Can you believe it’s July already?! The COVID-19 pandemic has taken over most of our lives in some way, shape, or form, since early March. We’ve had to adapt to the challenging new ways of life that all circle back to the economy in one way or another. Businesses have been struggling, shutting down, and laying off employees by the masses. Unemployment is rising and with the flip-flopping of reopening dates, the future is still uncertain. The good news is that there are many resources out there that are providing opportunities for people to level up and get back in the game, and in some cases even progress in their current roles.
With this in mind, I sat down with Joyce Guan West, a Career, Business, and Executive/Leadership Coach, to discuss trends she’s seeing in the Bay Area’s job market and to share expert advice on how to stand out in any market – even one that’s facing a pandemic. Joyce has years of experience that range from being a founder, executive, expert in sales, and was recently featured in Forbes Magazine on what to do if you aren’t happy with your job. Please watch above or read the transcript below to gain some insightful info from Joyce. You can find Joyce’s contact information below if you’d like to reach her directly.
Transcript from our call:
Ruth Krishnan: I’m here with Joyce West, who has made a career out of helping people finesse their resumes, coaching them on how to interview better, how to negotiate better, and helping them get jobs. How are you, Joyce?
Joyce West: Hi Ruth! Thanks so much for having me. I’d like to add that I’m also a very happy client of yours ;). You helped my husband and I get the second house we ever bid on at a reasonable price – so thank YOU!
Ruth Krishnan: You’re so welcome! You guys definitely stepped up because it was a competitive situation, if I remember correctly.
Joyce West: Correct.
Ruth Krishnan: Awesome! So, I imagine you must be very busy these days with work, right?
Joyce West: Absolutely. I’m incredibly grateful to be at the center of luck and opportunity. I was just following my passion when I became a coach about a year ago. I do career coaching, business coaching (where I coach entrepreneurs and business owners on scaling their business), as well as executive coaching (where I help people level up in their existing jobs). I love helping people and that’s the foundation of why I became a coach. I had no idea how great of a decision that was until COVID-19 hit, which changed the nature of opportunity, finding a job, and keeping a job.
It’s all about numbers. There are 30,000,000 more people unemployed, and everyone is transitioning, especially here in the Bay Area where it’s been really frothy. Up until now, it’s been easy to get a job here but suddenly, the tables have turned and people have gone from saying, “Yeah, I’ve got five recruiters a week knocking on my door,” to, “Wow, it’s been really quiet. I’m sending my resume out and I’m not getting many responses.” I have been really busy because people are realizing, “I’ve got to up my game.” There are probably five or 10 times as many people competing for these jobs now and the quality of people they’re competing with is much greater, so people want to get an edge.
Ruth Krishnan: We’re going to go a little bit out of order because I want to start with my favorite topic first – negotiation. Whenever I talk to someone who is going into a job interview, I find that people are oftentimes scared to go back and ask for something different. This is something I deal with on a daily basis in real estate. What I’ve learned over the years is that nobody takes something away from you because you asked, right?
Joyce West: Right.
Ruth Krishnan: I’m curious, what are your tips on how people can negotiate better?
Joyce West: Thanks so much for asking. You skipped straight to my favorite topic as well. I love money. I love making money. I love helping other people make money and I’ve been in sales almost all my life; so asking for what I want has been something that I’ve practiced a lot. I remind my clients that just because you feel uncomfortable with this, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It really just comes down to practice. I’ll share some negotiation tips and I’ll also touch on my process for negotiation.
First of all, you’re absolutely right. The dynamics of the job market (especially here in the Bay Area) are very competitive and they still are for a lot of really qualified roles. The first thing to remember is that the very first offer you get is the low end of the range they’re willing to give. Every company is expecting you to negotiate – even now! I recently helped a client negotiate $35,000 more than she was initially offered. She was incredibly scared to negotiate but I said, “The worst they can say is no. And the best case is you have tens of thousands of dollars more every year. The work you’re doing now is setting you on a path to make hundreds of thousands of dollars more over time.”
Ruth Krishnan: And they’re not going to take the job away from you just because you asked. Right? And if they say “no,” or they say, “I won’t give you $35k, how about $10k?” then it’s still your choice whether to keep it or walk away. One of the struggles people have is not knowing if what they’re asking for is reasonable. For most people, talking about income among friends is taboo. But as an entrepreneur, people within my industry talk about these things – what we’re grossing, what we’re netting, etc. We’re sharing those numbers all the time. Whereas a lot of other people are very private and no one, even in their peer group, ever discusses income. So they have no idea if they’re being paid well or if they’re being underpaid. Do you have good data that you can help steer your clients to a proper salary range?
Joyce West: That’s such a smart question. Knowledge really is power so I recommend to clients a number of different resources. For example, LinkedIn Salary has great information on what people make. You put in where you’re located, your job title, any other details around your role, and you can see what you should be making in these different roles. There is another website called Comparably as well as an awesome crowdsource website called 81cents. With 81cents, you actually put in your situation, whether you’re negotiating at your current role or for a new role, and real humans who’ve volunteered to help out review your situation and provide feedback. I’m one of those people. When I get the request, I look at the situation and I can provide more personalized information. Glassdoor is one that is great for larger companies (i.e. Facebook, Google, etc.).
Ruth Krishnan: Do you find that those sites are pretty accurate?
Joyce West: I think that with everything, triangulation is really important. Typically, if you were to go on all four or five sources you would get a ballpark range of the absolute lowest salary, the crazy high, and the outliers. With that, you can begin to establish for yourself, at least a median, and then say, “Okay, if I’m not going to push that much, I can at least get this amount. If I push a little bit, I can probably be on the upper range of this.”
Ruth Krishnan: I love your advice that if they’re offering you one thing, there’s probably always more. If I really liked the person I was hiring, there’s been times I’ve actually offered them what I thought was a really great offer right off the bat, and I may not have had a lot of more in there. But I think that with most BIG companies there’s a range for a particular position and why would they come in at the very high end of that range? Especially now when they can’t ask you what you were making before, which used to be a common question.
Joyce West: Exactly.
Ruth Krishnan: I’m glad you’re helping people with this because it’s a great way for them to cover all of your fees indefinitely. And if they can negotiate a little bit more money, then they could coach with you for life, for free:) .
Joyce West: Oh yeah, the ROI is there. On average, I help people get up to anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 more and if we’re efficient, that usually takes about an hour of coaching.
Ruth Krishnan: I love that. Does the Bay Area have a 25% unemployment rate right now? Is that correct? Or is that national? I can’t remember where I got that information.
Joyce West: I’m not entirely sure about that. It does seem like we’re seeing that type of stat nationally.
Ruth Krishnan: With unemployment clearly being much different than it was three months ago, do people have as much leverage as they once did?
Joyce West: Good question. For more specialized roles, people still have a lot of leverage. What’s happening is companies that are well capitalized (like Facebook or Google) are seeing this as a key hiring opportunity. The fill rates for these roles have been nowhere near 100%. There are all these open job racks that recruiters were not able to fill, and now is the time that they’re able to fill a lot of them – which is great. So they’re still out there hiring great people and if someone does have multiple offers, then it will take some work to get there.
Even if a client doesn’t have multiple offers in hand, but they’re in the process with multiple opportunities, they shouldn’t lie and say, “I have another offer for “x” amount.” In these instances, the language I encourage my clients to use is, “I thought hard about the offer you presented me and I really looked at all the opportunities I’m currently in the process with and there are a couple that are more competitive. So where I need to be at is “x” amount of salary, “x” amount of equity, and “x” amount of bonus.” Then you can compare the quality of the health plans. You can also see if there is 401(k) matching. Those types of things will give you the leverage to say, “The other company I’m speaking with offers 401(k) matching, and that’s worth at least an additional $5,000 or $10,000 a year, so that’s why I’m asking for a higher base salary.”
Ruth Krishnan: What we do sometimes in real estate is say something along the lines of, “it’s a little early in my search for me to make a commitment to a company that isn’t blowing it out of the water for me financially. So if I’m going to give up my search at this juncture, then I would like to have X, Y, and Z.” I still have leverage even if it’s my only offer because I’m giving up the potential for all of the offers that I don’t even know about yet, but I feel very confident that I can get them.
Joyce West: Exactly.
Ruth Krishnan: I think that’s something easy for an employer to understand.
Let’s go back to discussing how people are getting hired. I can’t imagine having to go back and do my resume again! Are most people hiring resume writers these days?
Joyce West: Yes! Outside of coaching, I also help people rewrite their resumes, their LinkedIn profiles, their cover letters, and I help with resume design as well – which is the look, the feel, and the layout. This is an unprecedented time where a lot of people have come to me and said, “Joyce, it’s been about 15 years and I’ve never even needed a resume before” or, “I lost the job I thought I was going to retire at.” So there’s definitely a lot of anxiety around it. And not to mention that things have changed a lot.
The number one thing that’s changed about writing a top-notch A+ resume is that we are now tracking every single metric, so it’s not enough to say what you did at a job anymore. You also want to demonstrate how good you are at it by including information like your key accomplishments, the impact you’ve made, and quantified success metrics. Anything related to increasing revenue, decreasing costs by compressing the time to close, or increasing efficiencies, increasing margins, are all really good things to include. For people who are in more operational roles where maybe they don’t have any impact on the bottom line, talking about the size and the scale at which they worked is good to include. If you’re in HR or operations and you’re responsible for organizations with millions of dollars in revenue, or hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of employees, highlighting that is important. Or calling out the number of transactions, or the orders, or customer service tickets that you’re servicing. That’s a big part of what I do.
The second biggest trend is targeting. Most of my background is in sales and my philosophy is, you always have to be speaking to your audience. You have to speak their language, you have to speak their key words, you have to understand what their pain is, and what their perspective is. One part of my resume writing process is asking clients to send me five target jobs they’re looking for, and then my team of writers will actually pull the keywords and language from those target jobs and infuse them into their resume.
Ruth Krishnan: I love this. Smart.
Joyce West: It really helps. The other big piece is that we have more resumes being screened out by what’s called the “applicant tracking systems.” The process used to be that you send your resume in and an actual human (even at a large company) would review each and every resume. Now you’ll notice that when you apply for a job, you’re actually applying through a website. When that resume gets uploaded, oftentimes the larger companies will have their software automatically read these resumes and scan for keywords. You really need the keywords and in terms of resume design, you need to have a layout that a computer can read. So another big part of what I do is I make sure the formatting is simple for the computers to read.
Ruth Krishnan: Do the computers also check for spelling, grammar, and things like that?
Joyce West: I don’t know, but they really should. As a hiring manager, I’ve had a lot of people say that they would disqualify a person if there was even one spelling error or the formatting didn’t look good. Because this is the best that they’re ever going to be, right? When they’re trying to present themselves.
Ruth Krishnan: I will say that I’m shocked by the number of people who do not follow directions when applying to work for me. For example, if I say, “do these three things,” I get a hundred resumes and only three of them will have done the three things – which is a huge red flag because part of what is challenging in my work is being able to follow through on what you need to do and getting down all of the fine details. Sometimes people are in such a hurry to try to get a job that they’re sending out a lot of resumes, but they should slow down a bit and make sure they’re actually following the directions the employer is asking for. I know for me and several of my friends (some of who run pretty big companies) that that’s one of the baselines they’re looking for.
Joyce West: I agree. I think you touched on two really interesting things. One is that there is a way of screening people out. I recently needed to scale my business and hire more resume writers, so I posted in a couple of places and I was flooded with about 100 applicants. Because I’m testing people on their skills, what I did was I responded with the application form, which gave people a couple of examples of resumes. I said, “Read these and tell me how you would do “x.” What would be your strategy for improving these resumes? What would you do?” And I had all of my other qualification questions in there. That saved me dozens of hours of trying to do the initial screen and was really helpful.
Ruth Krishnan: And a lot of them probably never even got back to you, right?
Joyce West: Exactly. And for the ones that did, I would say about 75% of them were really good and the other 25% weren’t. So it still saved me time.
Ruth Krishnan: That’s really smart. I asked you for a list of things we could talk about today, and one of the things you put down that I love is, “the best way to stay employed.” I’d love to hear more of your thoughts around that.
Joyce West: As someone who has bounced between being an employee and being an entrepreneur, I’ve always been sensitive to the idea of thinking like an owner. I’ve been an owner many times and I try to instill that philosophy in everyone on my team by training them to think like an owner. I train them to think about the numbers and not just their individual needs. I teach them to think bigger about the business.
And when I was an employee, I tried to really think like an owner. And one way that I did that was by looking out for other people on my team, outside of my individual department, and looking at the ways that each department is interconnected and how things are cross-functional. If I saw a team member who needed support, could use some training, a piece of information, or if someone just needed a heads up, I would always do that. Right now is a great time for people to take that approach and think more in terms of how they can help the business outside of their own purview. They can also specifically have a meeting with their manager or their department head to say, “Hey, I know that this is a challenging time. What’s going on with the business and is there anything I can do?” That could mean working on a specific project, helping or supporting other people on the team, or taking on a bit of extra responsibility. We probably can’t fix entire business models or solve the problem of consumer spending falling off a cliff, but what we can do is we can be more intentional and show that by asking how we can help. People will remember that. When this first started, a lot of people in my network really appreciated me reaching out to ask, “Hey, how is it going?” Ruth, I know you are really good at doing that. And people remember that intent because this isn’t just about business – this is an emotional time for all of us. I think everyone’s boss, manager, owners of companies and CEOs of companies, they’re all going to appreciate knowing people on their team are asking, “What can I do for the organization? What can I do for you? What can I do to make things better?”
Ruth Krishnan: I love that. One of the things I’m always trying to think about for clients is, “How can I add more value? What can I do?” To your point, if employees are thinking, “How can I add more value to the business? How can I do more?” as well, that means a lot.
March was a scary time for us. We had zero sales and kept all of our overhead. And several people on my team came to me and said, “If you need to cut my hours or cut my pay, do whatever you need to do. It’s okay. I’m going to be okay.” Luckily, I didn’t have to cut a lot or for long and we’ve had a lot of sales this month to make up for it, but it meant so much to me that people were willing and also very sensitive to the situation. I mean… I wasn’t making any money and I was dipping into my savings. That attitude of “I’m grateful for my job. I love my job and how can I do more?” goes such a long way. When the going gets tough, it makes you realize who you want to be surrounded by. And those are the people I see.
Joyce West: It’s such an amazing way to work. I think everyone has a different approach. Some people might say, “Why should I do extra work?” We’re all trying to do more with less right now and if there’s any time to step up, it’s now because you can really buy loyalty forever by stepping up when it’s challenging.
Ruth Krishnan: People remember who was there when the times were rough.
Joyce West: Exactly.
Ruth Krishnan: The last thing I want to chat with you about is something I know you’re really good at and I think is super important, which is how to leverage your own network to get a job.
Joyce West: I love this topic. One of the number one things I help people with through coaching is leveraging this goldmine they have sitting right in front of their face, but they’re kind of afraid to tap into. Because if you’re not in sales, you’re not used to networking all the time. You’re not used to scanning every experience you have and saying, “Is this an opportunity? Can I ask for it?” That’s one area where people can step up a lot more. The question I usually ask is, “Would you like to send 200 cold job applications through websites and get almost no response, or would you like to reach out to 25 people and have 25 high quality conversations that will probably yield three times as many additional conversations and referrals that are also high quality and warm?”
I’m all about small, easy wins, so I encourage people by saying, “I know this is scary, but let’s get into a small habit. Can you this week and every week, for the next handful of weeks, commit to reaching out to three to five people in your network? Let me know what day, what time of the week you’re going to do this work, time block it on your calendar, and let me know what that number is going to be.” Then what I ask them to do is to go on LinkedIn, Facebook, their phone and see who they’ve called or texted recently. It may start out by just making a list of 20 or 25 people – they can be your biggest fans, close friends, people who you really admire, people you’ve worked with in the past, or people who are just really supportive of you. Start by reaching out to those three or five people a week. Get into that habit and it’s going to get you results and responses.
Once people recognize it’s working, they usually get so into it that it snowballs and becomes really easy. I help people get over the initial lack of confidence or feeling that they’re bothering people and I remind them that those folks are happy to hear from them because they don’t know if next week they might be in that same situation. Everyone’s looking to connect and the isolation of shelter in place makes people want human connection, so they’ll be happy you reached out.
Ruth Krishnan: I think people genuinely like to help people. I’ve always been really touched by that. And they also like to help people who are vulnerable. Right?
Joyce West: Yes.
Ruth Krishnan: If someone called me and asked if I could help them get a job and I actually had the power to help them get a job… Heck yea I would! Being okay with putting yourself out there as needing something is okay. It’s okay to have a need as a human. And if you’re vulnerable about it, I think you’re going to get a much better response than by trying to be tough and professional.
Joyce West: Agreed. I remind people that they are not alone. There are 30,000,000 other people (and probably more) who are going through the same thing. It is a new normal, but asking for help is always a good idea.
Ruth Krishnan: Absolutely. Thank you so much. These were some great tips and I will definitely put all of your information in the transcripts so that people can reach out to you, get some coaching, get advice on getting a job or keeping a job, or growing in their current position, or within their company.
Joyce West: Thank you so much. This was amazing. You asked so many great questions and it was really a pleasure.