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王李职场评论系列之二:Identifying Strong Platforms That Raise Your Earning Power And Marketability

作者:Larry Wang,CEO and Founder of Wang & Li Asia Resources 2009年6月9日

Why would a person turn down a position that offers him a 100% salary increase? Who does that??? Although that’s an extreme situation, we have seen many candidates over the years make moves for little or no salary increase, or even take a pay cut, in order to join a situation that can significantly better their development and help them attain their future career and financial objectives. With these candidates, they have a very good sense of what will create earning power for themselves and increase their ability to attain attractive opportunities over the course of their career. Rather than pursuing opportunistic, short-lived situations, they identify ones that will allow them to develop broader skill sets, accumulate outstanding achievements, and demonstrate the ability to handle greater responsibilities. As such, they seek out strong platforms that they can be a part of which add value and create upside for their long-term prospects.


“We’ll Pay For Value”

Identifying strong platforms is becoming more and more critical for a one’s ongoing marketability and career success, especially in China today. Just a few years ago, things were different. Meaning, you saw many instances where talent was being overvalued and overpaid, as companies hired aggressively to keep pace with their business growth. For individuals, it was a great time to be opportunistic. For employers, this made it nearly impossible to maintain appropriate compensation levels with candidates since much higher salaries could always be found elsewhere.


Today, however, employees are being paid more in-line with their appropriate market value and worth. This is because of an increasingly competitive talent market and stricter hiring and promotion practices. There is also greater availability of compensation information for companies to benchmark the market as well as greater discipline among companies for staying within their compensation structures and policies. As a result, you see fewer and lesser disparities in compensation levels across companies in the same industry and for comparable positions than before. Overall, maturing market factors have shifted the control of salaries in favor of the hiring side, basing them more accurately on a person’s actual capabilities, experience, and value.


We saw this highlighted recently where one of our candidates was asking for 40% over her current salary. Our client liked the candidate a lot, but would only offer a 15% increase, which they thought was already quite generous. When the negotiations came to an impasse, the GM made his position clear. “I’m more than willing to pay what this person is asking for,” he said. “That’s not the issue. But only for someone who has a demonstrated track record of what we need them to do. This person hasn’t got that. Instead, we’re willing to give her an opportunity to take on some challenging, high profile projects to show what she can do. If she’s as good as she thinks she is and is able to perform, and then we’re happy to revisit the topic of compensation with her later on.”




Seeking Out Strong Platforms

With many job situations to choose from out there, what exactly would be considered a strong platform to be a part of?  Basically, you want an environment that offers exposure to quality situations and opportunities to learn and develop essential skill sets and that allows you to build your achievements. Therefore, a good platform might include a situation that offers:


u       A high growth company

u       A growth industry

u       A solid management team

u       A good connection with your immediate management

u       New and challenging responsibilities

u       The overall chance to add value and skill sets to your professional background


Factors that determine the strength of a platform also have to do with the people you have access to and the responsibilities you are allowed to take on. In assessing opportunities that can provide significant benefits to your career growth, you want to look at and determine:


u       The backgrounds of the managers you’ll be working with most

u       The quality/orientation of the company’s client base

u       The access to international resources and best practices

u       The level of interaction with top management

u       The level of participation in key decision-making situations

u       The chance to plan and manage things

u       The chance to run things

u       The chance to build things

u       The chance to manage others


Within your current situation, does your job/company provide such development potential and opportunities? Or are there situations that can much better allow you to develop your skills sets and accumulate standout accomplishments that improve your ability to capture attractive opportunities in the future? 


Be Flexible And Realistic

Choosing a platform that may not bring immediate financial gains is a tough decision for many to justify. Most candidates that we work with expect at least a 10-15% jump in their base salary when looking at a new opportunity. Some even tell us that they won’t consider a position unless it offers a 30-40% salary increase! Receiving an increase in salary when making a move, however, is by no means a rule. And having expectations that are too inflexible and short-sighted can lead to missed opportunities that could greatly enhance your earning power. 


As an example, many of the most reputable companies (e.g. GE, Dell, Coca-Cola, etc.) tend not to be the market leaders in compensation, given their attractiveness as an employer to work for. We see many candidates who make moves to such companies for comparable or even less money because they offer access to world-class resources and high-caliber operating environments. Therefore, joining these companies can mean accepting a less than premium compensation situation in comparison to your current one.




Likewise, if you are considering a more entrepreneurial opportunity, you need to have realistic expectations with regards to compensation. Smaller/start-up companies are typically more conservative on base salaries. On the other hand, they tend to be more flexible and generous on variable, performance-based incentives. They are naturally higher risk, but are also higher growth and upside potential. Joining these relatively young organizations as part of their management team offers excellent chances to standout, since achievements can be much more easily identified to the individual, as opposed to the company (e.g. less mature brand, existing client base, systems and processes, etc.).


“It would have been fairly easy for me to find another position with a multinational comparable to the one I was at before,” says a female candidate, who earlier this year joined a value-added services telco start-up as their financial controller. “Although the package was no higher than what I made in my previous job, this opportunity offers responsibilities that can help me advance to the next level in my career. For instance, I have been a part of financial systems implementations before, but have never built a finance department and developed its financial processes from scratch. I’m also the direct contact with the key investors and banks that the company works closely with. These things are right in line with the responsibilities that a CFO handles, which is what I’m targeting in the future.”


Can You Attract The Best Opportunities?

With today’s especially active job market, the key issue for most professionals is not about the ability to find a job.  There are plenty of those out there. Rather, it is if your background is outstanding and competitive enough to capture those positions that are most attractive to you. Over the course of your career, you will be rewarded fairly based on the value and performance excellence you are able to deliver to an employer. In other words, you’ll earn more money if you’re worth it.


Of course, just about everyone wants to earn a good salary, or at least be paid well for what they do. And nobody actively seeks situations that offer little or less money than what they’re currently earning. But if making good money is a main objective of yours, then it’s important to have an overall approach to your career choices that emphasizes situations that can significantly increase your future earning power and marketability. By putting yourself onto strong platforms that can increase your skill sets, achievements, and value, you will be able to pursue better and greater opportunities for yourself against a maturing and increasingly competitive landscape.


Make Good Choices That Build Long-term Value

So how does a person pass on a position that offers to double your salary? Actually, according to our candidate, it wasn’t even that tough of a decision for him. At the time, he was making RMB300K/year, while the position he turned down was offering to pay him RMB600K/year. Being in his early 30s and at a middle management stage in his career, what he was seeking most was a senior manager level role with broader, more direct responsibilities that would help him develop towards his goal of becoming general manager someday. The position he was being offered, however, was a high-level, individual contributor one that essentially repeated a role that he had already done extensively before. So although it was financially attractive in the short-term, the position would add few new skills and achievements that would get him closer to his GM objective. 


Instead, he ended up taking another position that offered a much more modest package increase of RMB350K/year, but that gave him the type of responsibilities that he was looking for. “With the opportunity I turned down, there was nothing wrong with the company. It was a very reputable, attractive one. I know I could have made some good money over the next couple of years. But what then after that? I’d basically still be in a similar situation as I am now. The company I’ll be joining is smaller, but fast growing. As importantly,


it’s senior management team is top-notch and client base top tier.  Ultimately, I want to be a GM for a leading company and I believe this is the right situation at this time in my career to help me get there.  If I can attain that level, I am confident that the financial benefits will take care of themselves and far exceed whatever amount of money that I may have passed up in the short-term.”



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