Negotiating Salary

I have seen the salary negotiation process from every possible angle, and if you are going through it now, congratulations on being offered a job!  A lot of my ideas on salary negotiation are derived from “Getting To Yes” a great book on negotiation by two Harvard academics, Roger Fisher and William Ury. Kind of a slog to get through at times, but a great book on negotiation generally.

1. Know your walk-away point
Your walk-away point is the salary level at which you would no longer accept the job. It is determined by the alternative available to you – what  you would do if you didn’t take this job. Employers will tend to assume that your current salary, or another standing job offer, will determine your walk away point, as this is your alternative to taking their job. If you are unemployed and have no other offers  then they will assume that your walk-away salary point is pretty low! (so don’t quit your job before getting your next one if money is important to you!!).

2. Have other offers
Point one leads to this point, which is that you will get a higher salary if you have multiple offers going at the same time. You absolutely can’t be seen to be playing one off against the other, but having other offers will raise your walk-away point. On no account should you lie about having other offers, unless you are a very good poker player – you don’t want anyone calling your bluff.

3. Be creative
You want to work for them, they want you to work for them, but you want more than they can put on the table – some employers have narrow salary bands for certain level roles and cannot go outside them. Try and find other forms of compensation – can they pay for further study, a car or telephone or home office? Could they offer a bonus or equity? Alternatively, would you accept a lower salary in return for greater flexibility ior alternative working conditions? There may be other forms of compensation other than guaranteed cash.

4.Use your recruiter
Recruiters really come in handy for salary negotiations, as you can get them to push for your interests without you yourself being perceived as greedy. However, you have to be aware of their situation and interests. They want you to accept an offer. If you are the only candidate they have to put forward for a role, they really want the deal to go through so they can get their fee, and they will try very hard to get a win-win outcome for both parties. However if they have multiple candidates put forward for the same role, they will not care whether it is you or the other candidate/s who gets the job – they still get the fee. So take the trouble to find out how strong your position is with the recruiter.

5. Don’t pay too much attention to salary tables

There are a lot of salary tables out there showing average salaries for certain roles in certain industries – don’t pay too much attention to them. Each case is decided on how much you want them and they want you.

6. But the market rules
In the end, if they are underpaying you, you will be able to get another job – your walk-away point will change, and you can ask for more money (or go somewhere else). If they are overpaying you, you’d better work out a way to increase your value, or you will be replaced by someone cheaper!

a guest post on career management

Today we have a guest post from Lim Hodgson. Lim was a careers manager for many years at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, Australia. Here are her ideas on career management, derived from her time advising university students.

Career Management is really a planning process. Planning a career can be an exciting journey of exploration and self discovery which involves learning about your talents and skills and exploring the resources and career opportunities that are available. You develop your ideas about your career, make decisions, set goals and take action to achieve them.

It’s not a “one off” activity, but something that you engage in at different stages of your life as your circumstances change and you look for different directions and opportunities.

There are four inter-related phases to career management; these are:

Self Awareness and Assessment – recognising personal skills, abilities, values and experiences which impact on career choice

Awareness – being aware of the job market, opportunities, possibilities and the world of work in general

Decision Making – setting goals and making decisions based on your understanding of both yourself and potential opportunities

Transition Making – acting on your decisions and developing skills such as networking, preparing job applications and job interview skills which will help you achieve your goals

Blended Life

I am very interested to hear what people think of the idea of a “blended life”…the idea of seamlessly blending your work and non-work existence. I suspect it is a life that many young professionals (including me) are living, but is it sustainable/a good thing?
(a post by Ryan Healy on Penelope Trunk’s blog)

Career narrative-Explaining your career to a potential employer

“What business now values is someone who can cross-fertilize ideas from one business to another. The formation, development, dismantling and reformation of relationships…is expected in all aspects of life in the post-boomer world.

from The Big Picture, by Bernard Salt (Hardie Grant Books)

Fortunately, in most working cultures around the world, there is no expectation that employees stay in a company for life. However, if you’ve made frequent job changes, you may well be asked to explain why in an interview. This is something that people often struggle with, getting into long-winded explanations of job changes. This can get you into real trouble, especially if you say anything negative about past employers, but even just because it takes up too much time and puts you on the back foot.

What you have to do instead is create a “career narrative”.  A career narrative is a consistent and coherent story that makes sense out of your career, and most importantly makes the job for which you are interviewing the next logical chapter of the story.

The thread for your narrative will vary from individual to individual – the quest for knowledge, wealth, seniority, respect – but it must match with your reason for taking the job and with the ethos of the organisation you are applying for. At the end of the story you should be able to segue naturally into “and that is why I want to work for you and do this job.”

Questions welcome in the comments section.

Returning home after working overseas

Professionals I talk to almost always underestimate the difficulty of finding a job when they return home after working overseas. I worked outside my home country of Australia for seven years. Three years before I came back to Australia I started planning my return. Two months before, I flew over to Australia for interviews. I quit my job overseas after I had secured my job in Australia.

A few rules.

1. Always, always secure a job at home before you leave your job overseas. This may be a long process so leave plenty of time, and be prepared to make at least one trip home exclusively for interviewing. You wouldn’t believe how many successful professionals I have met who have gone through long periods of unemployment when they come home without a job.

2. Make sure you maintain your professional connections at home while working overseas. This includes those who are working as expatriates. You have to be busily networking and making a space for yourself years in advance of when you come back.

3. Take a hit. Be prepared to make some sacrifices in terms of money and seniority to make the transition, particularly if you are in a hurry.

4. Be prepared for an emotionally rocky time after you get back. Things will not settle down for at least a year after you get back if you have spent time overseas.

resume writing for finance/accounting professionals

I have made a couple of earlier posts on resume writing generally, but this post is specifically directed at finance and accounting professionals. The first rule is to use lots of numbers – it looks good; it says: Finance/Accounting.


Particularly for accounting/compliance focused professionals, you cannot be too conservative with how you format your resume. Definitely only use black and white. Use two fonts at most, and certainly no fancy borders, wordart etc. On balance I think it is better not to include a photo. Plain and conservative is the rule.

Employer information

Make sure you put all of your responsibilities and achievements under each relevant employer. It doesn’t hurt at all to let the reader know what industry your employer is operating in, whether they are listed or private, multinational or domestic etc, and to give some idea of the size of the company in terms of turnover and staff (numbers!). Employers want to know what kind of reporting and compliance environment you have been operating in.


Certainly indicate the size of the P&L or BS that you are responsible for (whichever looks better!). Let the reader know if you have managed or supervised any staff. Take the opportunity to make it clear if you have been handed any additional responsibilities due to good performance. Use numbers.


I can’t stress enough how important it is that you include this section and do a good job on it. This is what will differentiate you from the rest. Make sure that you have a number of achievements on your resume for each position, and be very specific. Use numbers. You reduced the closing time by 2 days. You shaved 3% off costs in a business with a  $500m cost base saving 15 million dollars. Numbers…you get the idea.

Reasons for Leaving

Employers see a lot of downside when a key finance person leaves. If you have had a few jobs in quick succession, but have reasons that will reflect well on you then don’t hesitate to include a reason for leaving section after each job explaining why. Keep it short and clean, and make sure that it could not possibly be a reason for leaving the job you are applying for!


Include under each employer what systems you used. If you have particularly strong skills in a certain ERP or in Excel, then that is probably worth including at the top of your resume as well. Spell out exactly what modules you can use, or the level of your Excel experience.


No reason not to include your membership number for any accounting qualifications you have and your year of graduation/qualification. It makes people feel better….numbers!

Personal Stuff

Keep it very short if you include it at all. You are not being hired because you love playing the trombone and doing improvisational theatre. Having personal information on your resume says that you have trouble separating your work and your personal life, which is a big red flag to employers.

writing resumes

For most people their resume is their primary branding tool. Therefore you should certainly approach resume writing carefully. But it is not that complicated….and as long as you don’t completely stuff it up, people will make an effort to read through it and extract the relevant info. 


1. Organise your resume with a backwards chronology and include all responsibilities, skills and achievements UNDER THE APPROPRIATE POSITION/EMPLOYER. Listing your skills and experience at the top of the resume, disconnected from the environment where you picked up those skills is not helpful. Then it is just an assertion, and the resume reader has now way to evaluate those assertions.

2. Put in plenty of detail about your achievements, preferably with numbers so that there is some kind of objective, quantified assessment of what you achieved.

3. Make your professional brand clear in your resume. The reader should be able to see that the job you are applying for is the next logical step in your career narrative. Rewrite your resume for the specific job you are applying for if necessary.

4. Do include the keywords from the job description. It could be that an HR person who does not understand your resume will be screening it, and they will screen by looking for keywords.


1. Use excessive formatting, colour, borders, multiple fonts, strange layouts. Make everything clean, simple and black, unless you are applying for a creative role.

2. Put in a lot of personal information. A couple of words about your hobbies and interests is enough. A lot of personal stuff says high maintenance

3. Make your resume too long or too short.  A front page with a career summary, then a page per 3-5 years of experience is appropriate.

So you are thinking about quitting your company

So many people leave their job for the wrong reasons. Quitting almost always has a negative impact on your Career Equity (more on this later). By working for sometime within an organisation, you build up a knowledge of how that organisation works, as well as a network of trusted colleagues, and therefore give yourself an advantage over outsiders when career opportunities come up. By leaving that environment you give that away.

 I was a recruiter I often used to sit there in interviews thinking “you really shouldn’t be quitting” but not really able to say so. After all, my job was to get them to work for my client. .These days it is my job, and I can say exactly what I think!

There are a handful of reasons why most people quit.

1. I hate my boss

This is by far the most common reason why people leave their jobs…and it is sometimes a valid one. However if you love your company and your work, you should certainly not let someone drive you out. Instead, channel those negative feelings into positive action, building new areas of responsibility and doing such a great job that you are promoted and your boss ceases to be your boss, or your problem. If your boss IS the company, then hating the boss equals hating the company and you should probably clear out fast. My last comment here is that if you hate your boss in every company you have worked in, then perhaps the problem lies with you.

2. There are no internal opportunities

This could be potentially a good reason, as long as you are leaving for a better opportunity elsewhere. But do look at your situation carefully and assess whether the reason for the lack of opportunities is that you are not qualified or strong enough to be offered them. Or maybe someone is just waiting for you to jump up and take, or even make, the internal opportunity. However if you know there are other potential employers who would be killing each other to offer you the fantastic job you have always wanted, then go for it.

3. A great opportunity elsewhere

Now this is a great reason for leaving your current employer. But evaluate all opportunities carefully. First of all ask if it is really so much better than what you have now. There is an element of risk,and cost, in every change, and you would not believe how many miserable people I have met  2 months after they quit for a great opportunity which turned out to be not so great. Do your due diligence and a careful SWOT analysis! If it is too good to be true, then it is probably too good to be true. Is it within your capabilities? Will you be successful? Does the potential gain outweigh the risk/cost?

Finally and most importantly, will this opportunity take you another step towards your career/life goals? Don’t be opportunistic about opportunities! Make sure the change fits with your career strategy.

Say as little as possible!

When a company is interviewing for a role, it is  a process of ruling people out. They have seen that you have the right experience and skill set from your resume, now they want to know if there is anything wrong with you.

As a consequence, you want to do as little talking as possible during the interview. Create a good story to run with in the interview (and I don’t mean a fictional story, I mean a good narrative that the interviewer can buy into), and don’t stray from that story. Make sure all your answers are succinct, answer the question, and are consistent with your professional and personal brand. And most importantly, stop when you have answered the question!!! The interviewer will politely wait for you to finish, and some people interpret that as an invitation to keep talking…huge mistake…you will come across as an unfocused waffler who cannot understand a question. Also, you will eventually say something that the interviewer really disagrees with, and you will be culled from the shortlist.

Also, stopping talking will give the interviewer a chance to speak, and this is something that you really, really want to happen. In fact, some study, somewhere showed that interviewers are more likely to think that the interviewee was a good candidate if the interviewer did most of the talking. So encourage the interviewer to talk. Ask intelligent questions that the interviewer wants to answer. Ask the interviewer about their background. Ask the interviewer what they think is important for the role.

The more they talk, the less likely that you will be ruled out, and the more you can tailor your answers to the requirements and background of the interviewer.