Transitions, Interiors & Sources

Interiors & Sources, May, 2000



Dear Steve: 
I'm about to start looking seriously for a new (and better) position. What's the deal on all the new Internet job placement firms? Do they work? What's involved?

- Barry in Chicago, IL
Dear Barry:
As you know, this is a very hot topic and it'll only get hotter. Already, people ask me about online job seeking a few times each week. As the Net plays an ever-widening role in our professional and private lives, this avenue of position filling will become more important, and will be continually evolving - or "morphing," as the digerati prefer to say.

But as of now, hype is overshooting reality. A relatively small percentage of positions are offered or filled online at this time. Of course, we tend to remember the success stories we hear, simply because it's so remarkable to have such a new medium at our disposal. While there's no bad way to find a job - or to fill one - it would be unwise to focus much of your efforts on the Net.

Job hunters also run a significant risk, at some online services, of having their resumes land in the laps of their own employers. Many sites feature software that automatically forwards resumes of viable candidates (as determined by correlating keywords against job descriptions.) The last thing anyone wants is a loss of control over who finds out that you're "looking." Caveat emptor!

The online route may be best suited for recent grads, partly because it helps get their feet wet. Accordingly, some sites offer services such as primers on how to write a strong resume. But for a seasoned pro looking for a top-flight position, the verities still apply. Nearly all the plus jobs circulate through human networks - industry contacts, targeted search and recruitment firms, former colleagues (and employers), family, friends, peers, and mentors. The best positions rarely make it to the classified sections. And all hiring decisions, ultimately, are contingent on face-to-face interaction, even more than verifiable resume content and an impressive portfolio.

Dear Steve:
I work for a major West Coast architectural firm in the interior design department. I get a good job review each year, but last year my raise was three percent, this year it was four percent. Why so low? I feel like I should get a bigger raise - what should I do?

- Wendy
Dear Wendy:
Quit - really quit! (Of course, not before you have a firm offer, preferably in writing, from another company.) But in many circumstances nowadays, quitting is the best option. It's a seller's market - more so than it has been in decades - and this is a great time to aggressively market yourself and hunt.

Here's the context: Official statistics indicate there's no inflation (statisticians obviously haven't been trying to buy a house!), so the average raise is about three to four percent. To get a bigger increase, you generally have to find another job.

In the larger scheme, your situation is auspicious. With such a shortage of quality employees out there, a new employer is likely to offer a salary at least 10 percent - and probably 15 to 20 percent - above your current base. Plus, there is another angle: If you are a valuable employee (and it sounds like you are), your current employer may well toss a counter offer your way, replete with a salary hike well past measly three percent SOP they offered at the earlier review. It's nearly a game employers like to play, knowing that most people are held in check by inertia. If your company had proposed an eight percent boost, then everyone could be saved the hassle and agita.

But historical trends suggest it won't remain a seller's market indefinitely. With oil prices on the rise and scarily bizarre behavior manifesting in the stock markets, anything could happen. Make your move. Today.