MORE OIL AND GAS JOB LOSSES LIKELY IN THE NORTH SEA DUE TO LOW PRICE OF OIL

oil and gas production

Despite a seven to eight per cent increase in UK oil and gas production in 2015, more redundancies are likely on its way for oil and gas workers in the North Sea. According to an industry body, the redundancies have been put down to the low price of oil.

At the beginning of 2015, oil and gas production was expected to only see a marginal increase. The oil and gas industry defied this prediction with its seven per cent increase. However, this does not seem to have helped those working in the oil and gas industry. It is likely that over the next few months things are going to be very tough for those currently working in the industry.

Only recently did Deirdre Michie, Chief Executive at Oil and Gas UK announce the positive oil production figures and explained that with the current issues facing the oil and gas industry ‘this is welcome news’.

For the first ten months of 2015, oil and gas produced in the UK was up by more than eight per cent when compared to the previous year. The production of liquids and gas was also up during this period by more than ten per cent and six per cent respectively.

Ms Michie explained that output in the remaining two months of 2015 are usually more stable. Taking this into account, Ms Michie on behalf of Oil and Gas UK announced that the industry expected production to be between seven and eight per cent higher than 2014.

There has been a huge focus on the oil and gas industry to improve production efficiency because of the low price of oil. Clearly, this focus is paying off as the production is increasing at a higher rate. The industry has also received over fifty billion pounds in investments over the last four years to help find new fields on stream.

Last week it was announced by oil company Taqa that they had their first production of oil from the Cladhan Field. Cladhan located in the North East of Shetland are looking to produce a minimum of 10,000 barrels of oil per day.

Ms Michie, concluded by explaining that despite more efficient operations, the price of oil has dropped by over half making times tough in the oil and gas industry and more redundancies were likely.

But, job losses in the industry are not going unnoticed.

Engineering Circle spokesman Peter Maek has wrote a letter to George Osborne to do something to help the oil and gas job industry before it is too late.

Positive Career Strategies in an Economic Slowdown

time for a new strategy

The events of September 11 and their continuing aftermath have heightened the sense of uncertainty about the future. The nation’s economy, which was already stalling, seems definitely headed into recession.

The economy began to stall in the spring, and, after the September events, economists marked down forecasts for the third and fourth quarters even further. A recent survey by the Blue Chip Economic Indicators found that most economists believe the nation has entered a recession (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative total economic output). The effect on job seekers is significant and may extend well beyond the near term.

When the economy changes, your approach to the increasingly tight job market has to change as well. You can give yourself a competitive edge by taking decisive steps to assess your own career goals and potential, know more about the job markets in your field, and find a well-rounded approach to getting on with your life.

Take a Tip from Ad Agencies: Brand Yourself

When you’re trying to get a foot in the door of a tight labor market, you may want to develop your own brand, much as marketers construct a carefully thought-out image and campaign for products. Robin Fisher Roffer, a career counselor and author of Make a Name for Yourself, recommends that you begin the process just as an advertising agency plans strategy. “Your challenge is to capture the essence of what you have to offer, create interest and enthusiasm for it, and enhance your image in the business world,” she says.

You may not consider yourself a hot commodity, but you can be sure that most employers view productive, reliable, congenial workers as worth pursuing, regardless of the economic outlook. Roffer advises that honesty is as important in planning for your own “marketability” as it is in advertising a car or a line of laundry soap. List your best qualities as both an employee and as an individual. These are the qualities you’ll want to highlight in a resume or interview. Then list the qualities you might like to change.

Next, construct a “mission statement” for your plan to market yourself. “Companies with powerful mission statements and employees that embrace these statements walk the walk and talk the talk,” says Roffer. If you write down your mission statement and use it to define your goals, she says, then you’ll be able to move your dreams closer to reality.

Constructing a personal “brand” can be as simple as listing your assets and coining a “slogan” for your own goals. This kind of introspection is often the last kind of activity you’re in the mood for if you’re concerned about the economic effects of unemployment, but it can help direct your goals and project the kind of image you want to prospective employers. “Brand success asks you to think about your brand in this very intense, obsessive way: writing it down, talking it up, and putting it out in the universe to fulfill its destiny,” says Roffer. But once armed with a strong set of skills and a distinct employment identity, the biggest question for many job seekers is how, exactly, to find the best possible market for their skills and goals.

Know Your Market (and Get a Crystal Ball)

A number of easily accessible tools can point you to both current and predicted trends in the market for specific types of jobs and the likelihood that these will remain in demand in the future. The U.S. Labor Department (DoL) and its Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) are excellent sources of frequently updated information on where the jobs-and the money-are in industries large and small. BLS publishes the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Career Guide to Industries, each of which gives detailed breakdowns of salaries, demand, and immediate prospects for virtually every major job category in the country. You can find out what areas of specialization are hot, what areas are likely to cool, and the reasons why.

A quick glance at the government statistics reveals that, because of increased foreign competition, mergers and acquisitions, and streamlined agricultural and manufacturing methods, the overall employment market for chemists is likely to shrink by 3.9% during the period from 1998 to 2008. Worse, that figure goes to 10.6% when “general” chemists are considered. But for chemical engineers, a 7.1% increase in demand is expected, a figure that jumps to a whopping 31.0% for computer scientists, and others who have both information technology skills and a background in chemistry. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that even with figures revised to reflect recent economic setbacks, prospects for employment as a chemist in the drug industry are excellent. BLS predicts that, in the 1998 to 2008 period, demand for general chemists will rise by 12.9%, for chemical engineers by 17.6%, for biochemists by 35.5%, and for computer systems specialists and information technology engineers by 58.4%. Another DoL publication, Hot Jobs for the 21st Century pinpoints growth areas in industry and highlights the ways you can get training and experience for in-demand jobs.

Statistics are not the only source of useful information on promising employment opportunities. You can call the HR departments of most large corporations and find someone more than willing to talk to you about what types of positions they most want to fill now and in the future. National organizations that represent your professions, such as the American Chemical Society, have information to help you identify new and unexpected opportunities, such as in the rapidly expanding numbers of small specialty chemical firms.

Take this information into account when you’re “branding” yourself. Talk up those areas of your experience that you know are in demand, even if these are not obvious elements of the jobs you’re applying for. Look for those industries that you know are slated to experience growth and expansion. Consider getting supplementary training that will put you in the forefront for the best jobs in your field.

Knowledge really is power in job searching. Getting the strategic “lay of the land” is important whether you’re considering a career change, looking for work after a layoff, or are starting off with a new diploma. You will be able to plan for future security and go directly to the jobs with the most possibilities for expansion and growth.

You’re Not Alone

In an economic slump, one of the few really buzzing growth industries is job placement and career counseling. Business is booming for “headhunters,” motivational speakers, college career advisors, and local and state job placement agencies. If you’re out of work, the down side to all this activity is that you have increasing competition for a shrinking job pool. The up side is that you’re not alone in this search. Some of the brightest minds in the country have found themselves out of work in recent dot.com and industry shakeouts, and many are forming “search communities” on the Internet to provide support and leads for other job seekers.

Jeremy Gocke, whose early online ventures were failing in 2001, founded The Layoff Lounge as a job networking service. Today the service has expanded to an active network of city chapters, local speakers at chapter meetings, and ties to new jobs across the nation. Gocke, who plans to expand the Lounge concept to China, has found that out-of-work “techies” are resourceful and eager to look at new strategies and approaches to business and career planning.

Consider checking into the online sites to see what people in your same situation are doing. You’ll learn more about successful strategies-and the ones that have failed. In the process of learning more about other people who are job hunting, you may also be able to overcome that “it’s-something-wrong-with-me” feeling you get after a few job rejections.

Don’t Put Your Life on Hold

You may be temporarily out of a job, the constricting market may have forced you to lower your expectations and take a position that you don’t like, or you may feel stuck in a job you wanted to leave long ago. You’ve constructed your own personal brand, you’ve identified the types of jobs and employers that are right for you, you’re ready with resumes, but so far nothing has turned up. What next?

Get up and do something, advise the experts. In California, where the legions of dot.com unemployed grow each day, many people are throwing themselves into activities that serve a dual purpose: helping others and networking. In San Francisco, volunteers at the local food bank trade stories about job prospects as they fill bags of groceries for needy inner-city families. Many of the volunteers were six-figure employees of tech companies and now find themselves unable to connect with new jobs that use their skills and match their expectations. Activities as diverse as group exercise classes, psychological support sessions, and brown-bag meet-and-greets are available to job seekers across the nation. “In some cities, so many activities have been geared to the out-of-work that a laid-off techie can go from Manic Monday to Casual Friday and never be more than a few hours from the next shoulder to cry on,” says Shawn Hubler, a writer for the Los Angeles Times.

It’s more than mutual pathos that participants in these activities seek, of course. They trade tales of where jobs are, where they’re likely to be in the future, which companies are looking for new hires, and who to contact for an inside line. And, while exercising, volunteering, and socializing, these job seekers are also continuing to build the lines of community support and interaction that make life rich. When they finally connect with jobs that are right for them, they’ll be better equipped to be well-adjusted and productive employees.

The current economic downturn may reverse direction sooner than expected or continue for the foreseeable future. Job hunting in a slow economy requires increased diligence in identifying job leads and following up on those opportunities. There are more people competing for jobs and in an uncertain economy, employers will slow or even freeze their hiring plans so be prepared for an extended job hunt.

JobSpectrum.org wishes you the best of luck in your search, and offers the following other articles that may be of use in your search:

The percentage of chemists working full time is at its highest level since 1990, and salary increases exceed the rate of inflation. But as the economy declines, what lies ahead? Get the full story on the results of the American Chemical Society’s 2001 Salary Survey.

Job searching is a job in itself. JobSpectrum brings you information on the essential components of how to find a job.

It’s no wonder that Americans are changing jobs more frequently than ever and for a whole variety of reasons. Some feel that their careers are stalled or want to be able to spend more time with their families. But no matter when you decide to make a career move, there are some important considerations to take into account before changing direction.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people entering the job market today can, during their professional lifetime, hold seven to 10 jobs working for three to five employers. That’s a lot of moving around. Luckily, professionals with a background or degree in chemistry now have a whole world of employment opportunities. Here are some tips on giving your resume a makeover to match the career you want to have.

Networking has long been an effective way for job seekers and sales professionals to expand their base of contacts. But today, workers at every stage of their career recognize the value of increasing their visibility in the business community. A well-established network can be a determining factor in your ability to adjust to changes in the job market and your profession. Here’s more information on how to work a room.

Whether you’ve been in the work world for a couple of years or a couple of decades, you probably know how to tackle most job interviews by now. Or do you? As you move up the ladder and put experience behind you, interviewing can change and in some cases, become more challenging.

For many job seekers, this can be one of the stickiest parts of the interview process. Here are JobSpectrum’s top 10 tips for getting the salary and benefits package you deserve.

Imperative or Impossible? The Future of Restrictive Employment Clauses

Part I of this series introduced noncompete clauses as a condition of employment and how management views them. Part II offers information on employees’ basic rights and strategies to keep in mind when presented with a noncompete or other type of restrictive employment agreement. This last installment asks whether noncompetes are still useful in a fast-changing world.

With the recent economic downswing and hard times for many high-tech businesses, you might think that companies are easing up on noncompetes and other restrictive employment clauses. Just the opposite seems to be happening, with new and more complicated cases coming to litigation each month. Corporations that once asked employees on an ad hoc basis to sign such agreements now have standard forms that must be signed by every new employee. And employees are fighting back in record numbers.

This is “great for lawyers,” says Stuart L. Adams, Jr., a Louisville, Kentucky, attorney, of the increasing numbers of suits over noncompetes. “There seems to be an endless supply of both employees calling to see if they can get out of one, as well as employers asking to have one drawn up or to improve on one they have recently had struck down in court.” But in an article in Louisville Computer News, Adams voiced his own distress over the standard noncompete agreement, calling it an “anachronism under siege” and a “brain drain.” The variability in terminology, enforcement, state-by-state nuances, and changing standards of practice signal a difficult course for the coherent development of such agreements in the future, he maintains.

On The Plus Side

Some states, such as California, have ruled that certain types of noncompete agreements are not legal. Other states are very unlikely to enforce such agreements–something that most employees have no way of knowing when they sign. Several resources are available for information on your state’s stance on noncompetes, including Covenants Not to Compete: A State-by-State Survey, by B.M. Malsberger, A.H. Pedowitz, and R. Sikkel (Washington, DC: Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.; 1999).

Courts tend to look favorably on employees who have behaved in good faith and harshly on companies that require agreements that restrict future employment unnecessarily. With capable representation and the facts on your side, your chances of coming out on top in such a situation are good.

On The Negative Side

Large corporations, associations, and other business entities have more time, money, and attorneys than you. They can afford to prolong the process of enforcement, spend money on frivolous suits, and tie you up in court. Avoiding such a confrontation, by being careful about what you sign and when, is your best bet.

And the alternatives…

If you can’t stand the idea of signing a noncompete or a restrictive agreement, try an employment situation that doesn’t require one. Most academic positions, from elementary school through universities, do not ask their employees to sign noncompetes. In most cases you only commit yourself for the duration of the academic year. If you teach chemistry at a public high school this year, you’re free to switch to a junior college the next.

The federal government has some restrictions on future consulting for its employees, but, for the most part, these are far less stringent than those applied in the private sector. The CEOs of some of the most successful scientific startups came directly from similar government work.

The future? Answer hazy. Ask again later.

It is highly unlikely that uniform standards will be developed for noncompetes and other restrictive employment clauses, but case law will continue to shape and direct the wording and enforcement of such agreements. As technology evolves, new types of clauses will no doubt be created to cover changing avenues of knowledge “leakage” and worker mobility. For employees, general advice about entering into such agreements will always be shaped by their own specific circumstances.

“First, we’ll call all the lawyers.”
–With apologies to Shakespeare

In devising answers to the opening scenarios, one common theme emerges. Legal advice is essential, whether you’re an employee presented with a noncompete or other restrictive agreement or a company contemplating either the implementation or enforcement of such agreements.

Remember Jane, who was concerned about why her company would ask her to sign a noncompete even though she is a current employee? Jane is right–her company is sending her a message, but it’s not the one she thinks they’re sending. By asking her to sign the noncompete in the middle of the project, the company is making it clear that she’s a valued employee whose skills and knowledge base are essential to continued success. The last thing the company wants is for Jane to leave. She is offered a substantial bonus for signing the document, a practice consistent with the legal necessity of offering something “of value” to employees who sign such agreements. Should she sign? If she plans to stay with the company and her own attorney looks over the agreement and finds that it is not unnecessarily restrictive, she can sign the agreement. If she’s feeling especially confident, she might even try to get the bonus increased or ask for changes in her benefits structure.

In the second example Bob, our sales applicant, was presented with a noncompete agreement on his first day at work that would restrict his subsequent employment elsewhere. Bob needs to think carefully about signing the agreement. Does he really plan to stay with this job long enough to make the restrictions worthwhile? Are the restrictions specific as to time, geographical area, and type of future employment? It’s in Bob’s best interest to ask an employment attorney about the reasonableness of the restrictions. If the restrictions are so out of bounds that the courts are unlikely to enforce them, then Bob can take a chance on signing and dealing with the consequences should he breach the terms of the agreement. Most legal experts advise against this. Bob needs to be direct with management about what kinds of restrictions he will accept. If the company proves unyielding, then he might be happier working in a situation in which such an agreement is not hanging over his head.

And then there’s Lydia, who was presented with a noncompete as she is preparing to start a new job, which the company says she must sign before recieving her promised severance pay and vested pension. Despite whatever hard-sell tactics management may use with Lydia, she is not obliged to sign any noncompete, nondisclosure, or other restrictive agreements when terminating her employment. She is entitled to whatever benefits her employer typically gives to departing workers as well as her legally vested pension and retirement benefits.

The company may use “extra” benefits, such as pay for accumulated sick leave, as incentives for signing. If Lydia feels she has nothing to lose, she might choose to ask for additional severance pay or other compensation for signing the agreement. Whether she signs or not, the provisions of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act or its state-level equivalents will still restrict her from sharing trade secrets with her new employer. But most legal experts agree that she is entirely within her rights to refuse to sign any agreements that restrict where, when, and with whom she can work in the future.

Noncompetes and Other Restrictive Post-Employment Agreements

Scenario one:
Jane is a Senior Research Chemist working for a multinational petrochemical corporation. As a part of a team developing a breakthrough “supermolecule” that may provide the answer to oil spill cleanups, she believes that she is a valued employee. She is dismayed when management asks her to sign an agreement stating that she will not work for another petrochemical corporation for at least 2 years after terminating her current employment. What does it mean? Is the company about to let her go? Should she sign?

Scenario two:
Bob just received his MSc in organic chemistry and has been offered a sales position at a company he has long admired. His scientific background will be valuable in working directly with a broad client base. When filling out his employment papers on his first day at work, however, his HR representative says that he is required to sign a noncompete and nondisclosure contract that restricts his employment elsewhere. Can he ask for time to think about it? What if the job doesn’t work out? Will he still be hired if he doesn’t sign?

Scenario three:
Lydia has worked as a clinical trials liaison for a pharmaceutical corporation for 11 years in positions of increasing responsibility. She has accepted a position with another pharmaceutical company. Although she previously signed no noncompete agreements, when she prepares to finalize her resignation, she is told that she must sign a noncompete before receiving her promised severance pay and vested pension. Does she have to sign? Is the company punishing her for leaving? Does she have other leverage?

Jane, Bob, and Lydia each have come face-to-face with one of the most troublesome and controversial aspects of employment in the 21st-century workplace. For many companies, especially in the sciences, knowledge and intellectual property have become the most valuable assets. “In the past few years, the life and death of companies has hinged much more on ideas,” says Shannon Miehe, an attorney and legal editor for Nolo.com, a legal resource Web site. “And protecting those ideas sometimes means placing specific restrictions on when, where, how, and with whom their employees work.”

The result has been a radical upswing in the numbers of employees asked to sign noncompetition and nondisclosure clauses as a condition of employment. A typical noncompete clause might ask that an employee promise that he or she will not work for a similar company in a specific geographic region during a finite amount of time after leaving a current position.

Many employees balk at what they see as signing away the possibility of better jobs. And the courts often agree with them, says Miehe, author of Noncompete Agreements: Retain Key Employees and Your Trade Secrets (Nolo Press; 2000) and How to Create a Noncompete Agreement (Nolo Press; Fall 2001). “Many courts look unfavorably on terms and conditions that restrict the employee’s right to earn a living.” Regulations, laws, enforcement, and standards vary widely by state, so that decisions about signing such agreements are difficult.

Although some experts believe these wide variations among states and industries will ultimately bring an end to such agreements, others point to recent court cases in which noncompetes were rigorously enforced. In June 2001, a former Avant! engineer was sentenced to a year in jail for funneling trade secrets between companies. In a few cases, courts have even indicated a willingness to support companies against departing employees and their new employers when no such agreements were signed at all.

Learn the language. How does the savvy employee approach a noncompete or other “restrictive covenant” when it’s presented by a new or even long-term employer? The key, as always, is to be armed with a working knowledge of the various implications of such an agreement, a range of potential strategies, and well-thought-out career goals.

“The word ‘noncompetes’ is often used as an umbrella term for restrictive clauses and agreements that are legally quite different,” says Miehe. The main types of restrictive clauses include:

Nondisclosure clauses: These are designed to maintain the confidentiality of private information, which can range from trade secrets to personal details from customer databases.
Nonsolicitation clauses: These are intended to prevent an employee from taking key customers or clients, either to another company or to start a new competitor.
Noncompetition clauses: These place specific restrictions on working for companies that make use of the same information or skills as the employee’s current company.
Nondisparagement clauses: These require that the employee say nothing negative about the company (whether it’s true or not) and often include wording that prohibits disclosure about internal politics, gossip, or other potentially embarrassing information.
Noninterference clauses: These bar the employee from encouraging other employees to leave the company. Both nondisparagement and noninterference clauses may also include wording by which the employee agrees not to sue the company.

The first two are much easier to enforce, says Miehe, because they deal with the transfer of specific and identifiable proprietary information. “Noncompetition agreements are sometimes seen as a safety net for nondisclosure and nonsolicitation agreements,” she says. “If the employee sticks to the restrictive terms of a noncompete, it’s a lot harder to be in a position to either give away important information or use the company’s client base.” Nondisparagement and noninterference clauses are often included when a company has specific fears about a bad relationship with an employee or about the possibility of a wholesale workforce exodus to a competitor.

Look beyond the legalese. Five kinds of densely worded legal restrictions on where and how you can work in the future are probably five more than you ever wanted to know a lot about. Especially if you’re about to start a new career, this may seem like one more set of dotted lines that require your quick attention before beginning a promising job. Legal experts advise you to step back and take the long view, asking the following questions:

Why does this company at this time want this type of restriction placed on your future employment? Is it reasonable?
How is this likely to affect or restrict your long-term goals? Given everything you know about yourself, this company, and the general field in which you work, does it seem likely that you can live with the terms of a noncompete or other restrictive agreement?

Answering these questions requires that you look at what you’re being asked to sign from two perspectives: the company’s and your own. Moreover, you’ll be better prepared to make a decision about signing if you know a little more about where experts believe such agreements may be headed in the future.

Protecting Workforce, Secrets, and Client Bases:
How Management Views Noncompetes

Noncompete clauses began to appear in the 1950s, with owners attempting to protect themselves from unfair competition. In the 1980s and 1990s, noncompete clauses became more common as a protection for medical practice groups that wanted to prevent physicians from leaving and taking their patients to a new practice. Most recently, the technical workforce shortage, especially in dot.coms and other high-tech endeavors, has led to a proliferation of noncompete and nondisclosure agreements and an escalation in enforcement and legal action.

For employees and potential employees, these agreements may seem unnecessarily restrictive. But for many companies, they represent a safeguard against theft of ideas and loss of workforce in a vital economy.

In general, companies use noncompete, nondisclosure, and other restrictive agreements to try to prevent:

The spread of trade secrets or confidential information: This is among the oldest restrictions on future employment and the one most honored by the courts. Apart from asking employees to sign an agreement that they will not divulge proprietary information, companies also are protected by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Employees and competitors can be held to the standards of the Act and its state-by-state equivalents whether or not they have signed specific agreements.
The flight of employees to competitors: In the recent tight labor market, this became especially important for many businesses. Even when the departing employees gave away no trade secrets, they left job openings that were costly to fill and affected the entire company’s productivity. Many of the legal actions that ensued were brought against the “raiding” companies. In 1997, Wal-Mart sued Amazon.com for hiring away 15 top information-technology specialists. The result for Wal-Mart employees was that the company began to ask that more of its higher-level workers sign noncompetes.
The loss of client and customer bases: When an employee has good working relationships with outside parties, such as suppliers or customers, the loss of that employee means an automatic setback in time and effort as a new employee rebuilds those relationships. Even more compelling is the need to make sure that the employee is not able to transfer these relationships to his or her new company.
Leaking information about the company’s inner workings: Sometimes information that is not strictly a trade secret can be even more valuable (or potentially damaging). A company that is undergoing an internal shakeup or turmoil or has longstanding management problems does not want competitors to know about potential weak spots. Companies look for ways to prevent ex-employees, especially those who left the company with bad feelings, from gossiping about everything from the personal habits of managers to the dollar amounts of annual bonuses.
Employees leaving to start a competing company: Every company has an interest in making sure that the skills and knowledge an employee acquires stay in-house. Losing valued employees is bad enough, but preventing them from forming competitive concerns is even more important to a company’s continued success. However, employees who want to start their own businesses are protected by a number of federal and state laws that support entrepreneurship. Even with a signed noncompete agreement, such employees must simply wait for the stipulated amount of time before beginning the new business. Smart companies often find a way to assist ambitious employees in beginning new concerns with the stipulation that the type of business or targeted client be slightly different, so that the two companies are not in direct competition.
Lawsuits by former employees: Many companies require that, at separation, employees sign away their right to sue the company. Sometimes this is because the company has reason to believe the employee is already contemplating legal action. Such signing is almost always accompanied with the offer of something of value (extra severance pay, extension of health benefits for a few months). Some state courts have held that even with a signed document and the receipt of compensation for signing, employees cannot be held to this agreement if the company has acted illegally toward them in the past.

Who should sign?

Not every employee will be required to sign a noncompete or other restrictive agreement. Every company has to decide which of its employees should be presented with such agreements. You are most likely to be asked to sign such an agreement if you are one of the following:

Employees who work in research and product development
Engineers, scientists, and others engaged in product design and invention;
Employees who do creative work such as branding, trade names, and advertising;
All sales and service employees who work directly with customers on the actual substance of what the company produces;
All clerical or processing staff who might encounter details of experimental, creative, or inventive work; and
Anyone with enough information to start a competitive company or similar business.

Who decides which restrictive agreements are needed?

If you work for a large corporation, in-house legal staff and a cadre of consulting attorneys take care of drafting, executing, and advising on enforcement of noncompetition clauses. “Most of our members have their own attorneys,” says Cynthia Bookout, spokesperson for the Consumer Specialty Products Association, with members that include a number of large chemical companies. “These become in-house decisions and really don’t come up as the subject of industry-wide conversation.” Each corporation has its own set of agreements, which may differ depending on the state in which the employee will work and the position he or she may hold. Consistency among similar employees, however, is important. If 17 scientists have the same job description and the same responsibilities, the company should make sure that any restrictive agreements they sign are similar. Charges of discrimination have been brought when employees could show that signing requirements were inequitably enforced.

Noncompete agreements are important for many smaller businesses. If you’re going to work for a small company, you may be surprised to see language that not only prevents you from sharing trade secrets but that restricts your ability to change jobs. For many smaller companies, the competitive edge may lie entirely on the shoulders of a few skilled employees. Losing these employees to a competitor could mean the end of the company. Many smaller companies look to print and Web sites to begin to structure restrictive agreements, turning to legal advisors to finalize the wording and structure plans for enforcement. You can see samples of the kinds of online advice your company may be consulting at sites such as Business Owner’s Toolkit .

Careful wording

One of the reasons that the wording of noncompetes and other restrictive agreements is becoming increasingly complicated is that more and more employees are consulting expert advice and hesitating before signing. A growing body of literature, including a do-it-yourself Web site, breakyourconcompete.com, assists employees in interpreting, negotiating, and sometimes circumventing the original intent of such agreements. One of the results is that most such agreements today are structured for “partial enforcement,” meaning that even if one part is found by the courts to be unreasonable, the employee can still be held to the terms of the rest of the agreement.

To enforce or not to enforce?

Especially for employees’ enjoying the warm welcome that usually accompanies signing on for a new job, it’s impossible to believe that this friendly company would ever enforce what seem like obscure legal formalities. Think again! Companies are pursuing former employees with increased vigor, even in states where the courts traditionally have been reluctant to enforce noncompetes.

Legal experts note that once a company decides to include restrictive clauses for employees, it should be ready to enforce them consistently. Miehe says, “If a company is selective about enforcing these clauses, then its chances will not be as good when the matter come before a judge.” The court might take such random enforcement as an indication that the company really did not take such agreements seriously (and therefore that they were not vital to the company’s success) or that the agreements were being used as retribution to go after a specific employee. Neil Caesar, an attorney who writes extensively on healthcare workplace issues, agrees, advising companies that: “Your ability to enforce a noncompete clause will directly relate to how consistently you enforce it…a noncompete provision should be only as restrictive as you are willing to enforce, and then should be enforced vigorously.”

The Standard of Reasonableness

From the perspective of employers, then, noncompetes and other restrictive agreements are means of guarding against a host of threatening events and business practices. Understanding this perspective can help you as an employee to identify what your company believes is really important about you and your work. Ultimately, though, you–like the courts-need to hold up these agreements to a standard of reasonableness. Is the company asking you to sign away more than you’re willing to give? Are you giving up rights that legally should be yours?

These and other questions, as well as tips for dealing with noncompetes, are included in Part 2 of this series. Part 3 looks at the future of restrictive employment clauses and revisits Jane, Bob, and Lydia to assess the potential impact of the agreements they’re asked to sign.

Good Things Come in Small Companies: Reconsidering Your Career Path

Graduate StudentsMany chemistry majors and graduate students envision themselves working for huge multinational corporations. These are the recruiters who come to campus, and these are the companies with the highest profiles. But “large” chemistry-oriented companies are in a distinct minority in the United States: only 2.3% of all U.S. chemical manufacturing and allied companies have more than 500 employees. More than half of the companies in this industry have fewer than 20 employees.

As recently as a decade ago, more than 70% of new chemistry graduates went to work for large companies and only 28% chose small companies (with fewer than 500 employees). Today, almost half of new chemistry graduates get their first job with small businesses. The trend has been strengthened by diversification in the industry, the growth of “boutique” biotech firms that need the support of staff chemists, and a competition for good workers that has given many chemists the opportunity to carefully evaluate what they want from the workplace.

But for many chemistry students and those who have entered the workforces of larger companies, the “small” company remains a mystery. What exactly constitutes “small”? How do the structures and rhythms of work differ from those in larger corporations? How do you learn enough about a small company to be sure you want to work there? And what goes on in there that seems to be attracting so many able scientists?

No One Size Fits All

The first and most important thing to know about small chemical companies is that no two are exactly alike. Using the definitions set up by the U.S. Small Business Administration, a small company can have anywhere from 1 to 499 employees. It can be family owned, employee owned, controlled by a larger company, traded on the stock market, or run as a research not-for-profit servicing the chemical industry. Although every company is required to follow national and local employment laws, the atmosphere and work ethic can vary widely, from come-as-you-are and work-the-way-you-need-to-work to fresh-lab coat-every-day and punch-the-clock.

Speaking broadly, however, the old adage is true: very good things can come in small packages. In general, smaller companies offer new employees certain advantages that they might not find working for larger corporations. Some of these advantages are quite tangible; others have to do with job satisfaction. Whether you’re a new graduate or someone thinking about switching employment, the small-company box may hold some pleasant surprises.

Sidebar: What Makes A Satisfied Employee?

What’s in the Box?

What’s in the small company box for you? Although every company is different, small business employees and owners report that a range of interesting opportunities awaits new employees.

Lots of hats: In a smaller company, you’re less likely to find yourself doing one narrowly defined job. Employees may be asked to perform in several areas of strength or to pitch in for group efforts. You may find yourself doing basic science in the morning and a sales rep briefing in the afternoon. The result is that you know more about the company and more about your own strengths and job preferences. You may find that a hat you never thought of trying on fits you perfectly.

A megaphone: Your voice is louder in a small company. One of the most common fears of recent graduates is that they will become silent cogs in a big-business operation. At a small company, each worker is much more likely to have the opportunity to speak up and be heard on topics from research and development to which kind of coffee to use in the break room. Your good ideas, for innovation of techniques or advancement of the company’s scientific mission, will have an easier time finding an audience with upper management. And if these ideas are adopted, you’re much more likely to find yourself a part of the team that sees them through to successful completion.

A smaller map: Smaller companies are usually more geographically circumscribed. The well-rounded workingman or woman of the 21st century who may have strong ties to family and community has (thankfully) supplanted the “Organization Man” of the 1950s. Many of today’s workers are reluctant to sign on with huge multinational corporations that may transfer them (or their entire units) as often as every 2 years. With a stable, smaller company you can be reasonably sure that your job will still be where you want it to be for the foreseeable future. And, if you’re looking to start a new job, small chemical businesses offer a diversity of geographic locations that allow you to choose your ideal community at the same time that you choose a new employer.

A piece of the pie: Many smaller companies offer their employees stock, shared profits, shared ownership, and other incentives to participate materially in the success of the business. These offerings are often more significant (and sometimes less risky) than the standard stock options offered by larger companies. Chemists at small biotech firms have found themselves suddenly wealthy in the new genomic revolution in medicine. Owning a piece of the business also may position employees to start up spin-off businesses with new technologies (and the blessing of the parent company). Most of all, having the opportunity to own a part of the company gives employees both a material investment and a sense of goal-directed teamwork that may be lacking in larger corporate settings.

A rubber band: The shape of employment in small businesses is as elastic as management wants it to be. Flexibility is high on the list of attributes all employees want in their jobs, and smaller companies most often have the latitude to structure your employment to fit your needs. Some newer companies take an entirely laissez faire attitude toward the scientific workplace: as long as you get the job done, it doesn’t matter how, when, or in what way you do it. Others allow as-needed deviations from routine-for doctors’ appointments, exercise, family matters-and require only notification of supervisors, without adjustments to pay or leave status. The flexibility of the small company also may allow you to try out different tasks, exploring new scientific areas, receiving additional training, and pursuing meaningful community activities, such as coaching Little League or doing volunteer work.

Secret compartments: Every really good package has some unexpected extras hidden at the bottom. In the case of small companies, these are the intangibles that everybody talks around but few employers address directly in their job advertisements or brochures. Smaller companies are more like families. You are more likely to be valued for who you are, form lasting relationships with co-workers and management, and make a real difference in the company’s mission and success. Sounds corny, right? But when asked what they most like about working for small companies, employees give these answers first. For recent graduates, the small company may provide the flexible and supportive atmosphere that can nurture a well-trained chemist into a great scientist.

Outside the Box

All of these benefits may come with a job in a small chemical business, but how do you find these employers? More important, once you’ve found them, how to you find out what which one offers the work environment and challenges that best suit you?

You can start looking for openings at small chemical companies right here on JobSpectrum.org. Professional journals and classifieds are another source of information on who is hiring where. But for the best jobs in smaller companies, the experts advise that you do some serious networking: tell your colleagues, professors, professional contacts, and others, exactly what sort of job you’d like to have. Ask if they know any smaller companies who are working in your areas of interest. Find out the names of the contacts at the companies, and do your research before calling or sending in a resume. Better yet, take advantage of the career assistance available at scientific meetings. The semi-annual meetings of the American Chemical Society offer career fairs at which prospective employees are matched up for a series of interviews with representatives of companies of all sizes.

You can get a good idea of the size, stability, and financial situation of a smaller company by a quick visit to the library or by checking on-line. Resources like the D&B Business Rankings from Dun & Bradstreet can tell you where the company stands, and a good reference librarian can point you to other resources that will tell you about the company’s history, work foci, growth, and organization.

Once you’ve identified several smaller companies in which you’re interested, how do you find out what working there is really like? The answer here is simple: arrange a visit. If you have an appointment for an interview, ask to see the facility. Do employees seem friendly, interested, and engaged in their work? Do they seem genuinely glad to see the manager or manager’s representative who’s taking you on the tour? Quite simply, does it look like a place you’d like to work? If possible, talk to one or two employees apart from your tour guide. Ask them to name the two best and two worst things about the workplace. Be direct with your interviewer in asking about profit sharing, flexible hours, employee participation in business decisions, and any other factors that are important to you in a job. Don’t worry about sounding pushy; the interviewer will see that you’ve given substantial thought to what kind of company you’d like to work for and that you’re looking for long-term, productive employment.

Think Small

When contemplating a career move or a first job in chemistry, keep small companies in mind. Finding the right one takes a little more effort, but the rewards may give you a career that is more satisfying and multidimensional than any you might have imagined.

Nan Knight is a freelance science writer and editor whose credits include Smithsonian exhibits, Discovery Channel Web sites, and a wide range of publications on radiation in medicine.

Related Reading

Chemical Employment in Small Companies from the ACS Department of Career Services discusses the process of identifying and applying for jobs in small companies.

Want to start your own business? Read Start Me Up: Is Small Business Entrepreneurship in Your Future? From the JobSpectrum Weekly archives.

Surviving an Interview Slip Up

Ever come away from an interview knowing that you could’ve done better? Maybe you think you don’t have any recourse or way to remedy a misstep. But you do, depending on the type of blunder, although many chapters on interviewing in job hunting books don’t directly address this problem. Here are some ways to back track and hopefully improve your chances.

Lilia Babé, senior scientist at Genencor International Inc., a biotech company in the Bay area, remembers one extreme and embarrassing example of what could safely be assumed to be an interviewee’s worst nightmare. A candidate for an academic faculty position where she once worked fainted after right after the lunchtime seminar. “It was just one of those unfortunate things,” she remarks. “Some people, even though they’re very comfortable with what they’re talking about, and even though they have given talks many times before, still get very anxious and nervous.”

He immediately regained consciousness, and fortunately there was a medical doctor in the crowd. But how do you recover from this? Babé says that this candidate was actually a good example of how you can salvage an interview that has taken a wrong turn, in the sense that once he came to, he was quite articulate and apologetic, picking right up where he had left off in answering questions. “I was very impressed,” she says. (She doesn’t remember whether he got the job or not.)

This particular example does draw attention to one piece of advice for remedying a mistake: “We look for someone who doesn’t dwell on any problem that may come up,” says Babé. “The ability to recover from a false step, that’s what you look for, even in less dramatic situations.” So try not to freeze up if you fail to answer some question properly or if you don’t have the answer on the tip of your tongue, managers advise.

Supplemental Information

But what if you completely forget to provide a piece of information and think of it post-interview? “I’ve had examples where candidates have sent me preprints later,” says Babé. “They want to give me more supportive evidence about what they’re trained in and what they know how to do.” She says that candidates might send more references or they might write in a cover letter accompany supporting material: ‘I’ve done x, y, and z, and it didn’t come up during the interview, but in hindsight, it’s relevant to my application.’

Adding more detail and evidence of how you’re the right match for a certain position is perfectly fine, say hiring managers. It’s not considered a strike against you. It usually takes a little time between the day of the interview and when the position is filled, so you probably have some leeway. But do act quickly and respectfully.

“I think any communication from a candidate who the hiring group is taking seriously, is going to be looked at and welcomed, unless the tone is really strange,” says Christian Fritze, senior manager, technology transfer at Covance Research Products Inc., another biotech in the Bay area. “I don’t think that there’s anything that you could e-mail or phone or leave on a voice-mail with clarification or information that people would disregard.” There’s no stigma attached to coming back with information after the interview.

By trying to provide the most complete picture of yourself during and post-interview can also make you stand out. “We’re always trying to differentiate between candidates, so the more information we have the better,” says Babé. She adds, with a laugh, remember this is science and it’s all about “data, data, data.”

Blowing a Question

Filling in extra facts is one thing. Another is a misunderstood question or realizing after the fact that the interviewer might have interpreted a remark you uttered in the wrong way. This is a different issue entirely. It needs to be to handled with another approach, but could be trickier.

“In supplying more information there’s already a supposition that you’re a candidate in contention,” says Fritze. “If that first blunder is serious enough you may have removed yourself from contention, so how you address the person in the follow-up is very important.” Also do you want to bring additional attention to a mistake? The answer depends on the nature of the oversight and how much you want the job.

“I would discount the worry about accentuating the problem,” advises Fritze. “I guess it is true that we retain in memory so much better the things that we mess up.” But in reality, he adds, probably the other person will realize a faux pas for what it was, not some fundamental flaw in the candidate’s character. “If that’s the case, then bringing attention to it will show that you’re sensitive to what happened,” he notes. “So I think the downside to coming in with a follow-up is usually pretty small.”

If you feel you really must correct a mistake, Fritze recommends a phone call over e-mail. “I find there’s something facile about an e-mail where a phone call would be better.” The immediacy and less of a chance of being misinterpreted a second time are two good reasons for a follow-up phone call versus e-mail. You might say something like this: ‘This morning when we were talking about issue x,y,z, I think I left you with an impression that is really the not the way I feel, or the answer I gave you does not fully reflect my views on this topic. I’m concerned that it materially affects my chances in the interview process and I would really welcome the opportunity to talk to you again about this issue.’

“I think people would respond to that,” says Fritze.

Take Home Message

Managers say that avoiding these mishaps in the first place is the best advice they have to give. Come to the interview as prepared as possible to minimize the need to back pedal. For example, research the company or institution to which you’re applying and match your experience to the position. Have questions of your own prepared. And, have answers prepared to such commonly asked questions as “Tell me about yourself.”

One part of the process that many interviewees forget, says Annette Lewis, scientist at Entelos Inc. in Menlo Park, Calif. is to follow-up. “If the interviewer was lukewarm about a candidate to begin with, one way to help your chances, whether you botched up or not is to write a thank-you letter.” In addition to demonstrating your polite and professional manner and reiterating your interest and fit for the job in the letter, it’s also a chance to correct mistakes and give additional information.

“The whole process starts when a jobseeker sees an advertisement,” says Babé. “There’s information there. Then there’s a phone interview where they can ask questions to get more details on the position, and if they’re called for an interview there’s more interaction.” So there are plenty of opportunities to exchange information.

“So much of what we see in interviews is disappointing because with many candidates the interest level just isn’t there,” concludes Fritze. So when he sees an interviewee coming back with supplemental information or a clarification, “that kind of interest is usually appreciated.”

Lewis concurs. Part of the problem, she says is that you have only one chance to show what you’re about in an interview setting, and if you come across as dull and uninterested in the position, it’s hard to remedy. But, if it’s something as seemingly innocuous as filling in supplemental information or correcting a misinterpretation, then go for it, say managers.

Ready for Your Close-Up? Cue the Behavior-Based Interview

Jane was brought up to listen politely to others and not brag or talk about her own accomplishments. When the interviewer at a large industrial chemical company asks her to describe her proudest moment as a college student, she replies simply, “When I graduated, and my mom and dad were in the audience.” The interviewer shifts uncomfortably and makes a check on a piece of paper. Jane cringes. She feels as though she’s given a “wrong” answer, when, in fact, her response was absolutely true.

Alice has always been a star student. When asked by an HR staff member at a large professional organization representing chemists to describe her most challenging academic project, she launches into an intricate, 20-minute story, including descriptions of the lab, faculty, and fellow students. Finally, the interviewer stops her, mid-story, and says, “I think we’ll have to move on to other information here.” Alice is alarmed. She thought her story was pretty interesting-clearly the interviewer didn’t agree.

Susan sits in the outer office of the research lab, her lips moving slightly as she goes over several “stories” in her head. When called in for the interview, she is prepared. She keeps an acronym in mind that will help her structure her responses. She is prepared with several well-rehearsed examples of her career, life events, and learning experiences that will give the interviewer a clear and positive picture of her ability to function in the work environment. She leaves the interview feeling good about herself and confident that she communicated well.

All three women have encountered behavior-based interviewing, a job-selection technique that can seem deceptively like normal conversation to the unprepared candidate. All may have had similar qualifications and equal abilities to do any given job, but Susan is the one most likely to be given high marks by an interviewer-for the simple reason that she constructed several “scenarios” to describe her accomplishments and previous work experience.

Behavior-based interviewing attempts to find out what kind of employee you will be by eliciting details about skills, competencies, resourcefulness, and knowledge. This technique is “based on the idea that candidates’ past and present behavior is the best predictor of how they will behave in the future,” says Jim Kennedy, founder and president of Management Team Consultants in San Rafael, CA. Queries such as “Tell me about a time when you were called on to make a difficult decision” or “Describe a situation in which you had a colleague who was hard to get along with” are aimed at revealing what kind of worker you can be under pressure. Questions such as “Tell me about your best lab experience ever” or “Describe a moment when you were called on to lead” can tell the interviewer not only about your experience but also about the level of your self-confidence.

But even the most confident individual may become tongue-tied when faced with the task of condensing important moments of his or her life and work into a tidy and coherent package. The key, say the experts, is to understand the process and be prepared.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Think of your resume as a snapshot of your background and capabilities. It contains all the basic facts that the employer used to select you out of a pool of applicants for further consideration. If your face-to-face job interview consisted of merely going over these facts again (“So, I see you were at Michigan State.” “Yes, for four years.”), then the experience would be an empty exercise for you and the interviewer. Worse, if rehashing your resume constituted the entirety of the interview, then on what would the interviewer base hiring decisions? Your looks? How you sit in the chair?

Instead, behavior-based interviewing tries to take the “snapshot” provided by the resume and turn it into a “movie”-a detailed picture of what you’re like on the job and in action. And, even though you may not ordinarily be an extrovert, it’s up to you to step into the spotlight and perform.

The Critics Have a Score-Sheet

Although behavior-based interviewing feels like conversation, the interviewer is looking for evidence of very specific types of skills. Well before you or any other candidates appeared for the job, the interviewer should have used a description of the position to decide what skills and life experiences would best suit the position. Sometimes these are numerically weighted to yield a final score for each interviewee, a number that helps add the appearance (if not always the actuality) of objectivity to the final hiring decision.

Most behavior-based interviews are looking for examples that illustrate three specific sets of life and work skills:

Content skills: Do you have the specific knowledge base the job calls for? Obviously, you can’t recite the periodic table or draw intricate molecular structures on the interviewer’s desk pad, but you can give examples that show that in order to solve problems you had to have a grasp of essential knowledge in this field and that others recognized your mastery of the material.

Functional skills: Can you work with other people, process and manage information, and communicate well? Can you actually get the job done? Your ability to communicate verbally is on display in the interview, but you also need to give specific examples that show how you’ve managed projects, worked with colleagues, and prioritized workloads.

Adaptive skills: How well do you roll with the punches? In the past, have you shown the resilience and reliability the company is looking for? This is your chance to shine by talking about the details of past successes. But remember that not every company is looking for the same qualities in every candidate.

Here Are Your Cues

In general, behavior-based interview questions fall into three categories.

Theoretical: The question asks you to think on your feet about a hypothetical situation that, in some cases, may be entirely foreign to your own life or work experiences. “You’re told you need to get all your belongings out of your house in 30 minutes. What do you do?” is one example. Odd as some of these questions may be, you can be sure that the interviewer is looking for something specific and that other candidates will be asked the same or similar questions.

Leading questions: You won’t have to be a genius to know what the right answer is here. “Working into the night on special projects isn’t a problem for you, is it?” would be one example. But consider your answer carefully. Leading questions are often one way the interviewer may alert you to elements of the job that other people have found problematic.

Behavioral example questions: These are the questions designed to elicit stories about your past work. Kennedy and other interview experts refer to these as “competency” questions because that’s exactly what you should be highlighting: your ability, either by direct evidence or analogous stories, that you can do the job. Sometimes the interviewer constructs the question using material from your resume: “I see you worked as an agricultural chemist in Guatemala one summer. What was your most challenging work situation there?” More often, behavioral-based questions are less specific, such as “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with someone in charge.” You need to be prepared with a range of vignettes from your life that both answer the question directly and can be used to let the interviewer learn more about your capabilities and resourcefulness.

Learn Your Lines

As self-centered as it may seem, the most important part of preparing for a behavior-based interview is to sit down and write a few moving stories about yourself, the star of the moment. Put aside any discomfort you may feel about this and look at it from the company’s point of view. They have only a brief snapshot of you from your resume, and the interview will provide only the most fleeting “screen test” of what you have to offer.

Your job, then, is to be your own “script writer” in preparing for your interview. You can start with a list of 10 to 20 events, activities, or skills that are part of your life story. Try to include examples of different kinds of skills and experiences. For each one of these, construct a brief-no more than 3-minute-short story, including all the elements that make a story compelling: problem, action, and resolution. Practice telling each story in front of a mirror. Refine your wording. You may even want to practice with a tape recorder. The point is to have these polished vignettes ready to use as responses to any number of different types of questions.

Behavior-based interviewing is of special importance for younger workers, who may not have extensive references or experience that employers can assess. Many colleges and universities include tips for behavior-based interviewing, and most use an acronym (STAR, PAR, PHAR, etc.) to help applicants “structure” stories that showcase abilities and knowledge. JobSpectrum’s mnemonic is similar, but with a few added twists to make you shine.

A: Know your audience. Before your interview, find out as much about the company as you can. If a copy of the job description is available, break it out into the skill areas-content, functional, and adaptive-that the company may be looking for. Keep these requirements in mind when constructing your life stories.
G: Give the interviewer a solid grasp of the extent of the problem or difficulty you faced. Make sure that it’s clear that this situation required specific skills, ingenuity, or perseverance.
L: Lay it all out in a straight line. This is where your story-telling abilities come into play. Include only facts that are essential to understanding the story and tell them in a clear chronology.
O: Highlight the outcome. This is the punch line, the reason you’ve told the story. Tell the interviewer how the problem was resolved, what good (or bad) happened as a result of the resolution, and what recognition you received for your efforts.
W: Wrap it up. Don’t belabor points, repeat yourself, or go off on tangents. Know when to conclude your story on a high point and wait for the next question.

Have Your Encore Number Ready

A good interviewer will appreciate the fact that you’re able to present well-thought-out examples from your past experience. But he or she will also want to follow up by asking you probing and sometimes challenging questions about what you’ve just said. In most cases this is to learn more about how you behaved in a specific case, but, says Kennedy, it’s sometimes to find out how truthful you are. “Most candidates generalize, many exaggerate, and some, unfortunately, completely fabricate stories and examples of their behavior,” he says. Your honesty in telling about past experiences and your forthcoming responses to follow-up questions will work to your advantage in the interview.

A Final Note: Dealing with Stage Fright

What if you come from a culture in which talking about yourself at length is regarded as the worst form of hubris? Of what if you’re just very shy and reticent by nature? Preparing and practicing specific stories about your past experience will help to some extent, but you still may find yourself blushing and at a loss for words at some point in the interview. The best strategy here is absolute directness. Stop, look at the interviewer, and say, “You know, I’ve always had difficulty talking about myself, and this is no exception.” Then you can explain the reasons-your cultural background, previous work isolation, an early speech defect, for example-and talk about how you’ve dealt with this in the past. You’ll not only get high marks for honesty, but you’ll turn a potential drawback into a positive example of a behavior-based response.

Additional Resources

The career Web sites of many colleges and universities offer a standardized advice sheet on behavior-based interviewing, as well as additional resources for candidates preparing for interviews:

University of Montana-Missoula Career Services
Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Career Services
Texas A&M University Career Center

For an interesting perspective on what employers look for from the behavior-based interview and the ways in which they approach the selection of candidates and the evaluation of results, see Jim Kennedy’s The Interviewer’s Edge, available at www.interviewedge.com.

Many job counselors and most high-powered “headhunter” services offer one-on-one advice on structuring stories for behavior-based interviews, with some firms going to the length of filming clients and critiquing speech, gestures, and facial expressions. Kennedy and others caution, though, that it is possible to appear too prepared and polished. You want to come across as genuine and truthful, not as a “professional performer.”

Help—I’ve Been Let Go from My Oil and Gas Job! What Do I Do Now?

No matter how you describe it, being let go from your oil and gas job can be devastating. You experience many feelings at once: shock, embarrassment, and a loss of self-confidence. You may be wondering what you could have done to prevent it. Pulling yourself back into the job-search saddle–and staying there–is the hard work. But how, and where, do you begin?

Don’t take it personally

The hard work comes both in the form of pounding the pavement and finding and maintaining a positive attitude. “What I tell candidates is that the battle is as much an emotional one as is the physical search,” says Kathy Mattingly, president of i.t.s. Staffing LLC, a recruitment firm located in Louisville, Kentucky that handles entry-level to executive searches in the information technology field. “Downsizing is something that is taken personally and is rarely personal. That’s hard to separate, especially if you’re a loyal person that loved your job.”

Michael Cozzens, managing partner at Virginia Beach, Va.-based Wayne Associates, a search firm that specializes in technical staffing concurs. “The biggest thing that I’ve seen throw people for a loop is that they take it personally when they get downsized. They need to realize that it was a reduction in force, and that doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. Until they come to grips with their situation, they’re not really starting in the right spot for their job search.”

This is especially true when you start to interview for new positions. Career counselors and recruiters say that sometimes the bitterness, defensiveness, and shaken self-esteem can come through in interviews through your attitude, spoken language, and body language. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, and if possible, take a short time off to clear your head.

Make a Plan

After almost a grieving period, Mattingly and others suggest that the most important next step is to create your own battle plan. Literally, write up a plan with specific dates and goals. “Obviously get your resume and cover letters in order,” she states. “I think that the job search is very much a multiple-pronged process. I tell people that they need to use all of them, such as looking at the classified ads, tapping their own network–many times the best jobs aren’t even advertised–and find a headhunter or recruiter in your industry that you’re comfortable with.”

You can locate appropriate recruiters by watching the classifieds or looking in the “yellow pages” under “staffing.” Most major cities have recruiters in every major industrial segment. Websites such as recruitersonline.com has searchable lists of recruiters by industry and location.

The most important outlet, say recruiters, is to tap the web. There are two ways to do it. You can simply post your resume to any number of job boards and hope that a company HR person or headhunter finds you. But what they say is more effective is to actively search the web for current openings.

Cozzens says that job seekers will of course have to do some of their own legwork to find the most appropriate recruiter for their area of expertise, if they choose that route. Look for who’s working with formulation chemists or with bench chemists, he suggests, as examples.

So you’ve located some possible positions to apply for. What’s next? Jessica Lambert, a staffing consultant at Kforce Scientific, a specialty-staffing firm in Detroit, Mich., warns that many job hunters will skimp on their resume polishing, thinking they’ll get the chance to expound on their virtues in the interview. “A lot of people aren’t even getting that chance right now,” she says. The resume is really what’s opening doors right now, but keep it succinct. On the other hand, make it long enough so that your skill set is fully outlined.

Beyond resume preparation, says Lambert, another prime suggestion is to keep a good record of your job search. “A lot of people will submit a resume for a position and not even remember that they did so,” says Lambert. “To me, I find that insulting.” Keep a list of the jobs you’ve applied for, the companies and the search firms you’re using, and a brief description of what they do. So when they call, you have your “cheat sheet” ready by the phone.

What to Expect

What can jobseekers reasonably expect from a recruiter during a period of downsizing? “I would tell a person to be prepared to take a lot of time on the job search because right now the market is extremely tight and everyone is having the same problem,” says Lambert. The typical job search is lasting four to six weeks right now, she notes. So be mentally prepared for a marathon, not a sprint.

Says Cozzens, a lot of times when a person gets downsized, all they really want is their old job back. “Just like you and me, they don’t want to move.” But the possibility of stepping right back into a similar position isn’t equal from city to city. For example, cites Cozzens, if you’re living in Wilmington, Del. there are lots of options for chemists, but in say, Indianapolis, there are fewer. In this situation–if there aren’t any jobs in your field in your hometown–the most gifted and well-connected recruiter can’t be of much help. As a result, many people on the job hunt waste their time with unrealistic expectations. So he suggests that in your plan to honestly consider your personal issues-like relocating–and other priorities.

Many recruiters will help with resume and cover letter preparation, and some, like Mattingly, do go the extra mile in helping with emotional counseling and coaching. She also has jobseekers fill out a wish list with such items as salary expectations and geographic needs, along with questions about how important a casual dress environment is.

“Some people just peddle what you already have,” she notes. “If the recruiter doesn’t understand your needs and wishes, they aren’t worth it.” Recruiters also give tips on interviewing, background specifics on the companies, as well as negotiating an offer and closing the deal.

Lambert also says that jobseekers need to keep in mind when calling recruiters that the business is high volume, especially in a downsizing cycle. “A lot of recruiters are very busy and because the recruiter doesn’t spend 20 minutes to half an hour on the phone with you is not a reflection of your skills,” she states. “I deal with a volume of 100 to 200 resumes a week, with 10 job openings available at any given time. If you’re not brought in for an interview right away, it may not mean your skills aren’t good; it may mean there isn’t a match right then.”

New Directions

Eric Celidonio, staffing consultant with Scientific Resources, Inc. located in Needham, Mass., says that keeping yourself marketable in more than one area is important to allow for flexibility in finding a new job. “People become too dependent on one aspect of their position,” he says. “Oftentimes upon losing your job, if you work for a big company, you may never find something that’s comparable to where you are, in terms of salary and responsibility.”

Try to get experience in a couple of areas, he suggests. For example, for PhDs, some specialize in process development, a catchall term for optimizing a biotech or pharmaceutical process. Often in a large firm, employees will be tasked with a special aspect of process development, for example media optimization or contaminant prevention. “My suggestion is to go out of your way to work with colleagues in other areas without stepping on their toes to develop knowledge beyond what you’re tasked with,” says Celidonio. “You have to take into consideration keeping yourself marketable.”

Cozzens agrees. Jobseekers need to develop alternative plans. For example, if you like working with people, he suggests considering openings in tech service or technical sales. “A lot of times this kind of move doesn’t occur to people,” he says.

Personal Conscience and Scientific Ethics: Listening to the Still Small Voice

Since the first time Jack dissected a frog in high school science, he’s had a nagging problem with working with animals. Now, after years as a biochemist, he’s been assigned to head a potentially lifesaving research project that works exclusively with biological material from rabbits. He’s having problems sleeping, and he suspects it has something to do with the long walk down the aisle of cages every morning. Jack is having what some experts call a “personal moral dilemma.” He’s embarrassed; he’s always thought of himself as the soul of scientific objectivity. What should he do about his problem?

Jane has worked for years and become a recognized leader in the development of fungicides for a major international chemical manufacturer. She has just been told that she will be transferred to a top-secret project to develop materials in support of a government biological weapons project. Not only is the transfer a test of her loyalty to the company, it is couched in terms of patriotic duty as well. Jane’s personal beliefs conflict with the work. What should she tell the vice president who gave her the new assignment?

[For sample resolutions, see the end of the article]

Ethics is the place where big business and personal values meet, sometimes uneasily. Almost every industry, profession, corporation, and institution in the sciences now has at least one code of ethics and sometimes entire governance structures that deal with evolving ethical issues. During the 1990s, corporate and academic America began to integrate formal ethics structures into routine operations. Employees are presented with lengthy codes of ethics and encouraged (under penalty of termination) to follow these and report colleagues and supervisors who do not. An entire industry of consultants, advisory organizations, and publications services the intertwined ethics and compliance functions that affect every aspect of work and on-the-job (and sometimes off-the-job) behavior.

Yet almost none of these efforts at codifying ethics and incorporating an ethical framework into daily scientific work has addressed the basic but sticky question of personal values. Everyone agrees that scientific work should not be stolen, corporate secrets not divulged, and that a general standard of integrity should prevail when dealing with colleagues. But what happens when personal beliefs, convictions, or concerns come into direct conflict with the scientific work at hand?

In many areas, especially the biosciences, the nature of work is evolving rapidly. Scientists who signed up for one job may find that the company has entirely redirected its activities toward another goal. The content of work may change in unexpected and, for a few individuals, unwanted ways. In this article, JobSpectrum looks at the ethics mechanisms that guide corporations and institutions and offers a few suggestions for resolving values dilemmas.

The Ethics of Big Business

Almost every U.S. corporation has adopted a code of ethics. At United Technologies, a detailed corporate code of ethics applies to all 152,000 employees, more than half of whom work outside the United States. The code is an “expression of fundamental values and represents a framework for decision-making.” Each employee is required to sign on to the specifics of the code, which touches on everything from dishonesty to bribing foreign officials. UTC President and CEO George David is blunt about adherence to the code: “If you have a different view, you need to go off and caucus privately with yourself about your situation with our wonderful company, because about this standard, this issue, there is no compromise.”

At HCA Healthcare (Nashville, TN), an Ethics and Compliance Program includes a code of conduct, training and monitoring programs, and Ethics and Compliance Officers at each facility. The HCA code of conduct notes at the outset the need to “…act with absolute integrity in the way we do our work and the way we live our lives.” Yet Alan R. Yuspeh, who serves as Senior Vice President for Ethics, Compliance, and Corporate Responsibility and the Corporate Ethics and Compliance Officer for HCA, notes the difference between personal values and the corporate ethic: “The purpose of a formalized attention to business ethics is not to reiterate fundamental values—many of which are taught in the home—that we presume individuals learn as part of the maturation process. More concretely, the purpose of this effort is to assist individuals in identifying difficult business decisions that have some ethical dimension and then resolving these in a manner that reflects the organization’s values.”

In fact, every corporate code of ethics is designed to address the organization’s values, not the employee’s. Most corporate codes of ethics, regardless of how well-intended and how successful at bringing a new level of integrity to a range of transactions, are based on protection from litigation. In addressing the ways in which customers, clients, and fellow employees should be treated, the bottom line is both defining the letter of the law and making it clear that the company has informed the employee about the law. Personal concerns, when addressed at all, come under the heading of “grievances” or “complaints,” words that are inappropriate when those concerns touch on matters of conscience.

Ethics and Academia

Ethics are big business on campus, too. At Duke, Princeton, Marquette, and hundreds of colleges large and small, an ethics requirement has become part of the undergraduate curriculum. Values and ethics courses have proliferated, and dozens of academic centers for the study of ethics have been launched, often with substantial funding from corporations. National organizations, such as the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and the Center for Academic Integrity, now offer an umbrella of ethics-related services, instruments, and sounding boards. Elizabeth Kiss, Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke, says that such a focus in academia “can help us cultivate capacities for sensitive and rigorous deliberation about how we ought to live.”

Although universities offer the most promising setting for philosophical discussion of potential conflicts of personal values and institutional goals, most fall short in putting such promise into practice. Few universities or their affiliated medical centers and scientific labs have programs in place to deal with such conflicts among their own employees.

Ethics and Big Science

At the multidisciplinary Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, scientists and scholars come together to research and teach in the rapidly changing areas of modern bioscience: genetics, environmental sciences, global medicine, and others. The strongest impetus for the founding of this and similar academic centers has been the firestorm of popular and scientific controversy surrounding the applications of genetic techniques. The need for rational discourse on hot-button topics such as cloning, stem-cell technologies, and genetically altered food sources is clear. A new generation of bioethicists is being trained to ask the difficult questions about evolving scientific capabilities. But even in these academic centers that look at the overarching moral assumptions that underlie modern science, personal value conflicts within the scientific enterprise play a very small role. “That’s really a corporate or business issue, isn’t it?” asked a faculty member at the Center for Bioethics. “Isn’t that a bioethics issue?” asked the corporate ethics professor to whom we were referred.

In the biosciences, personal value conflicts fall into a gray zone. “The assumption is that this is the field you chose and you knew what you were getting into,” one genetics laboratory worker told JobSpectrum.org. “If you have a problem with it, you leave. At the rate things are changing, whatever you’re objecting to is probably only going get worse.”

Although this outlook seems discouraging, one way to approach such conflicts is to recognize the difference between corporate or professional ethics and personal conscience and know how and when to speak up about conflicts on the job.

Sally O. Walshaw, MA, VMD, affiliated with Michigan State University, calls these concerns a form of “moral distress.” Such distress results when “the right course of action seems obvious to one or more individuals who cannot take appropriate action because of institutional policy or objection by supervisors or co-workers.”

But “moral distress” to one worker may seem like a minor complaint to a supervisor. One person’s crisis of conscience may seem to a co-worker to be a litany of complaints. And none of these concerns is covered in the employee handbook.

Letting the Still Small Voice Talk

If only the conscience were like Jiminy Cricket—out there on the table top, winningly expounding our personal views of right and wrong. Most people have a very difficult time discussing their own moral conflicts at all, much less in situations in which jobs and livelihoods are at stake. JobSpectrum.org spoke with corporate and academic ethicists who gave the following advice to those experiencing crises of personal value on the job:

Look inside. Take a moment for calm reflection. How important is this issue to you? Is this merely troubling or does it touch on what to you is a fundamental matter of right and wrong? If your moral dilemma has a religious basis, talk with your spiritual advisor. Or talk with colleagues you trust. Before you take any action, have a clear idea of how far you are willing to pursue this problem and whether you are willing to have it be the focus of attention in your workplace.
Check your facts. (1) First, check the fine print of your original employment agreement. You may have already agreed to the do the work you now find problematic. This may affect the way you choose to voice your concerns. (2) Next, find out about your company’s ethics structure and HR policies about such concerns. Some organizations allow you to bypass your immediate supervisor and go directly to an ethics board or HR representative. Although they may have no set procedures for dealing with your problem, they may offer a solution that has more authority. (3) Finally, contact the professional organization with the focus that most closely parallels the work you do. Find out if the organization has developed codes of ethics and/or so-called “conscience clauses” that may provide support as you discuss your concerns. The American Pharmaceutical Association, for example, has a conscience clause that “recognizes the individual pharmacist’s right to exercise conscientious refusal” and has appointed a council to serve as a resource for the profession in addressing and understanding ethical issues. At the American Chemical Society, a code of conduct offers broad guidelines that govern responsibilities and professional behavior. ACS Members may contact the ACS Department of Career Services to discuss a specific situation with a staff member or career consultant.
Be honest about your concerns.Once you’ve decided to talk about your conflict, be as honest as you can. Remember that you’re not complaining and you’re not preaching. You’re simply conveying your own difficulty with some aspect of your assigned work.
Consider compromise. Walshaw recommends that employees consider working toward an “integrity-preserving compromise.” First developed by Martin Benjamin, PhD, at Michigan State University, such a compromise requires that both the employee and employer recognize that the issue in question does have philosophical uncertainty and moral complexity, that a continued productive relationship is valued, that only a finite number of options can be explored, and that a decision must be made.
Out in the open. Sometimes integrity-preserving compromise is reached through group discussion. A lab unit or work group may assemble to discuss one employee’s concerns. Some companies, like HCA and UTC, hold such meetings on a regular basis, both as ongoing training and to open up issues for discussion. Group discussions may involve role playing and situational examples. They should always include a wrap-up, with specific conclusions and some consensus about how these conclusions relate to the work at hand.
Look for alternatives. Check out other assignments in your company or institution that might not cause you moral distress. Corporate ethicists interviewed for this article agreed that the overwhelming majority of moral dilemmas in the scientific workplace are handled on an ad hoc basis. If you approach your employers with a solution already in hand, this alternative may be far more appealing than initiating what could be long resolution process.
Recognize your limits. Remember, however, that the work to which you had objections is still being carried out in your company or institution. If you continue to have problems with this, you ultimately may choose to look for other employment. If all else fails, be direct but nonjudgmental with your supervisors. Your goal is to reach an amicable termination agreement in which you receive both a recommendation and support in looking for other employment.
Be true to yourself. You went to school and studied hard to be a scientist. You owe it to yourself to find satisfaction and genuine rewards in what you do. Work with your employer—or look outside to the very wide range of choices available—until you find a situation in which your personal values are consonant with the tasks you do on a daily basis.

Back to Jack and Jane…

Jack’s company has both a well-established ethics committee and a large bioethics board, on each of which Jack had served. He knew that neither group routinely addressed his concerns. The ethics committee looked at matters of corporate and business ethics, and the bioethics board looked at issues of scientific integrity and procedure. Jack decided to hold a discussion meeting for his lab group. He was astonished to find that many of his colleagues occasionally shared his misgivings about animal research. But most felt that the potential benefits of their work outweighed their individual concerns. The group now meets monthly to discuss these and other evolving issues, sometimes with guest speakers from institutional bioethics boards and national organizations. Jack has resolved to continue with his work, confident that he is free discuss all aspects of his work with his colleagues.

Jane weighed her options. Take the transfer and work on a project to which she had moral objections? Refuse the transfer and watch her career flatline? She made an appointment to talk with the head of her company’s ethics board. No procedure was in place for dealing with employees’ personal concerns about the content of their work. With some trepidation, Jane went to the vice president who had made the transfer and voiced her concerns. To her surprise, the response was collegial. “Your concerns are important to us,” he said. “And the last thing we would want is to assign someone to this job who could not dedicate themselves to it without reservation.” Although Jane continues in her old job, this sequence of events has heightened her awareness that when looking at potential new employers she will very carefully consider how well her own values fit into the new setting.

Nan Knight is a freelance science writer and editor whose credits include Smithsonian exhibits, Discovery Channel Web sites, and a wide range of publications on radiation in medicine.

Related Resources

Why should you think about your personal values when you are conducting a job search? Because you spend most of your waking hours at work, it is very important that your personal values and job responsibilities are compatible. When your personal and professional values are in conflict, you will likely find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. This is one of the aspects of a job search that candidates tend to overlook. Don’t wait until a situation arises on the job to discover that your values are in conflict with your employer’s. Read more on how to identify your values as part of your job search.

The Interview Handbook (published by the ACS Department of Career Services) contains lots of information and advice about interviewing as well as suggested questions to ask interviewers based on your personal values assessment.

Thinking Strategically About Your Next Raise

Yearly or more frequent performance reviews are de rigueur in most workplaces. Generally, the scenario goes something like this: You are summoned into your manager’s office, she goes over an evaluation sheet, and at the end, and she tells you how much of a salary increase you’ll be getting. This time, however, instead of sitting back and hoping that your manager will come through, it’s time to be proactive.

Preparation is as important when you are negotiating for a raise, as it is when you are negotiating your starting salary. Make sure you know what kind of salary you can command by reading salary surveys and other sources of salary information, and discreetly find out the ballpark percentage increase your colleagues are making. For example, what’s typical for some companies-such as 5% or so-may be very low for others. The standard percentage raise for a given company is also likely to change depending on the economy and fiscal circumstances for a given year.

Lee Miller, author of “Get More Money on Your Next Job,” recommends going online to sites such as Salary.com or Futurestep.com to do salary research. He also advises contacting associations such as the American Chemical Society, which may conduct salary surveys for specific professions. In addition, Miller says you can learn a lot by networking with people in your field or talking to headhunters and recruiters about what the salary range is for your current experience level.

The Art of Self Promotion

Some managers tell employees to keep a list of accomplishments (presentations they’ve given, awards they have received, projects they’ve worked on, continuing education courses) for the previous year. It’s helpful to have all this information in one place to make a strong case. Keeping letters and e-mail that support these accomplishments is also a good idea.

Elizabeth Dougherty, a compensation consultant with Watson Wyatt, a human resources consulting firm based in Washington, DC, says that the best way to prepare yourself for a performance review is to conduct a self-assessment. “Use the criteria upon which your supervisor will judge performance. Consider both quantitative measures (revenue generated, deadlines met) as well as behavioral criteria (for example, acted as mentor to junior team members, proactively handled critical customer situation).” Dougherty also says you should reflect on your “development opportunities” — skill areas where you can improve, areas of interest, areas which will lead to promotional opportunities — and be prepared to offer some suggestions. Finally, she advises employees to provide feedback regarding any significant barriers (and suggestions for overcoming those barriers) to your productivity, quality and effectiveness.

Laying the groundwork months in advance is essential, says Miller. “The time to be thinking about your next raise is as soon as you’ve gotten your last one,” he says. Since most managers have very little idea of what you are doing on a day-to-day basis, it’s your job to let them know. “Most people think if they are doing a good job, they will get a raise or promotion automatically, but unless you make a conscious effort to get that information to your boss, you may be passed over,” warns Miller. To this end, you need to become a good self-promoter. You may be doing a great job but if your supervisor has no idea what you are up to, it won’t matter at review time.

Like Dougherty, Miller suggests that you make a comprehensive list of the projects that you are working on and the progress you are making on each item. It doesn’t help to only communicate your successes with your boss at the review; you have to let her know how you are doing throughout the year. Explains Miller, “Casually keep your boss informed.” Meet with him once in a while, send the occasional “progress report,” anything to keep the lines of communication open. “One really good way to let your boss know how well you are doing is send your boss a note to praise the people on your team – laud the people you work for and therefore you laud yourself. “The key is communicating with your boss. If money’s attached to the project, savings, etc. make sure your boss knows about that as well—put a number to it.”

Sidebar: The Dos and Don’ts of Getting What You Deserve

Timing Is Everything

Before you go racing into your manager’s office to demand more money, keep in mind that timing is essential. “The boss is no different than everyone else,” says Richard Chang, CEO of Richard Chang Associates. “They have good days and they have bad days. Look for signs or characteristics that indicate you’re actually talking with them on a good day. If you have a pre-scheduled discussion time, and there are indicators that this is a bad day, be sure to re-schedule the discussion time.”

“Ask for a review out of cycle (i.e. not during regular performance review periods),” advises Miller. A great time to approach your manager is after you’ve had a success – such as a project that’s gone extremely well. “You need to pull yourself away from the masses. It’s easier if you take yourself out of the cycle and somehow distinguish yourself from everyone else.”

Also remember that whether you are on the giving or the receiving end, work evaluations make most people uncomfortable and your boss may also be feeling stressful about the situation. “When you approach him or her, strive to create a comfortable environment and to build understanding and appreciation for your performance and for the reasons you are making your request,” explains Chang.

Negotiating and Counteroffers

Let’s assume that you are less than pleased with the raise you’ve been given. Is it wise to negotiate? Dougherty says that yes, you should discuss the increase amount with your supervisor to understand the rationale behind the dollars. “Be prepared to express your dissatisfaction by articulating your reasoning, for example you might say, ‘The project I managed came in on time and under budget.’ She cautions, however, that negotiating an amount may be difficult since criteria other than performance (such as budgeting) may play a role in the ultimate increase amount.

Unfortunately, warns Dougherty, if employees share in the success of the organization (vis-à-vis bonuses), then they might also be expected to share — to some extent — in the organization’s hardships. But even during tough economic times or despite poor business results, some organizations may be willing to offer non-cash rewards to superior performers. The key to getting those rewards is to make sure you keep a good record of what you’ve accomplished throughout the year. The more data you have, the stronger your case will be. While the company’s benefit policies may be difficult to change, other options such as comp time, more training, continuing education or the chance to attend conferences or professional seminars are good alternatives.

Like Dougherty, Miller also recommends conveying your disappointment to your boss, but in a constructive manner. “Ask your boss what you can do in the future. Ask for advice about how you might go about getting a better raise or promotion next time around.” It’s important to make your boss your ally so that they have a stake in your success. “Once you get the advice, and if you follow it and let your boss know you are following their advice, it becomes very hard for that manager not be your advocate,” he says.

Miller also says that you can try to negotiate the timing of a bonus. “Convince your boss that you should get a bonus and agree that you will revisit the bonus issue in three months and if business is better you’ll get a special bonus then. The key to that is to show why your circumstances are different than anyone else.”

Experts don’t advise using another offer as leverage if you are not satisfied with the raise you’ve been offered. “It’s a very, very risky strategy and if it appears that you are threatening, it makes you look disloyal,” says Miller. If you do decide to use this tactic, you must be willing to walk away from the company if it fails.

“Most significant increases in salary when you are already with a company result either from an increase in responsibilities or from concerns that you might leave. Therefore, any strategy you use with your current employer should include an effort to get more responsibility or to make yourself so invaluable that the possibility of your leaving would cause immediate concern,” concludes Miller.