Dear Joyce: I have a bachelor's degree in journalism. After being out of college for nine years and working in other fields, I recently found a job working as a communications specialist for a nonprofit agency at $20,000 per year. Before that I worked part-time as a writer at $6 per hour.
I am applying for jobs that pay more but require a resume and a salary history. What is a salary history? What do employers think about applicants who have not made competitive salaries in the past? B.K.
Salary problems aren't always on the minus side, as the next letter shows.
Dear Joyce: I have been looking for a job as an administrative assistant/secretary. In my last position, from which I resigned due to a loss of respect for management, I was making $60,000 (up from $17,000 over an eight-year period).
I began with the company as secretary to the president and left as corporate secretary and director of corporate communications. This company grew very fast, and I saved it a lot of money due to my previous banking background.
I could not go out and hire myself out at my previous job titles or salary because I basically don't have the qualifications unless I again work for a private company going public. These opportunities are few in Dallas at this time. How can I get people to realize I will take less money and not jump ship at the first better offer? L.M.
Never put a salary history -- or salary requirement -- on a resume. Never. The reasons are many but you can read why in a very useful new book, "Salary Success: Know What You're Worth . . . and Get It!" by Drs. Ron and Caryl Krannich (Impact Publications, 10655 Big Oak Circle, Manassas, Va. 22111; $15 softcover).
How do you handle recruitment ads requesting a salary history? Write that you don't share personal information on an impersonal basis but you'll be glad to discuss it in an interview. Add that if you and the position are a good match, you're sure you can reach a satisfactory financial agreement.
When you're filling out a company application form and come to the blanks asking about salary, write "Will discuss."
During the interview, it's better strategy to avoid money talk until you get an offer -- then you're merely pricing a done deal rather than screening yourself out with the wrong number.
If you've been underpaid, your basic position is one of fairness and requesting the going rate. Say, "My research shows the market rate for this job is $28,000 to $35,000 plus benefits. That's what I would need to join your fine company. My present job pays less than the competition, and that's why I intend to change to a position that pays market."
When it seems you've been over market, your theme is that money is not your primary value. Say you were in an uncommon situation where your worth in financial skills came into play and that while you enjoy using these skills, you enjoy using your other skills equally as much -- and name a few. Then insist that the nature of the work and the job's future are more important to you than immediate compensation.
Talk about five and 10 years down the road to reassure the employer that you are looking for a long-term association and won't bug out the minute a better dollar offer appears. Be convincing when you say you are seeking a congenial professional environment where you can love the work you do and that's more important than money.