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On job application's salary line, best write: 'To be determined'


CHICAGO -- We get all sorts of letters and phone calls about the job market. Readers want to know about resumes and health hazards. Are nonprofit workers stigmatized?

And always, everyone wants to know how to negotiate an equitable salary.

Q. I've been job-hunting for months now, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not being hired for jobs I'm qualified for because I never fill out the line asking what salary I expect to get. Am I doing the wrong thing?

A. There's no way to know if that's the reason you're not getting the job. But the salary question does put you in a lose-lose situation. If you put down what you think you rightfully should earn, it might be too much money and might eliminate you from consideration. If you put down too little, you might get the job -- and a low salary. Try answering: "To be determined." With any luck, that will work.

Q. My co-workers and I sit in front of computers all day inputting data. We're dropping like flies with repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. How can I keep up to date on information about carpal tunnel syndrome and what to do to prevent it?

A. CTD News is an independent newsletter that covers the issue of repetitive stress injuries. "These injuries are not a plague but certainly an epidemic," said James Kinsella, CDT News associate editor. For more information, write CTD News, 10 Railroad Ave., P.O. Box 239, Haverford, Pa. 19041. Phone: (215) 896-4902.

Q. For the past three years, I've worked for a nonprofit agency. Now, I want to switch to the private sector. However, I feel that working for a nonprofit has tagged me as a low-quality candidate to those in the for-profit world. Is there anything that I can do to assure employers I took a nonprofit job out of choice and not because I couldn't get a job anywhere else?

A. The nonprofits are where the jobs are today, and you should not be stigmatized. But Laura Phelps, a Chicago employment consultant, agrees that "there is a definite hesitation on the part of corporations to value the experience of job seekers from the nonprofit sector."

"To make the transition to for-profit, build on your contacts with corporate members of your board of directors," she suggests. "They know your worth as a professional."

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