15 Career Planning
Some people know what they want to do at an early age. For most people, however, the path is just not that clear. Career planning and development can be a process of trial and error as you learn your abilities and preferences by trying them out. Sometimes a job is not what you thought it would be, and sometimes you are not who you thought you would be. The better your decision-making process, the more objective and methodical it is, the less trial and error you will have to endure.
Your financial sustainability depends on having income to support your spending, saving, and investing. A primary component of your income—especially earlier in your adult life—is income from your wages or salary—that is, from working, or selling your labour. Your ability to maximize the price that your labour can bring depends on the labour market you choose and your ability to sell yourself. Those abilities will be called on throughout your working life. You will make job and career choices for many different reasons. This chapter looks only at the financial context of those choices.
15.1 CHOOSING A JOB
- Describe the macroeconomic factors that affect job markets.
- Describe the microeconomic factors that influence job and career decisions.
- Relate life stages to both microeconomic factors and income needs.
- Describe how relationships between life stages, income needs, and microeconomic factors may affect job and career choices.
A person starting out in the world of work today can expect to change careers—not just jobs—an average of seven times before retiring (Baum and Ma, 2007).
Those career changes may reflect the process of gaining knowledge and skills as you work or changes in industry and economic conditions over several decades of your working life. Knowing this, you cannot base career decisions solely on the circumstances of the moment. However, you also cannot ignore the economics of the job market.
You may have a career in mind but have no idea how to get started, or you may have a job in mind but have no idea where it may lead. If you have a career in mind, you should research its career path, or sequence of steps that will enable you to advance. Some careers have a well-established career path; for example, careers in law, medicine, teaching, or civil engineering. In other occupations and professions, career paths may not be well defined.
Before you can even focus on a career or a job, however, you need to identify the factors that will affect your decision-making process.
Macro Factors of the Job Market
The job market is the market where buyers (employers) and sellers (employees) of labour trade, but it usually refers to the possibilities for employment and its rewards. These will differ by field of employment, types of jobs, and geographic region. The opportunities offered in a job market depend on the supply and demand for jobs, which in turn depend on the need for labour in the broader economy and in a specific industry or geographic area.
The economic cycle can affect the aggregate job market or employment rate. If the economy is in a recession, the economy is producing less, and there is less need for labour, so fewer jobs are available. If the economy is expanding, production and its need for labour are growing.
Typically, a recession or expansion affects different industries in different ways. Some industries are cyclical and some are countercyclical. For example, in a recession, consumer spending is often down, so retail shops and consumer goods manufacturers—in cyclical industries—may be cutting jobs. Meanwhile, more people are continuing their education to improve their skills and the chances of getting a job, which is harder to do in a recession, so jobs in higher education—a countercyclical industry—may be increasing.
Global events such as an outbreak of war, the nationalization of a scarce natural resource, the price of a critical commodity such as crude oil, the collapse of a vital industry, and so on, may also cause changes in the global economy that affect job markets.
Another macroeconomic factor is change in technology, which can open up new fields of employment and make others obsolete. With the advent of digital cameras, for example, even single-use conventional cameras are no longer being manufactured in great quantity, and film developers are not needed as much as they once were. However, there are more jobs for developers of electronic cameras and digital applications for creating images and using digital images in communications channels, such as mobile phones.
A demographic shift can also change entire industries and job opportunities. A historical example, repeated in many developing countries, is the mass migration of rural families to urban centres and factory towns during an industrial revolution. Changes in the composition of a society, such as the average age of the population, also affect job supply and demand. Baby booms create demand for more educators and pediatricians, for example, while aging populations create more demand for goods and services relating to elder care.
Social and cultural factors affect consumer behaviour, and consumer preferences can change a job market. Demand for certain kinds of products and services, for example—organic foods, hybrid cars, clean energy, and “green” buildings—can increase job opportunities in businesses that address those preferences. Changes in demand for a product or service will change the need for labour to produce it.
If you are entrepreneurial and intend to be self-employed, your job opportunities may be affected by the ease with which you can start and maintain a business. Ease of entry, in turn, may be affected by macro factors such as the laws and regulations in the province where you intend to do business and the existing competition in the market you are entering.
The labour market is competitive, not just at an individual level but on a global, industrywide scale. As transportation and especially communication technology has improved, many steps in a manufacturing or even a service process may be outsourced to foreign labour. That competition affects the Canadian job market as jobs are moved overseas, but it also opens new markets in developing economies. You may be interested in an overseas job, as Canadian companies open offices in Asia, South America, Africa, or elsewhere. Globalization affects job markets everywhere.
Micro Factors of Your Job Market
Whether you are employed or self-employed, whether you look forward to going to work every day or dread it, employment determines how you spend most of your waking hours during most of your days. Employment determines your income and thus your lifestyle, your physical well-being, and to a large extent your emotional satisfaction. Everyone has a different idea about what a “good job” is. That idea may change over a lifetime as circumstances change, but some specific micro factors will weigh on your decisions, including your:
- knowledge, and
- lifestyle choices.
Abilities are innate talents or aptitudes—what you are capable of or good at. Circumstances may inhibit your abilities or may even cause disabilities. However, you can often develop your abilities—and compensate for disabilities—through training or practice. Sometimes you don’t even know what abilities you have until some experience brings them out.
When Lori says she is “good with people” or when Skyler says that he is a “natural athlete,” they are referring to abilities that will make them better at some jobs than others. Abilities can be developed and may require upkeep; athletic ability, for example, requires regular fitness workouts to really be maintained. You also may find that you lack some abilities, or think you do because you’ve never tried using them.
Usually, by the time you graduate from high school, you are aware of some of your abilities, although you may not be aware of how they may help or hinder you in different jobs. Also, your idea of your abilities relative to others may be skewed by your context. For example, you may be the best writer in your high school, but not compared to a larger pool of more competitive students. Your high school or university career office may be able to help you identify your abilities and skills and apply that knowledge to your career decisions.
Your job choices are not predetermined by your abilities or apparent lack thereof. An ability can be developed or used in a way you have not yet imagined. A lack of ability can sometimes be overcome by using other talents to compensate. Thus, ability is a factor in your job decisions, but certainly not the only one. Your knowledge and skills are equally—if not more—important.
Skills and knowledge are learned attributes. A skill is a process that you learn to apply, such as programming a computer, welding a pipe, or making a customer feel comfortable making a purchase. Knowledge refers to your education and experience and your understanding of the contexts in which your skills may be applied.
Education is one way to develop skills and knowledge. In secondary education, a vocational program prepares you to enter the job market directly after high school and focuses on technical skills such as baking, bookkeeping, automotive repair, or building trades. A university preparatory program focuses on developing general skills that you will need to further your formal education, such as reading, writing, research, and quantitative reasoning.
Past high school or a year or two of college, it is natural to question the value of more education. Tuition is real money and must be earned or borrowed, both of which have costs. There is also the opportunity cost of the wages you could be earning instead. As mentioned in the introduction, financial education will help to build financial literacy and self-sufficiency among youth so that they can make the right financial choices when it comes to their education, make the most of their earnings, and avoid the heavy debt and financial challenges that many Canadians are currently experiencing.
“Education is so important,” explains Elder Kewistep. “With a degree it opens the door. If you go further, the door will open even more” (Elder Kewistep, Video 3).
However, education adds to your earning power significantly by raising the price of your labour. The more education you have, the more knowledge and skills you have. The smaller the supply of labour with your particular knowledge and skills, the higher the price your labour can command. This relationship is the rationale for becoming specialized within a career. However, both specialization and versatility may have value in certain job markets, raising the price of your labour.
More education also confers more job mobility—the ability to change jobs when opportunities arise, because your knowledge and skills make you more useful, and thus valuable, in more ways. Your value as a worker or employee enables you to command higher pay for your labour.
Not only are you likely to earn more if you are better educated, but you are also more likely to have a job with a pension plan, health insurance, and paid vacations—benefits that add to your total compensation (Baum and Ma, 2007).
Your choices will depend on the characteristics and demands of a job and how they fit your unique constellation of knowledge, skills, personality, characteristics, and aptitudes. For example, your knowledge of finance, visual pursuit skills, ability to manage stress and tolerate risk, aptitude for numerical reasoning, enjoyment of competition, and preference to work independently may suit you for employment as a stockbroker or futures trader. Your manual speed and accuracy, verbal comprehension skills, enjoyment of detail work, strong sense of responsibility, desire to work regular hours in a small group setting, and preference for public service may suit you for training as a court stenographer. Your word fluency, social skills, communication skills, organizational skills, preference to work with people, and desire to lead others may suit you for jobs in education or sales. And so on.
Lifestyle choices affect the amount of income you will need to achieve and maintain your lifestyle and the amount of time you will spend earning income. Lifestyle choices thus affect your career path and job choices in key ways. Typically, when you are beginning a career and have few, if any, dependents, you are more willing to sacrifice time and even pay for a job that will enhance your skills and help you to progress along your career path. As a journalist, for example, you may volunteer for an overseas post; or as a nurse you may volunteer for extra rotations. As a computer programmer, you may assist in the development of open source software.
As you advance in your career, and perhaps become more settled in your life—for example, by starting a family—you are less willing to sacrifice your personal life to your career, and may seek out a job that allows you to earn the income that supports your dependents while not taking away too much of your time.
Your income needs typically increase as you have dependents and are trying to save and accumulate wealth, and then decrease when your dependents are on their own and you have accumulated some wealth. Your sources of income shift as well, from relying on income from labour earlier in your life to relying on income from investments later.
When your family has grown and you once again have fewer dependents, you may really enjoy fulfilling your ambitions, as you have decades of skills and knowledge to apply and the time to apply them. Increasingly, as more people retain their health into older age, they are working in retirement—earning a wage to improve their quality of life or eliminate debt, turning a hobby into a business, or trying something they have always wanted to do. Your life cycle of career development may follow the pattern shown in Table 15.1.1.
Exploration and establishment
Develop your skills, acquire knowledge, explore jobs, start earning income, gain experience
Advance your career, leverage knowledge and skills, increase earnings
Achieve your goals, maximize earnings, build on success and reputation
Redirect knowledge and skills, contribute, mentor successors
Regardless of age, your lifestyle choices will affect your job opportunities and career choices. For example, you may choose to live in a specific geographic region based on its
- rural or urban location,
- proximity to your family or friends,
- differences or similarities to where you grew up,
- cultural or recreational offerings,
- political characteristics,
- climate, and
- cost of living.
Sometimes you may choose to sacrifice your lifestyle preferences for your ambitions, and sometimes you may sacrifice your ambitions for your preferences. It’s really a matter of figuring out what matters at the time, while keeping in mind the effect of this decision on the next one.
- Macroeconomic factors affect job markets, including:
• economic cycles,
• new technology or obsolescence,
• demographic changes,
• changes in the global economy,
• changes in consumer preferences, and
• changes in laws and regulations.
- Job markets are globally competitive.
- Microeconomic factors influence job and career decisions, including:
• abilities or aptitudes,
• skills and knowledge, and
• lifestyle choices.
- Microeconomic factors and income needs change over a lifetime and typically correlate with age and stage of life.
- Job and career choices should realistically reflect income needs.
- Record in your personal finance journal your work history and current thoughts about your future work life. What jobs have you held? In each job, what experience, knowledge, or skills did you acquire or develop? What are your future job preferences, and why do you prefer them? Do you have a planned career path? What potential advantages and opportunities do your preferences or plans offer? What potential disadvantages and costs may your preferences or plans entail?
- Go online to find out the differences in definition between an occupation and a vocation, profession, trade, career, and career path. Which combination of concepts best describes the approach you plan to take to satisfy your needs for income from future employment?
- In your personal finance journal, list your most important job skills, aptitudes, and preferences on which you plan to expand or build a career. Then list the specific job skills you feel you need to develop further through additional education or experience. How and where will you get those skills and at what cost? Next, describe the lifestyle you hope to support through income from future employment. What aspects of that lifestyle would be easiest for you to modify or sacrifice for your career or income goals?
Baum, S., and J. Ma. (2007). Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society. Princeton, NJ: The College Board.
15.2 FINDING A JOB
- List and describe venues for finding job opportunities.
- Explain the value of networking.
- Trace the steps in pursuing a job opportunity, specifically your cover letter, resumé, and interview.
- Identify the critical kinds of information that should be provided in a job offer.
A job search is a part of everyone’s life, sooner or later. It may be repeated numerous times throughout your career. You may initiate a job search in hopes of improving your position and career or changing careers, or you may be forced into the job market after losing your job. Whatever the circumstances, when you look for a job you are seeking a buyer for your labour. The process of having to “sell” yourself (your time, energy, knowledge, and skills) is always revealing and valuable.
Finding a Job Market
Before you can look for a job, you need to have an idea of what job market you are in. The same macro factors that you consider in your choice of career may make your job search easier or harder. Ultimately, they may influence your methods of searching or even your job choice itself. For example, as unemployment has increased in the wake of the most recent financial crisis, the labour market has become much more competitive. In turn, job seekers have become much more creative about advertising their skills—from broader networking to papering a neighborhood with brochures on windshields—and more accepting of job conditions, including lower compensation.
Knowing the job classification and industry name will focus your search process and make it more efficient. Once you understand your job market, look at the macro and micro factors that affect it along with your personal choices. For example, knowing that you are interested in working in business, transportation, or the leisure and hospitality industry, you are ready to research these fields more and plan your job search accordingly.
You are looking for a buyer of your labour, so you need to find the markets where buyers shop. One of the first things to do is find out where jobs in your field are advertised. Jobs may be advertised in:
- networking websites such as LinkedIn,
- trade magazines,
- professional organizations or their journals,
- career fairs,
- employment agencies,
- employment websites,
- government websites,
- company websites, and
- your university’s career development office.
Consider Sandy, for example, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in administration and a certificate in hospitality, tourism, and gaming entertainment management from First Nations University of Canada. Her dream job is to work for a resort location. There are several websites and journals that provide useful information about the industry. They also list upcoming trade conferences that may be a good opportunity for Sandy to meet some people in the industry.
Browsing online, Sandy learns about a big job fair coming to her region, sponsored by a chamber of commerce and an economic development agency. This is her chance to meet recruiters in her industry and find out about actual opportunities. Each prospective employer will have a table, and Sandy will go from table to table, getting information, dropping off her resumé, and possibly setting up interviews.
She also plans to register with an employment agency that specializes in hotel management for smaller hotels and inns. The agency will screen her application and try to match her with appropriate jobs in its listings. For a specified time, it will keep her resumé on file for future opportunities.
Sandy’s strategy includes posting her resumé on employment websites, such as Monster.ca, and Careerbuilder.ca. Browsing jobs online, Sandy discovers that there is a strong seasonal demand for hospitality workers at First Nations resorts and casinos in different locations throughout Canada, and this gives her an idea. If the right choice doesn’t come up right away, maybe a summer job working for one of these resorts and casinos would be a good way to develop her knowledge and skills further while looking for her dream job in management.
Sandy needs to research destinations as well as businesses, and she wants to talk with people directly. She knows that cold calls—calling potential employers on the phone as a complete unknown—is the hardest way to sell herself. In any industry, cold calling has a much lower success rate than calling with a referral or some connection—otherwise known as networking.
Networking is one of the most effective ways of finding a job. It can take many forms, but the idea is to use whatever professional, academic, or social connections you have to enlist as many volunteers as possible to help in your job search. LinkedIn is a business- and employment-oriented social networking service that is available online and via mobile apps. According to popular theory, your social networks can be seen as assets that potentially help you build opportunities and wealth. The number and positions of people you can network with and the economically viable connections you can have with them are a form of capital—that is, social capital. Another example of a networking group is the Aboriginal Government Employees’ Network (AGEN) in Regina, Saskatchewan. This organization partners with, promotes, and supports workplace environments that are committed to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of Indigenous employees throughout Saskatchewan’s government ministries, agencies, boards, commissions and Crown corporations. AGEN’s vision is to provide a network that supports current and future Indigenous employees through personal and professional development while promoting Indigenous cultural awareness.
Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and the more people know about your job search, the more likely it is that they or someone they know will learn of opportunities. Sandy’s strategy also includes joining online career networking sites, such as LinkedIn, and discussion lists for people in the hospitality industry. Sandy finds a helpful Yahoo! group called The Innkeeper Club and posts a query about what employers look for in a manager.
While Sandy was in university getting her degree and certificate in hospitality management, her best friend from high school was happily styling hair in a local salon. Sandy never thought to network through her friend, but it turns out that one of her friend’s clients has a sister who helps to manage a First Nations casino and resort in central Saskatchewan, and they are thinking about hiring someone to manage their hotel. Her friend passed along her name and resumé to her client’s sister and she has an interview in a week.
That’s how networking works—you just never know who may be helpful to you. The obvious people to start with are all the people that you know: former professors, former employers, friends, family, friends of family, friends of friends, family of friends, and so on. The more people you can talk with or send your resumé to (i.e., the more people you can impress), the greater the chances that someone will make an offer.
Another good networking strategy is to call or email people working in the industry, especially individuals who are currently in or just above the position you’d like to have, and ask to talk with them about their work. If you make it clear that you are not asking for or expecting a job offer from them, many people will be happy to take a half hour to discuss their jobs with you. They may have valuable tips or leads for you or be willing to pass along your name to someone else who does.
Selling Yourself: Your Cover Letter and Resumé
To get a job you will have to convince someone who does not know you that you are worth paying for. You have an opportunity to prove that in your cover letter and resumé and again in your interview.
The cover letter, whether mailed or emailed, is your introduction to your prospective employer. You have three paragraphs on one page to briefly introduce yourself and show how you can make a profitable contribution to the company. The objective of the cover letter is to get the reader to look at your resumé with a favourable impression of you created by the letter.
Your first paragraph should establish your purpose in making contact, the reason for the letter. You should make it clear what job you are applying for and why you are making this particular contact. If someone referred you, mention him or her by name. If you met the addressee previously, remind him or her where and when that was—for example, “It was great to chat with you at the Jobs Fair in Saskatoon last week.” The more specifically you can identify yourself and separate yourself from the pool of other job seekers, the better.
The second paragraph of your cover letter should summarize your background, education, and experience. All this information is on your resumé in more detail, so this is not the place to expound at length. You want to show briefly that you are qualified for the position and have the potential to make a contribution.
Your third paragraph is your opportunity to leave the door open for further communication. Make it clear where and how you can be reached and how much you appreciate the opportunity to be considered for the position.
The resumé—the summary list of your skills and knowledge—is what will really sell you to an employer, once you have made a good enough impression with the cover letter to get him or her to turn the page. A good resumé provides enough information to show that you are willing and able to contribute to your employer’s success—that it is worth it to hire you or at least to talk to you in an interview.
List the pertinent facts of where and how you can be reached: address, phone number, and email address. Your qualifications will be mainly education and experience. List any degrees, certificates, or training you have completed after high school. Be sure to include anything that distinguishes your academic career, such as honours, prizes, or scholarships.
List any employment experience, including summer jobs, even if they don’t seem pertinent to the position you are applying for. You may think that being a camp counsellor has nothing to do with being a radiology technician, but it shows that you have experience working with children and parents, have held a position where you are responsible for others, and that you are willing to work during your school breaks, thus showing ambition. If you are starting out and can’t be expected to have lots of employment experience, employers look for hints about your character—things like ambition, initiative, responsibility—that may indicate your success working for them.
Internships and co-op terms that you did in university or high school are also impressive, as they show your willingness to go beyond the standard curriculum and learn by working—something an employer will expect you to continue to do on the job too. While you are in school, you should recognize the value added by experiential learning and the positive impression that it will make. An internship or co-op term can also give you a head start in networking if your supervisor will be a good reference or source of contacts for you. The internship may even result in a job offer; you may not necessarily want to accept it, but at the very least, having an offer to fall back on takes some of the pressure off your search.
For each job, be clear about the position you held and the two most important duties or roles you performed. Don’t go into too much detail, however; the time to expand on your story is in the interview.
If you have done internships or volunteer work, or if you are a member of civic or volunteer organizations, be sure to list those as well. They are hints about you as a person and may help you to stand out in the pool of applicants.
A common mistake is to list too much extra information on your resumé and to focus too much on what you want—for example, by stating an objective such as “to obtain a great position in hotel management.” Your employer cares about what you can do for the company, not for yourself. The following are some tips for developing your resumé:
- Avoid adjectives or adverbs when describing your past performance. If you were an achiever in school, that will be reflected in your grades, degrees, honours, and awards. “Hype” can sound boastful; besides, you can discuss your performance in detail at the interview.
- Be honest and state your case without exaggeration. It is easier than ever for employers to check on your history, and they will. Falsification of information on your resumé may become grounds for dismissal if you are hired.
- Don’t include personal details unless they are strongly relevant to the job you are seeking. Employers typically do not want to know that you love dogs or were raised in Singapore.
- Be correct. Proofread your resumé and have someone else proof it as well. This is your opportunity to make a good impression. Any error indicates not just that you made an error, but that you are sloppy, lazy, or willing to let your work go public with errors.
- Keep it to one page, if possible. Employers are typically looking at many resumés to fill one position, so make it easy and quick for the reader to see how qualified you are.
A myriad of sample resumés and sample cover letters may be found online, but be wary of templates that may not fit you or your prospective job. Employers in your field may have particular expectations for what should be on your resumé or how it should be structured. Maybe you should list your skills or perhaps your education first. Perhaps it would be preferable to list your past employment experiences in reverse chronological order (with your most recent job first). Advice about how to write a resumé is plentiful, but there is no one right or best way. Choose an appropriate style and format for your job category that will present you in the best possible light as a prospective employee.
Many employers want you to fill out an application form independently of or instead of a resumé. They may also ask for references, especially from former employers who are willing to recommend you. Be aware that hirers and human resources department personnel routinely follow up on references and letters of recommendation. Read the article “How to Fill Out a Job Application” on thebalancecareers.com to find out more about filling out employment applications.
There are also many resources available in print and online to help you write a good resumé.
Selling Yourself: Your Interview
The interview—a face-to-face conversation with a prospective employer—is your chance to get an offer. You want to make a good personal impression: dress professionally but in clothes that fit well and comfortably; be polite and cordial but also careful not to assume too familiar a tone.
You may be asked a series of predetermined questions, or your interviewer may let the conversation develop in a more open-ended manner. The interviewer may let you establish its direction in order to learn more about how you think. But however the conversation is guided, you want to be able to showcase your suitability for the job and what you bring to it.
Table 15.2.1 identifies some questions employers commonly ask in job interviews.
Tell us a little about yourself and what brings you here today.
Why do you want this job? What do you know about us?
How does your education/background/experience make you a good fit for this job?
Do you feel you have strong communication skills/technology skills/writing skills (etc., as relevant)?
What can you do for our company?
What are your career goals?
Are you a team player?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
How would you handle a situation in which …?
What is your ideal job?
Be prepared for interviewers who prefer to focus on general behavioural questions rather than on job-specific questions. Behavioural interviews emphasize your past actions as indicators of how you might perform in the future. The so-called STAR Method is a good approach to answering behavioural questions, as it helps you to be systematic and specific in making your past work experiences relevant to your present job quest. The STAR Method is a process of conveying specific situations, actions, and outcomes in response to an interviewer’s question about something you did.
- Situation: Give specific details about the situation and its context.
- Task: Describe the task or goal that arose in response to the situation.
- Action: Describe what you did and who was involved.
- Result: Describe the (positive) outcome. (Reeves, 2009)
For example, a typical behavioural interview may include the following exchange:
Question: We are looking for someone who is willing to take initiative in keeping our office systems working efficiently and who can work without a lot of direct supervision. Does that describe you?
Answer: Absolutely. For example, in my last job I noticed that the office supply system was not working well. People were running out of what they needed before letting me know what to order (Situation). I thought there needed to be a better way to anticipate and fill those needs based on people’s actual patterns of use (Task). So, I conducted a poll on office supply use and used that information to develop a schedule for the automatic resupply of key items on a regular basis (Action). The system worked much more smoothly after that. I mentioned it in my next performance review, and my boss was so impressed that she put me in for a raise (Results).
There are some questions employers should not ask you, however. Unless the information is a legal requirement for the job you are interviewing for, antidiscrimination laws make it illegal for an employer to ask you your age; your height or weight; personal information such as your racial identity, sexual orientation, or health status; or questions about your marital status and family situation, such as the number of children you have, whether you are single, or if you are pregnant or planning to start a family.
It is also important for you to prepare a few questions that you can ask your interviewer. They could be about the company’s products or services, the company’s mission or goals, the work you would be doing, who you would be reporting to, where you would be located, and the opportunities for advancement. You want your questions to be specific enough to show that you have already done some research on the company, its products, and markets. This is a chance to demonstrate your knowledge of the job, company, or industry—in other words, that you have done your homework—as well as your interest and ambition.
Unless your interviewer mentions compensation, don’t bring it up. Once you have the job offer, then you can discuss compensation, but in the interview you want to focus on what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.
You can also use the interview to learn more about the company. Try to pick up clues about the company’s mission, corporate culture, and work environment. Are people wearing business attire or “business casual”? Are there cubicles and private offices or a more open workspace? Are people working in teams, or is it more of a conventional hierarchy? You want to be in a workplace where you can be comfortable and productive. Be open-minded—you may be able to work quite well in an environment you have never worked in before—but think about how you can do your best work in that environment.
After your interview, send a thank-you note, and follow up with a phone call if you don’t hear back. You may ask your interviewer for feedback—so that you can learn for future interviews—but don’t be surprised (and be gracious) if you don’t get it. Always leave the door open. You never know.
Accepting an Offer
A job offer should include details about the work you will be performing, the compensation, and the opportunity to advance from there. If any of that information is missing, you should ask about it.
In many jobs—especially in entry-level positions—you may be asked to do many things, so the job description may be fairly vague. Your willingness to do whatever is asked of you (within the law and according to ethical standards) should be compensated by what you stand to gain from the job—in pay or in new knowledge and experience or in positioning yourself for your next job. Some jobs are better looked at as a kind of graduate education.
Your compensation includes not only your wages or salary, but also any benefits that the employer provides. As you read in previous chapters, benefits may include health and dental insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, and a retirement plan. Compensation also includes time off, sick days, and vacation days. You should understand the company’s policies and flexibility in applying them.
Know what your total compensation will be and whether it is reasonable for the job, industry, and current job market. Asking around may help, especially in online discussion groups with relative anonymity. People are often reluctant to disclose their compensation, and companies discourage sharing this information because it typically reveals discrepancies. For example, people hired in the past may be receiving less (or more) pay than people hired recently for the same position. In addition, the gender gap—in which men receive higher pay than women in the same position—is often a problem.
To gauge how reasonable a job offer is, you can look at the research on pay scales or find statistical averages by profession or region collected by various professional associations. Online resources include simple salary comparison calculators, such as the one at salary.com. You will also find data and related articles linking salaries to specific job titles, area codes, provinces, educational levels, and years of work experience on websites such as PayScale.
Realistically compare the job offer to your needs. Different geographic areas have different costs of living, for example, so the same salary may afford you a very different lifestyle in Regina than in Vancouver. Your employment compensation is most likely an important source—perhaps your only source—of income. That income finances your plan for spending, saving, and investing. A budget can help you to see if that income will be sufficient to meet your financial goals. If you already have financial responsibilities—student loans, car loans, or dependents, for example—you may find that you can’t afford the job.
You can negotiate your compensation offer; many employers expect you to try, but some will just stand by their offer—take it or leave it. Your ability to negotiate depends in part on the number of candidates for that particular job and how quickly the employer needs to fill it. You will find guidelines online for evaluating job offers and negotiating your compensation, as well as a simple “Job Offer Checklist,” on the CollegeGrad webpage Job Offer Negotiation.
In some cases, your employer may offer you a contract, a legal agreement that details your responsibilities and compensation and your employer’s responsibilities and expectations. As with any contract, you should thoroughly understand it before signing. If you will be employed as a member of a trade or labour union under a collective bargaining agreement, the terms of the contract may be applicable to all union members and therefore not negotiable by individual employees.
It is exciting to get a job offer, but don’t let the excitement overwhelm your good sense. Before you accept a job, you should be sure that you can live with it. You never really know what a job is like until you start, but it is better to go into it optimistically. When you are just starting a career or trying one out, it is most important to be able to learn and grow in your job, and you may have a period of “paying your dues.” But if you are really miserable in a job, you won’t be able to learn and grow, no matter how “golden” the opportunity is supposed to be.
- Venues for finding jobs include:
• trade magazines,
• professional organizations or their journals,
• career fairs,
• employment agencies or “headhunters,”
• employment websites,
• company websites,
• government websites, and
• your university’s career development office.
- Networking is a valuable way to expand your job search.
- Selling your labour to a prospective employer usually involves sending a cover letter and resumé, filling out an application form, and/or having an interview.
• The cover letter should get a prospective employer to read your resumé.
• The resumé should get the employer to offer you an interview.
• The interview should get the employer to offer you the job.
- A job offer includes information on the job, compensation (including benefits), and opportunities for advancement.
- Accepting a job offer may involve:
• evaluating the offer in relation to your needs,
• examining a job contract, or
• negotiating the compensation.
- In what sector of the economy or in what industry will you seek a job or develop your career? Record or chart your thoughts in your personal finance journal. What are the reasons for your choices? What education, knowledge, skills, aptitudes, preferences, and experiences do you bring to them?
- In your personal finance journal, list all the individuals and groups you can think of to tell about your job search or career development quest. Include their contact information. Write a message you could adapt, as needed, for each audience to send when you are ready. Then go online to research other individuals and groups you could include in your networking or could go to for more information about job opportunities.
- Write or revise your resumé and draft a general cover letter you could adapt for different job openings. Network with classmates to get critiques and ideas for clarifying or improving these tools to attract a prospective employer. What other supporting documents could you include in your job application?
- How will you prepare for a job interview? Read “In a Near-Death Event, a Corporate Right of Passage,” a New York Times interview with John Chambers the CEO of Cisco Systems, about corporate leadership and recruitment.
- Anticipate the questions you may be asked in an interview. For example, what could you say in a behavioural interview? For edification and fun, collaborate with classmates to do mock job interviews. Videotape your interviews. As an employer, would you hire yourself? What interviewing preparations and skills do you think you need to work on?
Reeves, E. G. (2009). Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? New York: Workman Publishing.
15.3 LEAVING A JOB
- Describe the processes of voluntary job loss.
- Describe the processes of involuntary job loss.
- Identify the financial impacts of an involuntary job loss.
- Identify major federal legislation that addresses employment issues and describe its importance in labour markets.
Statistically, it is almost impossible for you to expect to have one job or career for your entire working life. At least once, and possibly many times, you will change jobs or even careers, in which case you will have to leave your current or former job and find another. Handling that transition can be difficult, especially if the transition is not what you would have preferred. How you handle that transition may affect your success or satisfaction with your next position.
You may leave your job voluntarily or involuntarily. When you leave voluntarily, presumably you have had a chance to make a reasoned decision and have decided that the net benefits of moving on are more than the net benefits of staying.
You may wish to leave a job and move to another in order to:
- move to a position with more responsibility, opportunity to advance, or compensation;
- be in a more compatible work environment or corporate culture;
- learn a new skill;
- become self-employed by beginning an entrepreneurial venture; or
- make a transition from a military to a civilian job.
In other cases, you may leave employment permanently or temporarily because you wish to:
- further your education;
- assume family care, for example of a child or parent;
- take time off for recreation; or
Whatever your motivation for leaving your job, your decision should make sense; that is, it should be based on a reasoned analysis of how it will affect your life. If you have dependents, you will have to consider how your decision may affect their lives too.
Since your job is a source of income, leaving your job means a loss of that income. You need to consider how you can maintain or change your current use of income (i.e., your spending and saving levels) with that loss.
If you are changing jobs, your new job will replace that income with new income that is more than, equal to, or less than your old paycheque. If it is equal to or more than your former income, you may maintain or even expand your spending, saving, and investing activities. Extra income will provide you with more choices of how to consume or save. If it is less than your former income, you will have to decrease your spending or saving to fit your current needs. Your budget can help you foresee the effects of your new income on your spending and saving.
If you are leaving employment, then there will be no replacement income, so your spending and saving activities should reflect that loss, unless you have an alternative source of income to replace it. If you are going on to graduate school, perhaps you have a fellowship or scholarship. If you are assuming family care responsibilities, perhaps another family member has offered financial support. If you are retiring, you should have income from invested capital (e.g., your retirement savings) that can be used to replace your wages or salary.
If you are initiating the job change, be sure you try to cause the least disruption and cost to your employer. Let your employer know of your decision as soon as it is practical, and certainly before anyone else in the company knows. Two weeks’ notice is the convention, but the more notice you can give, the less inconvenience you will cause. Offer to help train your successor or be available to provide information or assist in the transition. The more cordially you leave your job, the better your relationship with your former employer will be, which may reflect well on you in future networking.
If you participated in a defined contribution retirement plan, you own those funds to the extent that you are vested in your employer’s contributions and have contributed your own funds. You can leave those funds as they are invested, or you can transfer them to your new job’s plan and invest them differently. There may be some time limits to doing so, and there may be tax considerations as well, so be sure you consult with your former employer and understand the tax rules before moving any funds.
The decision to leave a job and perhaps to leave employment means leaving non-income benefits that can create opportunity costs, including:
- intellectual or emotional gratifications of the work,
- enjoyment of your colleagues, and
- opportunities to learn.
If you have had a negative work experience, leaving may allow you to reduce boredom, eliminate job dissatisfaction, end conflict, avoid unwanted overtime, or reduce stress, but these are reasons for leaving a job that you probably should not share with a new or prospective employer.
As you can see, many micro and macro factors may enter into a decision to leave a job. You spend many of your waking hours working, and deciding to change jobs is about much more than just income. But it is still a decision about income, so you should carefully weigh the effects of that decision on your financial well-being.
If you leave your job involuntarily, you will have to make adjustments for a loss of income that you were not planning to make. That may be difficult, but not necessarily as difficult as you think.
Involuntary job loss may be due to your employer’s decision, an accident or disability, or unexpected circumstances such as the acquisition, merger, downsizing, or closing of the company you work for. Your employer also may decide to lay you off or fire you. A layoff implies a temporary job loss due to a circumstance in which your employer needs or can afford less labour.
If the layoff is due to an economic recession when there is less demand for the product you create, then it may be affecting your entire industry. That would mean you would have a harder time finding a similar job. If layoffs are widespread enough, however, there may be federal, provincial, or local government programs aimed at helping the many people in your situation, such as a retraining program or temporary income assistance.
You may get laid off because your employer is no longer as competitive or profitable and so has to cut costs, or because the company has lost financing. If the layoffs are specific to your employer, you may be able to find a similar position with another company or you may be able to establish your own competitive business in the same industry.
When you are fired, the employer permanently terminates your employment based on your performance. Involuntary termination, or getting fired, will cause a sudden loss of income that usually requires sudden adjustments to spending and saving. You may have to use your accumulated savings to finance your expenditures until that income can be replaced by a new job.
An injury or illness—to you or a dependent—may create a temporary or permanent involuntary job loss. It usually also means a period of unemployment. Depending on the circumstances, your employer may be willing to help ease the transition, perhaps by offering you a more flexible schedule, adjusting your responsibilities, or providing specialized equipment to enable you to do a job.
By law, employers may not discriminate against people with disabilities so long as they are able to do a job. A job accommodation is any reasonable adjustment to a job or work environment that makes it possible for an individual with a disability to perform or continue to perform job duties.
If you become disabled and unable to work, you may be able to replace some or all of your wage income with insurance coverage, if you have disability insurance that covers the specific circumstances (as discussed in Chapter 10 “Personal Risk Management: Insurance”). If your disability is permanent, you may qualify for federal assistance through the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans. Workers’ compensation plans are also available in each province and territory; these plans provide medical, financial, and rehabilitative assistance to workers who have a disability due to a work-related accident or illness. Some employers also provide disability income protection for their employees through group insurance plans. Medical insurance policies include disability coverage; the extent of one’s coverage is dependent on the cost of one’s premium, the insurance company, and policy details. Provincial governments and territories also have social programs that provide some insurance against disability (Kapoor et al., 2015). If someone else is liable for your disability, in the case of an accident or through negligence, his or her insurance coverage may provide some benefit, or you may have a legal claim that could provide a financial settlement.
If your employer initiates your job change, be sure to discuss his or her obligations to you before you leave. Some employer responsibilities are prescribed by law. Other responsibilities are prescribed by union contract, if applicable, and some are conventions or courtesies that your employer may—or may not—choose to extend.
Severance is compensation and benefits offered by your employer when you are laid off. Under Canadian federal law, “an employee has the right to collect severance pay if they have completed at least 12 consecutive months of continuous employment before their layoff or dismissal resulted in a termination of employment. They are entitled to two days’ regular wages for each full year that they worked for the employer before their termination of employment. The minimum benefit is five days’ wages” (Employment and Social Development Canada, 2017). Your employer is also not required to “pay” for your remaining sick days or vacation days or to extend your benefits, including retirement contributions or life insurance, unless specified in a contract.
Federal and provincial laws govern relationships between employers and employees. A large part of employment law addresses hiring and firing issues as well as working conditions. You should be familiar with the laws that apply where you work (as they differ by province and sometimes by county) so that you understand your responsibilities to your employer.
Workers can sue a company for wrongful discharge—that is, for being fired for any reason barred by an employment law. Employers often seek to protect themselves from suits by requiring terminated employees to sign a form releasing the company from liability.
Companies have ethical standards for dealing with the hiring and firing of employees, but they may also have informal practices for encouraging unwanted employees in good standing to leave. Employment laws cannot protect workers against some unethical practices, but they have clauses that prohibit retaliation against employees who invoke those laws or enlist government assistance to enforce them. The laws also protect whistleblowers who report employer infractions to government authorities.
The federal government provides employment insurance through the Employment Insurance program to employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own (Government of Canada, 2016). You must meet eligibility requirements to qualify, and the benefits are limited, although they may be extended in certain circumstances.
Your job and eventually your career will play many roles in your life. It will determine how you spend your time, who you spend your time with, where you live, and how you live. It will probably be a primary determinant of income and therefore of how much you can spend, save, and invest. How you chose to spend, save, and invest is up to you, and your financial decisions can have far-reaching consequences. The more you know and the more you understand, the more you can make decisions that can allow you to realize your dreams.
- You can expect to leave a job at least once in your career.
- You can leave a job voluntarily or involuntarily.
- You may leave voluntarily to change jobs or to leave employment, temporarily or permanently.
- You may leave a job involuntarily through a layoff, disabling accident or injury, or firing.
- Leaving a job involuntarily means a sudden loss of income.
- Involuntary job loss may be compensated with severance and/or employment insurance.
- Federal, provincial, and local laws address employment issues, including hiring, working conditions, compensation, and dismissal. These laws exist to protect workers.
- What do you look for in a job? Record in your personal finance journal the characteristics of a job that you value most when seeking a job and the characteristics that bother you the most or would cause you to consider leaving a job voluntarily. Take an online job satisfaction survey or collaborate with classmates to develop questions for a job satisfaction survey that you can administer to other students. What do you find are the top ten characteristics of a great job offering a lot of job satisfaction?
- View the following list of reasons for leaving a job at https://www.thebalancecareers.com/reasons-for-leaving-a-job-2061664.
Have you ever cited one of those reasons as the reason you left your job? For each item on the list, brainstorm with classmates why it would or would not be useful to use such a reason in a job interview. What does the item say about you as a worker or as an employee?
- Record in your personal finance journal the outcome of every job you have held. For each job, have a column for listing your reason(s) for taking it and another column listing your reason(s) for leaving it. Also, note what you liked most and least about each job. Do you notice any patterns emerging in the data about your job history? Is there anything about those patterns that you would like to change?
Employment and Social Development Canada. (2017). Termination, Layoff or Dismissal. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/employment-standards/federal-standards/termination.html.
Government of Canada. (2016). “EI Regular Benefits—Overview.” Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit.html.
Kapoor, J., L. Dlabay, R. Hughes, and F. Ahmad. (2015). Personal Finance. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.