I had a professor once impart advice to our class. He said, just before we effectively entered the work force, “Do that which makes you happy.”
Okay, a bit dramatic. But, when applied in the context of a job, it makes sense. You will likely be at a job for an average of three to five years, give or take. When you look for a job, you should really make sure that it’s a mutual fit. Your employer is not doing you any favors by giving you a job. You should consider your long-term happiness when applying for jobs and finding a suitable match.
When you find an employer that you think is a good fit, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Consider the following as a guideline to think about stuff that’s important to you and will help you mature as a person, personally and professionally:
Just because there is a corporate policy for a set amount of time does not mean you cannot negotiate for additional time off or come to an understanding with your direct manager. Often times, I ask my potential manager if he/she would be okay if I needed to ‘borrow’ some paid leave ahead of time so that I can plan a slightly longer vacation. Consider negotiating floating holidays on top of getting your birthday off or something of that nature.
Lay down your expectations on how you can grow to do your job better. “I expect to go to 1 professional association conference a year to better my personal skills and learn from my peers.” That will serve a few purposes, including networking in your peer group, giving you a forum to share your experiences as well as learn ways to improve your skill set within your domain or area of expertise. Your employer should be prepared to invest in you as much as you invest your time and effort into them. Other options here may include:
- Trade shows / conferences
- Opportunities to speak in front of large groups within or outside your company
- Travel to other offices within your company / organization to meet your colleagues
- Writing opportunities on a company blog, technical white papers, etc.
- Continuous Education classes reimbursement
Variable compensation based on performance is a personal favorite of mine. If you have confidence in your abilities and can show your employer that you are the type of individual who not only will set ambitious goals, but will do what it takes to meet them, then they should be prepared to reward you. If you value $$$$, then that’s what you should negotiate. If you value a title bump or some other reward (it could be a coveted trophy in your group), make sure you discuss this. The point here is to understand what your employer has at their disposal to reward you for your hard work and efforts. That will help keep your expectations in line with reality (you may not be able to get that 100% bonus you dreamt about!).
I think this is self-explanatory but often times, I’ve been afraid to ask…well, where do I go from here? What happens in 2 years? Is a promotion a possibility? Will people report to me? Will my responsibilities grow? I’m not sure where the hesitation comes from for others, but sometimes, I’m just so psyched to get the job in the first place (maybe it’s already a bit of a vertical jump from where I am, either in salary or in position), that I neglect finding my next target. Finding that next target is important so you can hold yourself accountable and measure your progress properly.
I’m not saying that everything above is something your employer will bend over backwards to accommodate. However, if something is important to you, in a win-win positive professional relationship, that something should be important to your employer. After all, you’ll probably be at that job for a while and that’s time that should better the company as well as give you a paycheck and some professional satisfaction.