If you’ve had more work foisted upon you during this recession than you thought humanly possible, raise your hand. Now pat yourself on the back. You’ve made it.
Because you’re a good soldier — and because you wanted to keep your job — you shouldered the burden and trudged along, doing the work of two or even three people (even if you’re top brass). You may have even assumed not only the work of your peers, but of your managers as well. So far, it’s kept a paycheck coming but you’ve earned yourself a few premature grey hairs along the way. But as it turns out, this might be a huge win for you right about now.
The Recession’s Accidental Upside
A funny thing happened on the way to this recovery: while employers have scored massive EBITDA gains, folks like you gained, too. By stuffing your skills banks, coloring outside the lines of job descriptions, and expanding your exposure both vertically and horizontally, the recession’s squeeze gave you a chance to gain more experience than you ever would have in the pre-crash market.
Naturally, the idea of fewer employees doing more work — with employers squeezing every last drop of productivity out of a decimated workforce – seems like a Randian utopia. But the productivity party is coming to an end as the economy starts to recover. Not only are companies hiring new people as they expand, but from where we sit on the recruiting side, we’re seeing two to three replacement hires for each person who quits.
The best talent is realizing that they are in demand. And instead of signing on for an endless supply of more work, they’re getting scooped up for more money and more responsibility. As someone who is looking for a job, you may say, “How in the hell is this good for me?” Here’s how:
It’s good for you because job change velocity creates liquidity. And that liquidity is very good for the job market. For every one person who moves to a new company in the current climate, you may see two openings get created. Start thinking about how you can take advantage of this two-for-one swap by tracking companies that are losing talent.
The other thing that may start to inch up is compensation. After a very uncomfortable decade of wage stagnation – we’re starting to see salaries climb again. Why? Employees are making gains when they take new jobs and employers have to actually pay more for each less qualified replacements. As a result, employers in every sector are in shock over what it costs to replace their best people after riding the recession’s productivity wave.
So now it’s payback time (or perhaps we should call it “paycheck time”). If your employer’s been generating record-breaking productivity gains from the sweat of your brow, it may be time to re-negotiate (we are at year-end review season, after all). Or it may be time to take your hard-earned skills to a new company.
- Evaluate your options. With market conditions as we described above, you definitely have ‘em (and you might not be used to ‘em). Toiling away through the worst recession since the Depression probably means that you’ve become an expert in something, and that something is invaluable to your current employer. This, dear friends, gives you leverage and bargaining power. Now is the time to plot your next move, be it a much-deserved promotion at your current company or a new job at a brand spanking new one.
- Do you Homework. Sites like Salary.com are great research tools for finding out what others who share your title or responsibilities are making. Don’t be afraid to tap recruiters and networking contacts to suss the price out for your role(s) in the marketplace. Gathering this info will help you better understand your worth in both year-end reviews and salary negotiations at your next gig.
- Know your value. How many people’s work did you take on? If, for example, you assumed the responsibilities of two colleagues, both of whom were making $100K, your employer is saving $200K by overloading you. It may be time to ask for some of that back. Explain to them what your job is worth on the open market. But play it cool — you don’t want to freak them out.
- Underscore your achievements. Saying “show me the money” will surely end in tears. Instead, prove why you deserve the money by highlighting your impact on your company. Aside from wowing your boss by having your act together, you’ll be putting these on your resume when the time comes.
I’ll leave you with this: We recently placed a candidate into a dream job that was a stretch but that she rightfully earned. When she resigned from her role at a big luxury brand, her boss actually cried and said, “You can’t do this to me! Do you know what it is going to cost me to replace you? Double! It’s just not fair.” Then he added, completely without irony, “And they won’t be half as good as you!”
The next move is up to you.