MONEY salary negotiation

The Foolproof Way to Make Sure You Land a Big Raise This Year

fishing net with money in it
Diane Macdonald—Getty Images

Resolved to increase your pay in 2015? These steps can help you scoop up a better-than-average bump.

A few years ago, you might have been grateful just to have a paycheck—even if it wasn’t as fat as you deserved. Today, you finally have the upper hand again when it comes to asking for a raise.

You can thank the rapid improvement in the job market in the last year for that. Unemployment is expected to drop to 5.4% by the end of this year, and 57% of companies say they are worried about retaining workers, up from 20% in 2010, according to PayScale.com’s Compensation Best Practices Report.

That’s putting pressure on employers to boost compensation: 82% plan to increase salaries for current employees this year, up from 73% last year, according to CareerBuilder’s latest jobs forecast.

“Workers should be feeling pretty good about their chances for getting a raise this year,” says CareerBuilder’s Mary Lorenz. Music to your ears, right?

The average worker should see a salary bump of 3%, according to estimations from Mercer’s 2014/2015 U.S. Compensation Planning Executive Survey. But those who are top performers or have in-demand expertise could see their paychecks rise even more. The average boost for the most valued employees will top 5%, according to Mercer.

To go from a so-so raise to a big bump up, here’s what you need to do:

Get on Your Boss’s Calendar

Don’t wait until performance-review time, typically in the spring, to ask for a raise. Not only will you have more competition from coworkers then, but budgets will already have been decided—which will make it harder for your supervisor to get you more cash even if he or she believes in your cause.

Assuming you and your company have had a good year—the latter also being a must—schedule a meeting with your supervisor ASAP before your window for the year closes.

Sure, even the most confident of workers may find it intimidating to call a meeting with the boss and ask for more money. But the odds are good that your boldness will pay off: A recent PayScale survey found that 44% of people who asked for a raise received what they asked for, and 31% more still got a raise, just less than they requested.

Collect Some Evidence

In the meantime, to help make your case, gather accolades from the past year.

Pull together emails of praise from higher ups, ask happy customers or clients to write testimonials for your work, and make a list of your major accomplishments, quantifying them as much as possible. Bottom-line-focused supervisors will especially want to hear about how you’ve boosted revenue or cut costs.

Put a Number On Yourself

“It’s important to go in with a number in mind,” says CareerBuilder’s Lorenz. “You should know your value and be able to go in with an idea of what you think you deserve and be ready to explain why.”

Your ask should be based around what others are getting, since you’ll shut down the conversation fast if you request a boost that’s out of the ballpark.

Start by seeing where your salary falls compared to others in similar jobs with the same skill set and years of experience, using sites such as PayScale.com and Glassdoor.com. Keep in mind that top performers may earn 10% to 15% more than these averages.

Put your findings in perspective by determining what’s realistic at your company. If you have a manager you’re close with, a higher up mentor, or a friend in HR, ask for insight on salary ranges for people at your level or on how much the company is budgeting for raises this year on average. If you’re a top performer and can prove it, you should feel comfortable asking for more than the average.

Make Your Ask

You’ve got your proof and your number, so you’re ready, right? Not quite. Ideally, you’ll want to do a run through of the conversation with someone, since practice will make you more comfortable when you’re in the moment.

You might start the conversation something like this: “Hey Jane, my department had a really great year in 2014, and I was hoping to get your feedback, talk about ideas going forward, and discuss my compensation.”

Then, dig into your successes. Since your boss may not realize all that you’ve accomplished, you should make him or her aware by pointing out a few key highlights from the “to-done” list you made. You could say, “I don’t know if you’re in the loop on everything I’ve accomplished this year, so I just wanted to point out of few of my biggest successes…” Bring up the testimonials where relevant.

Talk not only about your achievements but also about what you are going to tackle next. Your boss is more likely to reward you if you’ve got a plan for what you will do for the company, not just what you did.

Have a Plan B

The best outcome is a permanent boost in your salary. But if that’s not possible, ask for a bonus. One-time rewards, including spot bonuses and project completion bonuses, are on the rise as more companies worry about retaining employees, the WorldatWork Survey of Bonus Programs and Practices 2014 found.

Spot bonuses typically range from $2,500 to $5,000.

Be aware that income taxes can lop off up to 40% of the bonus, so ask if your company will “gross up” the reward so you actually get the whole amount.

Be Ready to Jump

You’re not always going to get what you want. If budgets are tight or layoffs are looming, your manager’s hands may be tied.

So you may have to leave to get that raise. But the good news for you is that even in good times, the biggest pay jumps come when you switch to a new job.

Job switchers simply have more leverage when negotiating salary, especially since the number of employees voluntarily quitting is at its highest since April 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ quits rate measure.

That leaves employers with a lot of empty positions to fill, and they are showing their eagerness to put bodies in these slots: The average wage growth for job changers rose from 4.3% at the start of 2013 to 4.5% at the end of 2014, according to a report by the Kansas City Federal Reserve.

So whether you stay or go, the chances are good that you’ll make more money in 2015.

More on financial resolutions:

TIME

How to Get a Job Much, Much Faster

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Getty Images

This is a no-brainer way to boost your job search

A lot of Americans, especially young adults, still have trouble landing work in today’s economy. New research suggests one way to overcoming unemployment is something anybody can do: volunteer.

A forthcoming paper in the Journal of Career Assessment says unemployed young adults who volunteer find new jobs faster. Lead author Varda Konstam, professor emerita in the counseling and school psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Boston says the findings “do suggest significant association between volunteering and finding employment.”

In a survey of more than 200 unemployed young adults, Konstam finds that the ones who volunteer seem to have an edge on their counterparts. “Those who elected to volunteer, even for a minimal investment in time… were more likely to procure employment 6 months later,” she writes. This finding holds true across participants’ careers, skill sets and other demographic differences.

And you won’t even have to take that much time away from your job search to reap the benefits. Just a couple hours of volunteering a week is enough to make a difference, Konstam finds. Among study participants who didn’t volunteer, almost three-quarters were still looking for work six months later. But among those who volunteered — even those who did for just two hours a week or less — nearly half had landed jobs. While Konstam points out that her results don’t necessarily imply causation, that’s a big difference between the two groups.

There could be a few reasons behind this connection. Konstam points to the much-discussed “degree inflation” in higher education; today, just cranking out four years after high school doesn’t necessarily mean you’re equipped to compete in today’s labor market, even as more low-level jobs are demanding that applicants come with college already under their belts.

Since a degree alone doesn’t convey job worthiness anymore, Konstam’s findings suggest that employers are using volunteer work as a proxy for applicants’ ability to actually do work. Even if the volunteering is unrelated to a job applicant’s chosen field, it’s a good indication that they can show up on time, interact with other people and provide some value to the organization.

“Volunteering activities provide opportunities for emerging adults to master specific skillsets and to demonstrate proof of competency and value,” Konstam writes.

Another way volunteering might help your job search is by giving you a broader perspective on what kind of work you’re good at and enjoy doing. “It is possible that by increasing social contacts, volunteering promotes an open-minded approach toward different careers,” Konstam writes. “Volunteering may increase career-related information and skills in a variety of job-related areas in a way that broadens… career interests.”

 

 

MONEY Job market

4 Strategies to Land Your Dream Job This Year

Garden gnome with "need work" sign
Andrew Bret Wallis—Getty Images

The employment market is the strongest it's been in six years. Here's how to boost the odds you'll find the job you want in 2015.

New year, new job. That’s the mantra for many workers as 2015 kicks off. According to a survey by career management experts Right Management, 86% of workers in North America say they plan to actively look for a new job this year. That’s up from 83% last year and just 60% at the peak of the recession in 2009.

Buoyed by a rapidly improving job market and strong economy, people are feeling more confident about seeking out new opportunities. There’s no time like the present: The first Monday after the New Year is the busiest day for job search, and January is the busiest month of the year, according to job search engine SimplyHired. It was a gangbuster day: On Monday, job searches were up 56% from the December average.

“We call it ‘Job Hunt Monday.’ It’s like a Cyber Monday for jobs,” says Kristy Stromberg, senior vice president of marketing for SimplyHired. “The holidays are over and people are thinking about how they can improve their lives. We all spend so much time at work, finding a new job is a great way to make a positive change.”

Job-seekers are justifiably optimistic. More than one third of employers expect to add full-time, permanent employees in 2015, according to CareerBuilder’s annual job forecast. That’s the best outlook from the survey since 2006, up from one-quarter of employers last year.

The hottest industries for hiring are information technology, financial services, manufacturing, and healthcare, according to CareerBuilder. The biggest demand is in jobs tied to revenue growth, digital innovation, and customer loyalty—think sales, data analysis, and customer service.

The War for Talent

You’ll be especially attractive if you have expertise in hard-to-fill positions. More than three-quarters of human resource executives polled by Challenger Gray & Christmas report they are struggling to fill open positions, and 91% say that if the economy keeps expanding at its current rate, the war for talent will worsen.

Experience is most in demand in emerging fields such as cloud computing, mobile and search technology, cyber security, managing and interpreting big data, alternative energy, anti-terrorism and robotics.

Even if those areas aren’t in your wheelhouse, you’ll have an edge if you are considered a top performer at your current company. That’s if you’ve been receiving higher than average raises, bonuses, or promotions in the past few years. Losing talent is a big worry for employers: Nearly 60% of 4,700 companies surveyed in a PayScale.com compensation report said keeping higher performing workers from jumping ship is a top business concern, up from 20% in 2010.

Recruiters also like to target passive job seekers, those folks already employed who are just too busy to look for work.

“The balance has really shifted toward the job seeker,” says Stromberg. “Even if you’re working in an industry that’s contracting, now is a good time to make a move. Competition for talent is hotter. Employers are going to have to take more risk in hiring someone outside their traditional industry.”

Accurate, real-time salaries for thousands of careers.

If you’re itching for a new opportunity, use these strategies to make it happen.

Get the inside scoop. Many job openings, especially those at higher levels, are only announced internally, so you need to get insider info. Reach out to people you know at companies where you want to work. If you don’t know anyone directly, tap your personal network or use your LinkedIn contacts to make a connection to someone in the know about internal job openings. SimplyHired has a tool on its website that allows you to match job openings with your LinkedIn profile so you can see who in your network is at that company.

Be top of mind. Attract employers’ attention by raising your profile. Speak at industry conferences. Be active in professional organizations and on social media. Look at what your online presence signals about you. Use language in your LinkedIn profile that matches the type of positions you’d like to land so recruiters find you when they search for candidates. Create a website that showcases your work so it turns up in online searches for you.

Try temp work. If you’ve been out of work for a while, part-time, temporary, or contract positions are a good way to keep your skills up to date and can be a steppingstone to full-time work. Temporary employment is expected to pick up over the next 12 months as a way for employers to fill in-demand roles or keep costs lower with a flexible workforce even as business picks up. According to CareerBuilder, 46% of employers plan to hire temporary or contract workers in 2015, up from 42% last year. Of these employers, 56% plan to transition some temporary or contract workers into full-time, permanent roles.

Be open to opportunities. If a recruiter calls you or a friend passes on information about a job opening, find out more even if you’re not interested in the position or looking for work. A recruiter may know about another opportunity that’s a better fit. It is also a chance to share the information with others in your field that may be looking to make a change.

If you pay it forward, one of those people may pay it back when you are ready to make a move.

TIME Business

The Biggest Workplace and Career Predictions for 2015

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Pamela Moore—Getty Images

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from UC Berkeley and is a career and personal coach.

Freelance work, marijuana legalization, and immigration will all influence the jobs landscape

As you make your career and workplace plans for 2015, you might want to consider these predictions:

Further conversion of full-time, benefited jobs, to part-time temp work, internships, and volunteer “positions.” A 2014 study by Elance-oDesk found that 53 million Americans are now freelancers; that’s 34% of all U.S. workers. Career Builder’s just-released forecast for 2015 suggests that will increase further:

Twenty-three percent of employers expect to recruit part-time works over the next 12 months, up six percentage points over last year. While various factors will influence this trend, 14 percent of all employers stated they will likely hire more part-time workers in 2015 due to the Affordable Care Act.

The hiring process will get even more rigorous. Not that long ago, most job openings were filled based on a resume, cover letter, and a half-hour interview or two with a boss. That process is dramatically lengthening: It may start with a work-sample assignment to be included with the job application, and three to five rounds of interviews, often including an all-day run through a gauntlet of interrogators, followed by a thorough background check to verify reported information, identify criminal record, etc. The process can take months.

The lengthening is due, in part, to the increased costs of employing an American: in addition to the Affordable Care Act, there are increases in the costs of Workers Compensation, Americans with Disabilities Act, EEOC, Medicare, Social Security, and Family Leave Act (paid leave in some states), and expanded employee rights to file grievances against employers.

More workplace wellness programs. A healthier workforce is a more productive one. So workplace wellness programs should burgeon. For example, wellness apps such as GetHealth provide employees with, for instance, peer support and prizes for exercising more and for losing weight, perhaps including a competition between work groups.

More students will opt out of liberal arts bachelor’s degrees. Statistics about the rampant un- and underemployment among student-debt-buried liberal arts graduates will likely motivate high school graduates that can’t gain admission to a designer-label college to consider such post-high school alternatives as:

· inexpensive community college career preparation programs,

· the free or low-cost Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS)—aggregated mainly at Coursera, edX, and Udemy,

· on-the-job training, for example, in entrepreneurship at the elbow of a successful small business owner,

· enlistment in the military to get taxpayer-paid career training. This will be seen as a more attractive option because it’s widely thought that the U.S., in coming years, is less likely to get involved in wars.

The trend away from liberal arts bachelor’s degrees will accelerate as President Obama likely replaces his everyone-to-college push with some touting and funding of short-term career training programs.

Marijuana legalization. Pot legalization will likely expand to more states, maybe even nationwide. Of course, that will increase jobs in the pot industry—Big Tobacco moves to weed—but because of demonstrated increases of serious physical and mental health problems and car accidents, jobs will also burgeon for psychologists, drug counselors, school drug educators, paramedics, car insurance adjusters, and lawyers and HR people developing and administering new policies regarding marijuana in the workplace.

More “Corporate Social Responsibility.” Corporations, whether out of benevolence and/or the media’s and college classes’ messages that corporations are Bad Guys, will likely reallocate ever more money that previously would have been reinvested in the company or distributed as dividends to shareholders and to spending on “social responsibility” efforts, for example, foundations and other charitable donations. So jobs in corporate social responsibility should increase. That trend is visible as one watches TV ads. It seems an increased number are touting their non-profit initiatives.

Ever more employees will work at home. Employers will increasingly encourage telecommuting because:

  • It reduces the amount of office space required.
  • The advantages of having all employees in one building have been diminished by the ready availability of free- and low-cost videoconferencing.
  • Ever more work product can be transmitted over the Internet.
  • Computers, phones, and wearables are ever more capable.
  • In ever more companies, the workforce is distributed across the country or worldwide.
  • Many employees prefer to work at home to avoid the ever lengthening commute to what often is a noisy, open workspace.

Hiring related to immigration. President Obama’s Executive Order regarding immigration and promised passage of “comprehensive immigration reform” will, unless Congress stops him, mean an increase of 11 million legal Americans. Career and workplace implications:

  • Government will hire many people to supervise the probably labyrinthine legalization process.
  • Unlike previous waves of immigration, this cohort will not have been screened for diseases. So there will likely be significantly increased funding for health care for the poor and for public health initiatives. Bilingual health care professionals should find the job market felicitous.
  • The increased supply of legal people doing work common among immigrants such as landscaping, carpentry, cement work, and other blue-collar occupations will drive pay down in those fields.

Full relations with Cuba. President Obama’s move to liberalize relations with Cuba will likely be followed by additional such orders or legislation resulting in full relations. That should create jobs in the travel industry, import/export, as well as for immigration specialists.

Marketing jobs will be relatively plentiful. The increasing costs of hiring an American and competition with global companies will likely motivate U.S. firms to reallocate more money to marketing to drive sales. Especially in demand will be employees who can derive valid business decisions from customer data, for example, from Facebook and Instagram. Also, traditional ads are losing impact, so demand will increase for experts in “native advertising“—advertising embedded in non-commercial-appearing content—for example, “promoted articles.”

Landing a job in the corporate world should ease, but toughen in non-profits and government. College and the media are leading many people to feel antipathy toward corporations. More such people will seek work in the non-profit and government sectors. That should make it easier to find a job at a for-profit but tougher in a non-profit or government.

Increased focus on transgender issues. Believing that gay marriage and other gay rights initiatives have developed sufficient momentum to become national law, activists and media will redirect some effort to abetting the rights of transgendered people. That should increase jobs for employment attorneys and counselors specializing in the transgendered.

In 2016 or 2020, The Revolution. This is my long-shot prediction of the year. A number of trends make a socialist revolution more likely, possibly just in states already leaning that way such as California, Massachusetts, and New York, but possibly nationally. This is likely to be a peaceful revolution, one in which more candidates who explicitly or by policy are socialist, will be elected. Here are those trends:

· The increased difficulty in finding decent-paying work.

· Crushing student debt that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.

· Building on the Occupy Movement and the protests following the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths, activists will increase demands for “social justice.”

· The media’s increasingly replacing reportorialism with “social justice” activism. Note, for example, the extensive and positive news media coverage of President Obama’s loosening restrictions on relations with Cuba and the quantity of attention, mainly positive, given to Congress’s most liberal members as presidential candidates: for example, Elizabeth Warren and the explicitly Socialist Bernie Sanders. Even CNBC, which many perceive as relatively conservative, now has a primetime lineup that makes capitalism unseemly: The Shark Tank, American Greed, The Car Chasers, and The Profit.

· Demographic changes: immigration and a long-standing higher birth rate among the poor.

· Many of the trends reported in this article involve an increase in redistribution. Paradoxically, the greater the redistribution, the more the masses, the 99-percenters, are likely to feel entitled to a bigger piece of the pie and thus more likely to foment The Revolution.

The takeaway

Do any of the above warrant incorporation into the plans for your career or workplace?

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. specializing in education evaluation from U.C. Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is the author of seven books and an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Stop Making ‘Workaholics’ a Dirty Word

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Jessica Peterson—Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from UC Berkeley and is a career and personal coach.

Successful and productive people work far longer hours than work-life-balance advocates

I’ve been saddened, okay angered, by the change in how we treat our hard workers.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, people who worked long hours were considered the norm. Not only did my father work 12 hours a day, seven days a week to support my mom, sister, and me, all of our friends’ fathers did too. And most of them, including my dad, were Holocaust survivors who were wrested from their homes by the Nazis before they even finished high school and then thrown into concentration camps. My father and his friends, lucky survivors, after the war, were dumped in the Bronx with no English, no money, and no family. So they all had just low-level jobs or tiny businesses, while they lived with the Holocaust’s scars. If any judgment was rendered about those hard workers, it was praise.

Beyond the fathers I knew personally, I recall hearing admiration for accomplished people, whom I recall as being defined not just by their intelligence but by their relentless work ethic. For example, Jonas Salk worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week until he came up with a cure for the disease that terrified all parents—polio. Kids with polio were doomed to a brief life, all spent on crutches if not in an “iron lung.” Salk developed a vaccine that has virtually eradicated polio.

Yet today, a person who works long hours is likely to be pathologized as a “workaholic,” like an alcoholic, addicted. In fact, most successful people I know do work long hours and not because they’re addicted to work but because they make a conscious choice that the working week’s 40 to 60+ hours are more wisely spent being productive—for example, making, selling, or providing goods and services for people—than on recreation or even the vaunted family time. Indeed, research does support that quality time, not quantity time, is key. Consider, for example, this review of the literature, which concludes that children are not hurt by mothers who work outside the home. But that doesn’t stop the criticism: “She’s a negligent mom.” “He’s out of balance.” “She’s a workaholic.”

But what about the consensus opinion that long hours makes you less productive? I can counter that only by reporting that I’ve been career coach to hundreds of highly successful and productive people as well as to many strugglers, and one of the key differentiators is that the successful group works far longer work weeks than work-life-balance advocates would recommend. And nearly all those hard workers insist they work only as long as they can do so without sacrificing quality—and for them (and me,) that’s well beyond a 40-hour work week. And their long hours don’t seem to affect their health, as long as their work style is not hurried or short-tempered.

Imagine that you work long work weeks and instead of being praised for your hard work, you are demonized, including by your spouse. How would you feel? Would that denigration be deserved?

Of course, not everyone has the capability or desire to be productive for a long work week, but shouldn’t we think twice before dubbing hard workers as out-of-balance, let alone pathologized as a workaholic? Often, the more accurate term is “heroic.”

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. specializing in education evaluation from U.C. Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is the author of seven books and an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Why You Should Be Less Responsible at Work

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baona—Getty Images

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out

​​The secret to professional advancement lies in figuring out which activities actually lead to results

An overstressed friend told me recently that her boss had counseled her to “be less responsible” at work. On the surface, it’s a ridiculous thing for a supervisor to say. Who would want an employee that overlooks details, or who casually wraps up an assignment because “it’s good enough”? But here’s why her boss is onto something – and maybe you should consider being less responsible at work, too.

You’ll learn to prioritize. Early in our careers, frankly, there’s not that much going on. A CEO might get 500 or 1,000 high-priority emails a day; an assistant who’s a year out of college most certainly won’t. That means you have the ability to get everything done, and leave with a clean slate at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that sets a bad precedent for the rest of your career, because the higher you rise, the less likely you’ll be to finish everything that’s put in front of you. You have to cultivate the perspicacity to understand what’s truly important, and what can be safely ignored. No one wants to be a jerk and take three months to respond to an email, or even never reply at all. But when you reach your human limits of endurance, you have to decide what matters most. As the famous 80/20 Rule has it, only 20% of our activities yield 80% of our results. The secret to professional advancement lies in figuring out which is which.

You’ll learn to procrastinate more strategically. When you’re narrowly focused on a task – you have to write this report, and you won’t leave your desk until it’s done, even if you’re staring at a blank screen for hours – research shows that you’re essentially putting on blinders and diminishing your creativity. Instead of forcing yourself to sit there (and producing crappy work as a result), procrastinate strategically by doing another task that feels more fun. I don’t mean pseudo-productive tasks like surfing the Internet or listening to a podcast; choose another project that also has to get done, but which is more inspriring to you in the moment. In fact, that’s what I’m doing now; I have to submit a list of course readings for an upcoming marketing class I’m teaching, and it’s due today. It’ll get done, but in the interim, writing this article – which is also useful and productive – is a much more attractive option.

You’ll be forced to delegate. For most of us who were brought up to be responsible, that means guaranteeing that the job is finished and the work is done right. Unfortunately, as you ascend the professional ladder, you begin to start supervising employees. There’s a word for someone who checks all their employees’ work all the time: a micromanager. Your staff can’t learn and grow if they’re not permitted to try new things, stretch, and sometimes fail (on tasks that aren’t mission-critical). Recognize the natural tradeoff: that means things won’t be done up to your standards every time. But as long as they’re done well enough, that’s probably OK. And every once in a while, they’ll be done better, and you and the entire organization will learn something. A good starting place for many professionals is tapping into the growing market of virtual assistants, who can handle minor administrative tasks that often require a lot of time to perform. I’ve written previously about how to work well with your virtual assistant, and three mistakes to avoid when working with a virtual assistant.

It can be painful to let go of tasks you know how to do perfectly, but you have to make room for what’s most important – and recognize that the real definition of being “responsible” at work isn’t about getting everything done. It’s about getting the right things done.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and the forthcoming Stand Out. You can subscribe to her e-newsletter and follow her on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY

How to Compete for an Out-of-Town Job

illustration of station wagon pulling office desk
Mikey Burton

You can improve your chances of finding a new job by taking your search on the road, but you’ve got to be strategic in selling yourself.

Three out of four hiring managers recently surveyed by Challenger Gray & Christmas reported a shortage of local talent. So theo­ret­ically you could have better luck finding the job of your dreams if you’re willing and able to move.

Problem is, many companies are hesitant to hire out-of-towners because of concerns over relocation, money, and local knowledge. But you can put hiring managers at ease by preemptively addressing these three issues in your application:

How Willing You Are to Move

Transparency is crucial. “If a recruiter in Pittsburgh sees you’ve been working in L.A. for 10 years, they’ll want to know why you’re applying,” says Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet, a professional coaching firm.

Don’t skirt these issues or, worse, lie by using a local pal’s address. Instead, write beside your address that you would be eager to relocate to the area for the right career opportunity, recommends Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York HR consulting firm.

What It Will Cost the Company

Hiring costs are top of mind for recruiters when evaluating long-distance applications. So pay your own way for an in-person interview if you can swing it, says Stefanie Wichansky, CEO at Randolph, N.J., management consulting and staffing firm Professional Resource Partners. A subtle approach: Indicate that you are frequently in the area and can make yourself available at the hiring manager’s convenience.

Definitely don’t bring up needing relocation assistance in your cover letter. “That makes your candidacy less attractive, as you’ll be a more expensive hire compared to the local competition,” says Wichansky. Wait to raise the issue until the company has determined that you’re the best candidate. “You’re in a better position to negotiate once you’ve proven the value you can bring to the organization,” she says.

How Well You Know the Area

Unless you have a skill set that’s unique or in high demand, you’re going to need to convince a hiring manager that you’re not ­hampered—and wouldn’t hamper the company—by your lack of knowledge of the local market, says Yeager.

One way to tap into the market from afar, besides following local news and blogs, is to join region-specific industry networking groups on LinkedIn. Start discussions to gain an insider’s perspective, then demonstrate this knowledge in your cover letter. An out-of-towner looking for work in commercial real estate, for example, might study neighborhoods and establish relationships with local developers to show he can hit the ground running.

 

TIME France

France Considers Scrapping Its 35-Hour Working Week

The French 35-hour working week might be under threat in light of the country's economic woes

France has long had the reputation of taking a lax approach to working life. But now, the New York Times reports that the country is reconsidering the official 35-hour working week amid reports that the policy is abused by employers and creating financial hardships for employees.

The shorter working week was implemented in 2000 by the then-Socialist government as a way to stimulate job creation. But according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, French employees work an average of 39.5 hours per week, just shy of the eurozone average of 40.9 hours per week. According to the Times, the shorter working week hasn’t kept unemployment down — which is at 10.2 percent in France — and might even have led to the rise in part-time contracts, which employers increasingly use to avoid having to pay full-time staff overtime.

[NYT]

MONEY Health Care

6 Questions to Ask Before You Sign Up for a Health Plan This Year

tweezers and pill
Geir Pettersen—Getty Images

Employers are changing your health insurance options more than ever. Rushing through your open enrollment paperwork could cost you.

You don’t get a pass this year on big health insurance decisions because you’re not shopping in an Affordable Care Act marketplace. Employer medical plans—where most working-age folks get coverage—are changing too.

Rising costs, a looming tax on rich benefit packages, and the idea that people should buy medical treatment the way they shop for cell phones have increased odds that workplace plans will be very different in 2015.

“If there’s any year employees should pay attention to their annual enrollment material, this is probably the year,” says Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers.

In other words, don’t blow off the human resources seminars. Ask these questions.

1. Is my doctor still in the network?

Some employers are shifting to plans that look like the HMOs of the 1990s, with limited networks of physicians and hospitals. Provider affiliations change even when companies don’t adopt a “narrow network.”

Insurers publish directories, but the surest way to see if docs or hospitals take your plan is to call and ask.

“People tend to find out the hard way how their health plan works,” says Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Don’t take for granted that everything will be the same as last year.” (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

2. Is my employer changing where I get labs and medications?

For expensive treatments—for diseases such as cancer or multiple sclerosis—some companies are hiring preferred vendors. Getting infusions or prescriptions outside this network could cost thousands extra, just as with doctors and hospitals.

3. How will my out-of-pocket costs go up?

It’s probably not a question of if. Shifting medical expense to workers benefits employers because it means they absorb less of a plan’s overall cost increases. By lowering the value of the insurance, it also shields companies from the “Cadillac tax” on high-end coverage that begins in 2018.

Having consumers pay more is also supposed to nudge them to buy thoughtfully—to consider whether procedures are necessary and to find good prices.

“It gets them more engaged in making decisions,” says Dave Osterndorf, a benefits consultant with Towers Watson.

How well this will control total costs is very unclear.

Your company is probably raising deductibles—the amount you pay for care before your insurance kicks in. The average deductible for a single worker rose to $1,217 this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. One large employer in three surveyed by Marcotte’s group planned to offer only high-deductible plans (at least $2,600 for families) in 2015.

Employers are also scrapping co-payments—fixed charges collected during an office or pharmacy visit.

Once you might have made a $20 copay for a $100 prescription, with the insurance company picking up the other $80. Now you might pay the full $100, with the cost applied against your deductible, Marcotte says.

4. How do I compare medical prices and quality?

Companies concede they can’t push workers to shop around without giving information on prices and quality.

Tools to comparison shop are often primitive. But you should take advantage of whatever resources, usually an online app from the insurance company, are available.

5. Can I use tax-free money for out-of-pocket payments?

Workers are familiar with flexible spending accounts (which aren’t that flexible). You contribute pretax dollars and then have to spend them on medical costs before a certain time.

Employers increasingly offer health savings accounts, which have more options. Contribution limits for HSAs are higher. Employers often chip in. There is no deadline to spend the money, and you keep it if you quit the company. So you can let it build up if you stay healthy.

Don’t necessarily think of HSAs as money down the drain, says Osterndorf. Think of them as a different kind of retirement savings plan.

6. How is my prescription plan set up?

Drugs are one of the fastest-rising medical costs. To try to control them, employers are splitting pharma benefits into more layers than ever before. Cost-sharing is lowest for drugs listed in formulary’s bottom tiers–usually cheap generics—and highest for specialty drugs and biologics.

If you’re on a long-term prescription, check how it’s covered so you know how much to put in the savings account to pay for it. Also see if a less-expensive drug will deliver the same benefit.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

 

MONEY Workplace

Why Coworking Is Hot

shared workspace
Hero Images—Getty Images

These shared workspaces for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other independent workers tend to feel hip, fun, and casual -- but their success is about much more than cool design.

Coworking spaces – where freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other independent workers pay a fee to share a workspace and benefit from working in the presence of one another – are hot. More than 160,000 people worldwide are members of over 3,000 coworking spaces, according to a recent report by DeskMag.com and Emergent Research, up from just 20,000 workers in 500 spaces in 2010.

My colleagues Gretchen Spreitzer and Lyndon Garrett and I set out to understand what draws people to coworking and what accounts for its success. We surveyed members from over 40 coworking spaces around the United States, analyzed the websites of over 100 U.S. coworking spaces, visited a handful of spaces in major U.S. cities, and spent several months as participant observers in one local coworking community in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Given the coolness factor of coworking spaces – especially those that attract members with hip design and high levels of service – we figured that their design had something to do with the success of the phenomenon. But we wondered what other factors drove the success of the coworking model. Several interesting insights emerged.

Coworking fosters personal growth and community building

In his recent book, The Purpose Economy, social entrepreneur Aaron Hurst writes how coworking spaces are a powerful tool for cultivating community among a new class of workers who are driven to organize their professional lives around continuous personal growth, meaningful relationships, and the service of something greater than themselves.

One of the aims of the coworking movement is to provide people with a safe space where they can be themselves at work. But it also encourages members to explore shared interests with one another and collaborative opportunities that go beyond daily work routines. Grind, for example, a New York-based coworking space that participated in our study, offers tips to its members on how to move beyond their natural comfort zone and meet fellow members.

We also found learning to be a necessary component of what makes coworking a successful model. Member education is an explicit part of the mission of many coworking spaces. We saw spaces supporting member education, member support networks, and access to professional development opportunities and mentorship. Many spaces also host social events like happy hours, networking events, and guest lectures in order to reinforce learning and community building.

The most successful build “just right” communities

That is, just right in that they involve newcomers as much or as little as they want, without any pressure.

Unlike a traditional shared rental office where people largely want a quiet professional space to work without being bothered by others, many coworking spaces curate an experience that allows potential members to try the space and meet other members to see if there is a fit.

But unlike a traditional work organization that does this through the hiring process, coworking has low switching costs for members and doesn’t actually commit them to any aspect of the work experience that is meaningless to them. The result is that coworking gives a non-overbearing sense of belonging to those who want to be part of the community.

Coworking isn’t just for start-ups and freelancers

Although the earliest coworking communities were organized to provide an alternative to coffee shops or working at home to freelancers and entrepreneurs, we learned that coworking spaces are reaching diverse segments of the workforce. We found some spaces catering to writers and artists by emphasizing affordability and an atmosphere of creativity, for example. Others, including some of the most welcoming communities in our sample, attract women entrepreneurs.

But coworking also helps people keep good jobs with conventional employers in cases when, for example, they are forced to move for a spouse’s job change. In fact, 21% of U.S. sites explicitly market to remote workers, and one-third of our survey respondents were employed full-time by some other company. On average, these individuals are spending 65% of their time working from a coworking space.

“We have seen individuals who come in to avoid the commute to their traditional office space,” says Michael Kenny, managing partner of San Diego-based Co-Merge, a space that participated in our study. At Co-Merge, users from Accenture, Groupon, and Citrix are using the space on a regular basis. Co-Merge also has members who remotely work full-time for companies in other major cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington.

It’s the authentic sense of community where intrinsically motivated people who experience a sense of purpose in their work and thrive together that substantiates the coworking movement. Given these qualities, we expect to see a growing number of flexible workers try coworking — and a growing number of employers embracing coworking as a tool to help their increasingly mobile and flexible workforce to do their best work.

Peter A. Bacevice (@Bacevice) is a researcher with the Center for Positive Organizations (@PositiveOrg) at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business (@MichiganRoss) and senior design strategist with the New York office of HLW International (@HLWIntl). Gretchen Spreitzer is the Keith E. and Valerie J. Alessi Professor of Business Administration and Professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Lyndon Garrett is a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

 

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