experience, industry, and more can all affect a salary so use this as a guide, not as gospel.
Make it about the new career role
If you’re moving into a completely different sector, sometimes an interviewer can fixate on your current salary – instead of your new requirements. Try to refocus the discussion around the new role. Stay locked on to the responsibilities and outline what you hope to accomplish in the first month, quarter, and year.
This works especially well when you seek a change to a more junior position in a new industry and worry about appearing overqualified. When employers see someone taking a drop in pay, they can sometimes jump to the conclusion that the individual will be looking to jump ship for a better offer as soon as it comes along. To address this, focus less on the salary and more on the role – emphasise why you want the position and make it easier for an employer to invest in you.
Change your mindset
You do meetings all the time. You negotiate budgets, agree responsibilities, work out differences between members of staff and draft up partnerships … So what’s so different about a job interview? Even people who haven’t been in business meetings such as these, have changed cable providers or phone plans. That’s negotiating, too – weighing up the pros and cons of both options, hearing what the company has to offer and making your mind up. Sometimes the company will match what you want (or come close enough) or the difference might be too great and you part ways. In essence, a job interview is almost exactly the same!
You wouldn’t go into those meetings with a passive mind and nor should you when it comes to salary negotiations. It’s a two-way discussion that ultimately lands with compromise. If the salary is lower than you would accept, can it be bolstered in other ways? Additional vacation days, extra training or educational opportunities, and other perks such as a bonus structure are alternatives to pursue if you want the job badly enough.
The job market is a volatile beast and your past salary history may not have any bearing on your future salary in your new career. Don’t let employers bully you into a specific salary range based on irrelevant roles from your past; work to change the ‘anchor’ so it’s more about the role which allows you to redefine the position to get a new offer.
(Maria Baranowska is a freelance writer who specialiszes in business, technology and recruitment. After working as a responsible marketer for more than five years, Maria now translates that experience into actionable advice and thought-provoking analysis.)