Dear J.T. & Dale: I was out of work for four months before I took my current job. I like the job a lot, but it came with a pay cut. The company told me that after six months I could be eligible for a raise, if performing well. But then COVID-19 hit, and the company instituted hiring and salary freezes. It's now past my one-year anniversary. Is it OK for me to ask when I might expect a raise? — Ian
DALE: A raise isn't just about you and your performance; it's also about the company and its performance. When it comes to timing a raise request, it has to be a time not only when management is smiling upon you and your work, but also when management is just smiling, feeling good about the company's future.
J.T.: Which means this is a time to be very careful. Many companies are still restructuring. Asking for a raise right now could result in you being put on the restructuring list.
DALE: That's why you need to figure out how the company is doing, really doing. I hope you have friends in the finance department or HR you can ask. This market intelligence is something to pursue whether or not a raise is a possibility — it is a part of career planning.
J.T.: If things look OK for the company, then I would sit down with your boss and ask for an annual review of your performance — just your performance. Don't discuss compensation at all; instead, just say that it's been over a year and you would love to see where you might be able to grow your skills. At the end of that conversation, you could politely bring up that you hope that when the company is able to give raises again that you will be considered. If your boss says it'll be over a year, you may want to start looking for a new job. If they say it might be happening in a couple of months, the conversation put you on their radar screen. The most important thing right now is to stay employed. Be careful!
Dear J.T. & Dale: I have a Ph.D. and have been in academia for many years. Given all that's going on, I think it's time for a job in the private sector. I've always had a CV that is several pages long. Is this still appropriate, or do I need to revamp it for the private sector? — Joce
J.T.: Yes, you need a new resume. Specifically, you need one that isn't as detailed as your CV. Recruiters in the private sector are used to skimming resumes. Therefore, you need a resume format that highlights your transferable skills at the top and simplifies your work history in a bullet-point format. At the end, you might continue to include some of the additional elements of your academic qualifications but the first two pages should be updated.
DALE: J.T.'s website WorkItDaily.com has plenty of free resources to help with resumes. So improve your resume but don't fall in love with it. A resume is not going to get you a job; rather, a resume is going to assist in your networking. Ideally, it will offer talking points for someone in your network to pitch you to their employer. I hope that your academic work has led you to build a network of colleagues in the private sector — these folks are where you'll focus your efforts. Those insiders will help you make the right approach to a hiring manager. You should anticipate questions that your background raises: Can she function in the "real world"? Is she going to be "too academic"? And that brings us full circle: Your resume needs to highlight the skills important to corporate executives, stated in their language. So, when you are working on the resume, get feedback from your private sector colleagues. And hey, if you're thinking, "Dale, but I don't have private sector colleagues/contacts," then you might want to hold off on the job search for this academic year while you devote yourself to building that network.
Jeanine "J.T." O'Donnell is a career coach and founder of the leading career site WorkItDaily.com. Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators' Lab and author of "The Weary Optimist." Send questions in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or visit JTandDale.com.