Millennials have long been at the mercy of economic events, from the Great Recession to crushing levels of student loan debt. But thanks to the Great Resignation that began in 2021, this generation is experiencing its first brush with power and opportunity in the job market.
Millennials are now midcareer and have more negotiating power than before, says Carlota Zimmerman, who runs a career coaching firm in New York City. That, plus a hot job market — with 10.6 million open positions as of November 2021, per the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — is why exploring career options right now is a smart move.
But before you start polishing your résumé, here are tips from career coaches on how to be strategic about your job search, prepare for negotiations and ask for what you want.
Get clarity on your goals
You might be ready for a change, but that doesn’t mean you should start applying for jobs right away.
Get clear about what you want before you start searching, Zimmerman says. List the pros and cons of your current job. What gives you satisfaction? What doesn’t? This exercise will help you get a better idea of what you want the next job to look like, she says.
Next, drill down on the areas you identified.
Say you’ve realized you want more flexibility or a better work-life balance in a new role. Define what that looks like, says Dana Theus, executive coach at InPower Coaching in Alexandria, Virginia. Flexibility could mean working unconventional hours, working remotely, coming into the office a couple of days a week or something else.
After you’ve fleshed out your goals, turn to job boards to research what people are recruiting for, Theus says. Write down the parts of a job description that match your goals and gradually build your ideal job profile. You may not find a perfect job, but this will give you the confidence to articulate what you’re looking for to people in your professional network as well as during negotiations, she says.
Enter the negotiation head space
Before entering a negotiation, know which terms you’re willing to discuss and which are absolutely off the table, Zimmerman says. “You have to have the courage to believe that what’s important to you is important to your company. If it’s not, then you’re going to need to find another company,” she says.
Identify your deal-breakers, Zimmerman suggests, by asking yourself questions such as whether you’d be willing to take a lower salary if you could work more days from home, or whether you’d accept fewer vacation days in exchange for a flexible weekly schedule.
Write your answers on index cards that you can keep handy during interviews, she says.
And before negotiations, silence your inner critic.
Karen Chopra, a career counselor at ChopraCareers in Washington, D.C., says women are more likely to negotiate with themselves on jobs and compensation. “Don’t go for what you think you can get,” she says. “Go for what you want.”
Do your research on compensation by talking to people in your network and looking on websites such as Glassdoor. Chopra advises women to build a broad and diverse network for a better idea of salaries. “You have to be asking everyone not what they make, but what is the range for the position that you are looking for,” she says.
Plan your talking points
When you’re going through the interview process, virtually or in person, here are tips to keep in mind:
Bring up your terms early. Don’t wait until the final interview to bring up your must-haves, says Zimmerman. You can approach the subject as early as your first call with a recruiter. When asked if you have questions or concerns, reiterate why you’re excited about the position, she says, then mention that it’s also very important for you to be able to work remotely, for example.
Explain how your request benefits the company. If you’re asking for flexible work hours, for example, Theus recommends confidently stating that you know flexibility allows you to be more productive. Then you can spell out a benefit for the potential employer, such as, “I can be more committed to being available in emergencies if I have this flexibility,” she says.
Don’t overdo it with explanation. Whether you’re asking for work-from-home days or flexible hours, you need not share your entire life story, Zimmerman says. “Your desire to have time with your children, your partner, for health care, these are legal human rights,” she says. If you’ve stated that your request allows you to do your job well and explained how it benefits the company, that’s good enough.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance site NerdWallet. Amrita Jayakumar is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com.