- The Washington Times - Monday, August 9, 2004

The data tells us the job market just keeps getting better and better with more opportunities at companies and as independent professionals. All of this good news has put interview tips and career advice front and center again. The bulk of your emails are asking for guidance, insights and actionable steps to take while climbing the ladder to the top. I’ve received so many interesting questions from the recent grad, to the mid-life career changer, to the restless CFO, that I have invited an expert career executive to respond.

Michael Parbs is a Senior Vice President in the Herndon office of staffing and recruitment firm Ajilon Finance (www.ajilonfinance.com), the fastest growing staffing service in North America. Last week, I sat down with Michael and shared some of your reader emails. Additional emails can be sent to him directly at [email protected]

Fatherhood has made me a better professional, the gap in my resume from having chosen to be a stay-at-home dad for the past five years is making it difficult to re-enter the workplace. — Joe in Annandale, VA

Even employers who are sympathetic to the stay-at-home choice have trouble choosing someone who has been out of the workforce for five years over a currently active professional. There are two musts to keep in mind. First, proudly outline why your experience as a father has lent itself to your professional capabilities. Undoubtedly you developed and strengthened your skills in patience, delegation, leadership, detail-orientation and problem-solving. Second, make it as clear as day that you haven’t missed a beat in the industry by discussing current trends, headlines and competitor data to avoid any notion that you’re out of touch. Good luck.

Employment figures come out every month but how can you tell if looking for or changing jobs is a good time? — Nancy in Laurel,

The employment figures are a good barometer of the overall economy and in the past few months have been very strong. From what we’ve seen, it’s an excellent time to start looking. Looking, however, does not mean finding - we typically see an average of a three-month lag from when one starts looking to when a new job is secured. If you start now, employers will have you on file for when the fourth quarter hiring picks up. After summer vacations, employers are ready to start thinking about building their team, and fast.

I have been a mid-level manager for 8 years and will never be promoted. The only way to move up is to move out, but the benefits, job duties, location, etc. all keep me here. — Bob in Vienna, VA

Unfortunately, your gut feeling is probably the right one. No one knows the internal politics of your company better than you, nor is anyone better equipped to assess your colleagues’ estimations of your career path. Maintaining momentum in your career far outweighs small differences between benefit plans or a longer commute to work. Put simply, someone on their way to being promoted is going to be given more interesting, dynamic projects to lead and manage than someone “pegged” as a static employee. I have no doubt there is a more fulfilling position awaiting you elsewhere.

What is the best way to negotiate for both a high salary and good benefits? I find myself always being short-changed on one or the other - Richard in Sterling, VA

Don’t lock yourself into a specified salary figure by telling the hiring manager exactly what dollar number you want. If the position was already going to pay more than the number you stated, then you just left money on the table. Don’t downplay the other non-financial benefits like telecommute, flexible hours, gym membership or free parking, because perks like these can make up for a slightly lower salary.

Is there a secret to getting on top of the stack with a recruiter? - Mary in Adams Morgan

If you continue to not get the types of interviews you were hoping for, it is time to re-evaluate the recruiter. They might not be the best match for you. From the beginning of any recruiter relationship, communicate clearly what type of opportunity you desire, the title/level you want, salary range, etc. If you are clear with about key items from the get-go, then chances are they will be able to work with you in a more effective way.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles. Email your questions to [email protected]

Listen to Jay Whitehead on web-radio every Tuesday 5pm to 6pm EST when he hosts Won on Won with Whitehead on www.businessamericaradio.com. If you have more career or marketing questions, they can be answered on this week’s show with guests Michael Parbs of Ajilon and Joyce Bosc of Boscobel. Email us at [email protected]

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