Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sitting here in DC looking out the window at the hottest day of the year so far (suppose to hit 100 with about 50% humidity) I was thinking about the heat warnings they issue. You know on the news and the radio: "drink plenty of water, don't lock your dogs in the car, don't run or exert yourself outdoors." This led me to thinking about the heat of negotiations, particularly job negotiations.

I wish there were warnings that went out to both candidates and employers. "Today it is going to get heated, don't forget how much you liked each other. Remember your humility and the joint benefit from working things out together like partners." It seems that we are some how trained through the traditional interview process to play nice during the initial phases and then at the end do an about face and start the "battle of negotiation."

As the job market has consistently grown in the last couple of years and particularly in the last several months I have seen more and more focus on compensation. The reality is there are so few people who every really "win" when waging this war. As a job seeker you can win at getting a big offer with a good increase in compensation, however if you are looking to upgrade your career, skills and take the next step up an entirely different approach is needed. You have to be willing to weigh the long term compensation value of the career stretch the job offers you. You also have to consider how the environment, company and people will help you to build your reputation and enhance your professional experience and satisfaction. If you focus on these components and know what you want from the beginning, communicate what you expect from the beginning you will be likely to get it.

Employers hold the same responsibility to keep in mind how long and hard they have searched for the golden candidate. Is this the person who not only has the skills and capability, but the personality, charisma and drive for the position? When you find this person is it worth it to lose them over $5,000? Is it worth it to risk giving them an offer that is going to disappoint them? When you crunch the numbers of how much it will cost to go with the position unfilled and the cost of continuing to sink resources into interviewing?

So here is my heat warning deep in the heart of July. When the deal heats up and you feel yourself slip into the trap (my friends told me I could get more money. The last guy we really liked had more skills and was willing to take less.) Drink lots of water and take a deep breath. Is this the right long term home for you? Is this the next great piece of your career? Is this the person who can change the direction of your organization? Are they someone who can be an impact player? If the answer is yes you can approach the situation like the thunderstorms we hope will roll in this afternoon and cool us down, work together like partners and come to an agreement that represents the type of relationship you are hoping to develop together to create mutual success.

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