This post is part of a series on women’s careers where we interview women in different occupations and fields to help them evaluate the many situations and circumstances of their careers.
I was recently in Denver and San Francisco, which are two of the hottest markets for domestic jobs. I was able to “talk career” with young professional women during each of my visits. I would like to share a few takeaways from two conversations that I believe have the most relevance for you. I had one conversation with a chemical engineer who graduated from UCLA. She was seven years into her profession. My other talk was with an industrial designer (ID) with credentials from the University of Washington who recently passed the 2-year employment mark with her international design firm.
The Chemical engineer lives in San Diego and works for a bio-tech firm located in the area. I ran into her in Denver where she was being interviewed by a bio-tech startup out of Boulder. The industrial designer lives, and works, in the San Francisco Bay area. Both told me that they were being contacted by recruiters through LinkedIn.
Takeaway: The sooner you get on LinkedIn the better it will be for your career. Doing the minimum amount required to upload your basic profile doesn’t really cut it anymore. Once you are up on LinkedIn’s platform, it’s on you to keep your profile updated. It also helps to post and engage on LI with other professionals who work in similar fields, have common educational backgrounds and similar interests to you. The resource will benefit you if it’s used as most professionals do, this way, to illustrate your talents. In order to display your talents in a non-work setting, you should demonstrate your professional ideas, opinions and know how. And, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) increasingly part of the employment landscape, you can also standout from other profiles by effectively showing your ability to communicate.
The industrial designer I spoke with was convinced that LinkedIn had “baked in” algorithms to tip employers, and flag her profile, once she had reached a 2-year work anniversary with her current employer. This, she believed, was the reason she was being contacted frequently by recruiters about new job opportunities. I could not verify her claim. However, LinkedIn has engineering posts which discusses ongoing development of their AI. I do know that employers use LinkedIn to screen candidates based upon a multitude of job, or hiring, criteria employers can specify.
Takeaway: Due to when, and how often, the Industrial Designer was being contacted, it’s a safe bet some employers do have a two-year work requirement for certain jobs. This is another reason to regularly check in and update your LI profile. It is also an example of the expanding role intelligent tech will play in the future selection, sourcing and recruitment of talent. I recently met with John Jersin, Head of Talent and Careers products at LinkedIn, during the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) annual conference. There was a sense of urgency with him and other talent development professionals at the event to identify and build more artificial intelligence into recruitment initiatives and activities. The consensus opinion expressed at SHRM was how important human behavior and critical judgment will be in a world where we offload most of the time-intensive hiring activities to technology.
Like the chemical engineer in San Diego, the industrial designer is happy working in the San Francisco Bay Area for her current employer. However, she told me that once she stops learning something new every day she might consider other job opportunities outside of her current employer. She is also interested in advancing her education at Stanford’s D-School.
Takeaway: I would suggest that any woman reading this post do the same. That is, identify what makes, and keeps, you happy with your current employer. As part of this exercise, you should also establish markers that alert you when it’s time to consider other employment options.
The ID told me she believes her compensation is competitive and fair, but the economic cost of living in San Francisco could become a decision factor in her future as she approaches home ownership and starting a family down the road. All things considered, she openly questioned whether she was passing up opportunities by not looking into attempts made by other employers to recruit her.
Takeaway – Sometimes it pays to listen to your inner voice and trust your intuition. After speaking with the young industrial designer, I had a separate conversation with a senior design professional who was familiar with the same company. She said that the company the young designer works for is notorious for underpaying their workers relative to other employers in the area. My usual response in this employment setting is to always consider best options, especially if you believe it could somehow improve your career. The two-year mark is not too early for young women to take stock and do some career planning. By selectively considering her best options, the industrial designer might put herself in better position now to advance, take on stretch projects or start to proactively resolve her future concerns about living and working, while raising a family and buying a home, in San Francisco.
The last few Dept. of Labor reports suggest that the job market continues to be strong. However, wage growth has been sluggish and stagnant, which means it has been slow to hit the pockets of professional workers. One way professionals can move up the wage scale is to actively look at other employment options. Please keep in mind that looking doesn’t mean you have to accept any new offers. Having another competing offer, however, does set a value on your work and allow you to reset it if necessary. Offers put you in a better position to negotiate, and approach the topic of, compensation and future work assignments with your current employer. If you are being actively recruited, it’s a safe bet your co-workers are also. What if they are one step ahead of you? How would you react knowing they had been recruited, negotiated salary and received a pay increase because of it and you didn’t? At the very least, if the industrial designer was pursuing more options, she would never openly question whether she was passing up better career opportunities.
The engineer believes she is in control of her future career. She works for a large bio-tech pharmaceutical company out of Barcelona that has 25,000 employees. She was critical about her direct-report manager, who is off-site, being unaware of everything she does. This, she feels, resulted in the company under utilizing her full set of skills. She believes that her full potential remains untapped and thinks she is capable of doing more. Conceptually, she likes the idea of realizing her full potential at the startup where she can wear multiple hats and develop a broader set of skills. She faces competition for the job she was recruited for in Boulder; but she felt more qualified. She wants to stay in San Diego – where she enjoys some free time with friends – and commute back-and-forth to Denver. Although it was discussed during interviews, she indicated that this might hurt her chances of securing the new job.
Takeaway: All women should grow into the level of certainty that this engineer had. Research indicates that candidates with greater confidence tend to get more job offers, promotions and better work assignments. Confidence aside, there are a lot of factors to consider here, including dual-career path decisions and transition to company and location culture. However, the company controls the hiring decision and it’s likely everything could boil down to whether the engineer will commute, or move from San Diego, to Boulder.
If the hiring company doesn’t set the terms, the engineer should do her best to understand the many trade offs of time commitment/money/fully utilizing skills at startup versus the more established firm. She should evaluate, and decide, based upon fit, growth and what she values the most.
Any young professional working during a decade-long economic expansion is naturally going to be somewhat, if not totally, biased and unaware of jobs and careers. Most haven’t been through a boom and bust cycle and they don’t realize that all of the frenzy and recruitment activity in this hot job market won’t last forever. Trust me, it won’t and it doesn’t. As it is in every market, employment and jobs will cycle, moving from hot to cold or up and down.
Obviously, talented professionals are in high demand during, and can often take advantage of, robust job markets. Improving work assignments, job responsibilities and compensation packages is an ongoing part of managing your career.