A lack of career progression is the No. 1 reason why people quit their jobs, according to a list of deal-breakers compiled last year by BambooHR. Poor work-life balance came in second, with pay dissatisfaction the third-leading cause of worker defections.
If these complaints sound familiar, you may already be seeking greener pastures. But how can you tell if your advancement and earning potential will be any better at another company? Here are four ways to investigate your chances of boosting your career (and your paycheck) at your next potential employer.
Check the Forecast
Business conditions play a significant role in creating a favorable climate to advance. A company that’s grown at a pretty fast clip (which is relatively common in tech, especially among startups) may be forced to pump the brakes if it runs short of cash.
“A company that’s struggling financially is going to limit raises and bonuses and delay promotions,” noted Scott Kukowski, a former IT manager and systems administrator who now works as a technology career coach for Wolfgang Career Coaching in Austin, Texas.
In other words, you want to see what industry analysts and executives have to say about the company’s near-term business prospects and technology plans. Kukowski recommends AtoZdatabases and ReferenceUSA because they provide a wealth of information on public and private companies; job seekers can access the databases for free through public libraries.
Chart Your Individual Path
An IT manager or recruiter may communicate his or her company’s broad commitment to promoting from within, but does that commitment apply to technical promotions or just managerial roles? And when might such opportunities arise? If you’re a midlevel programmer, for example, it may take several years to advance if the company just hired two senior-level programmers.
“Don’t settle for vague generalities or broad statements,” Kukowski said. “Ask the hiring manager to describe the career path and estimated timeline for the specific role or position you want to pursue.”
“Ask to see an org chart,” recommended Ada James, a career and life coach based in Mountain View, Calif. “While some companies have the flexibility to create new positions, it’s not all that common. An org chart can help you visualize potential opportunities.”
Consult Future Teammates
If the hiring process doesn’t include a meet-and-greet with your prospective teammates, ask for one. You can’t come right out and ask someone what they’re making, but you can certainly ask general questions about performance reviews and raises, the rate of internal promotions, culture and turnover. It’s also okay to ask a prospective teammate about his or her career path and the company’s track record on promotions.
“Tech people are pretty transparent and truthful,” Kukowski noted. “So if the company is in the habit of making promises it can’t keep, cutting pay or filling promotional spots with external hires, you’ll probably hear about it.”
Review Compensation Data and Philosophy
Tangible factors such as turnover, supply and demand, and profit margins shape a company’s compensation program, as well as intangible features including philosophy and market positioning. If you really want to earn more at your next stop, you need to consider salary data as well as the company’s transparency and viewpoint on rewards.
“Once you receive an offer, it’s totally fair to ask HR about salary increases, including percentages, timing and the compensation range for higher level roles,” James said.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Discussing compensation and the opportunity to advance during the hiring process conveys what’s important to you,” she added. “If the manager gives short shrift to your needs, that company is probably not the best place to advance your career.”
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