By Columnist of the Year, Sydney Lenssen
Permit a prediction please: This year more British professionals than ever will change their jobs.
The sure signs are all there. Classified job pages in most professional magazines now fill half the magazine. It is only a matter of Prime Minister Cameron and the City keeping their nerves, and the rest of us not being too greedy. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask for more.
All of the companies, consultants and businesses I know have started to add reasonable margins for profit on to prices, and they are also conscious of the likely shortage of skilled experienced staff. The magic formula for better salaries – demand exceeding supply – is here or at least coming shortly.
I’ve spent time in recent weeks speaking to young and old professionals about their ambitions, attitudes to employers and job satisfaction and security. The lowest point of the last recession has taken its toll; even when salary levels are demonstrably lower than the norm, many professionals are content to keep their heads down, slaving away with long hours of unpaid overtime, grateful that an organisation is providing a job.
Undergraduates often start seeking jobs before the end of their fresher year, conscious that their degree three years later is no automatic job ticket.
The time is ripe for employees to demand better rewards for what they do, no matter how much job satisfaction we happen to get. That’s not to say that prices must rise for there’s still far too much waste.
With rare exception, I find that most professionals are reluctant to ask for a rise. Often they are embarrassed to tell anyone how much they earn. Most seem incapable of answering how much they are worth, or even what salary they believe would make them happy. Only one person suffers when such inhibition prevails.
When I asked: “Why is it that you are still doing the same job now as you were five years ago?” The most common answer was, “I’m waiting for the directors to give me a new challenge.”
One tough boss I knew used to say that if professionals did not have the guts to demand a pay rise, how could he believe that they had the nerve to insist that the client paid up when fees were due? If they didn’t push to get involved with the latest challenging project in the office, why should he expect them to be determined enough to see it through to success?
If you feel that you are underpaid and undervalued, there is little point in moaning to your colleagues. Tell your boss. Don’t hesitate to seize the initiative and insist that you be given the chance to do something challenging and different. Find the time to get out and persuade a few clients to give you work or a chance to tender. Nothing leads to faster promotion than a proven track record in winning contracts.
You do need determination and confidence. But if you are still afraid or uncertain, let me recommend four e-books: Four steps to a better career by Sarah Berry; Write a Perfect CV in a Weekend; Win the Job at the Interview; How to Plan your Career, and How to be Head-hunted are the most sensible guides I have ever read. Sarah sets out to unleash the reader’s career potential. Her ambition is to change people’s careers from something which they do each day into something which they enjoy. You cannot find more practical advice for around £50.