Ask AbbyAsk Abby

Need career advice?

Is it high time you asked for that raise, but don't quite know how?
Maybe you have multiple job offers... or you're returning to the work force.... and get real world career advice - fast!

Q: Can I negotiate a counter-offer?
Q: I was fired from a job. How do I handle this in interviews?
Q: I have two job offers. What should I do?
Q: Is it appropriate to contact a company after an interview?
Q: I quit my last job. How do I handle this in an interview?
Q: I went back to school to get a degree. What are my chances of getting a job once I get out?
Q: How do I know I’m in the right field of work?
 

Q: Can I negotiate a counter-offer?

A: This is one of the best reasons to work with a recruiter! Once there's a job offer, it's actually the recruiter's job to negotiate the best possible salary for you. This provides a buffer between you and your potential employer at a time where you're both interested in working together but haven't yet had an opportunity to develop a relationship. Trust your recruiter! A good one will know the client's financial position and will also know how to best sell your skills.
Q: I was fired from a job. How do I handle this in interviews?

A: This can be sticky and needs be handled with composure. If you left your last or any company on bad terms, be honest about it. Write out various ways to answer this until you have can explain the situation in a brief, honest and professional manner without making disparaging comments about the company. Rehearse your answer. You might want to mention (briefly) what you learned and how you can productively use that knowledge to go forward in your next position.
Q: I have two job offers. What should I do?

A: If you are thinking about negotiating a higher offer by playing one off the other, my best advice to you is don't do it. If you're in a situation where you feel you have no choice, then be very careful. The way hiring managers handle counter-offers varies widely. Ask yourself what are your motives. Do you really prefer one company over another, or are you using them to raise the stakes?

Some hiring managers may feel easily threatened and decide you lack sincerity or will not be reliable and loyal, and will immediately dismiss you as a candidate. However, if you really do want to work for them, make this very clear up front. If the company really wants you, they may decide to match the other offer.

There is nothing wrong in letting them know you have other offers but tact is extremely important. And when you do, you don't want to sound boastful, arrogant or (heaven forbid), like you're issuing an ultimatum.

Draw a line down the middle of the paper, and for each job, list the pros on one side and cons on the other. Include long term projections as well, not just the thrill of a title or higher pay. Add up the columns, and you’ll soon see which job is right for you.
Q: Is it appropriate to contact a company after an interview?

A: If you are working with a recruitment agency, the answer is a firm no. Let your recruiter handle the follow-up. Do not approach companies directly after a recruiter has introduced you. If you don’t get the job and you know there are other openings in the company, have your recruiter put you forward for any that interest you.
If you are applying directly, without being introduced by a recruiter, then absolutely do send a thank you note or email to all of the people you interviewed with. If you haven’t heard anything after a week, call the hiring manager or decision-maker and ask where they are in the decision process. Do this only once though, and remember to reaffirm your interest in the position (or others that may become available).
Q: I quit my last job. How do I handle this in an interview?

A: Whether or not you left on bad terms, don't speak negatively about your last employer. Describe the circumstances, trying to be as neutral as possible, by explaining the facts: what you expected, what happened, how you tried to resolve the situation. If a previous employment experience still holds an emotional charge with you, be sure to rehearse your answers to this question with friends and family. Why did you leave your last position? Rehearse until you can respond in a cool, calm and professional manner.
Q: I went back to school to get a degree. What are my chances of getting a job once I get out?

A: Lucky you! The market is hot. A few years out of the workforce to upgrade your education should put you in very good standing with employers who appreciate and reward initiative and ambition. Rehearse answers for these sample interview questions and you’ll be well ahead of the game:
  • What in your previous experience made you want to go back to school?
  • How did school add to your previous skills?
  • How will this new degree benefit you in this position?
Q: How do I know I’m in the right field of work?

A: Figure out what's important to you. Is it helping others in need, writing great copy, being a terrific parent, becoming a guru in your industry or market niche, or giving your clients a level of service they can't get anywhere else? Many skills are portable from one industry to another (vertical move), possibly one that inspires your personal interests. For others, moving into a different position (lateral move) can refresh your perspective and breathe new life into your career.

What else Abby?

When you know you've made the absolute best effort you can in pursuit of these objectives, take a minute to feel good about yourself.

Here are some resources to help you better enjoy your current job and/or find the right path to career nirvana:
  • The Artist's Way at Work: Riding the Dragon by Mark Bryan and Julia Cameron
  • Do What You Are : Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger
  • I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work by Julie Jansen
  • I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It by Barbara Sher
  • What Color Is Your Parachute? 2007: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles
  • The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry