'The average person will have 6 to 8 careers in their life' – here’s what to know as you transition

Vumi Msweli
Vumi Msweli

Ready to move onward and upward in your professional life? Then there is one very important question you have to steel yourself to ask.

The average person will have six to eight careers in their life. This means that we need to master the art of career change and become comfortable with transitions and the processes involved.

From identifying the next role, understanding the existing skills gap, rallying resources, job searching, interviewing, negotiating employment contracts and excelling in the new role – all are critical to the progression of a career change.

There are few dances between two parties that are as calculating, nerve-racking and exciting as the dance of negotiation. It’s about getting as much as you can without being unreasonable or being seen as unrealistic or uncompromising by the other side. This often plays out in our professional careers when we negotiate our contracts.

When entering the arena of negotiation, there are a number of things to consider in order to be successful. The first would be to speak your mind. Many of us seem to accept whatever is offered to us without even asking a question. We do ourselves no favours by remaining silent.

Regardless of whether we feel ecstatic or are deeply disappointed by the offer on the table, we need to voice our concerns and stand up for ourselves. If the figure seems right or is way below what you would even consider, there is no harm in asking, “Is this the best we can do?” The offer is before you in black and white; at worst, you will go back to the original offer.

You must not allow fear and insecurity to make you shy away from supporting your financial interests. You will also gain more confidence on this issue if you are able to get a market-based indication of what to expect from a cost-to-company perspective.

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To do this, you can engage a number of recruitment personnel or you can use the internet. If you have a market-related salary expectation, be sure to ask for a dummy payslip. This way, you can see if your actual take-home pay is worth the change in role and the added responsibility. This will give you a clear picture of how much you will receive after deductions.

There are some deductions that you may be able to negotiate, such as those for medical benefits. If you can show that you had your own medical aid before you joined the company, in most cases you can negotiate that it will not be part of the company’s expenses. You will need to research to find out which medical option offers both the best benefits and affordability, and whether it is more cost-effective for you to pay yourself or for your employer to pay.

Another tool that can potentially have a positive impact on your income is a sign-on bonus. It never hurts to ask, “What is the sign-on bonus?” It is usually tied to a certain period of time during which you are not allowed to leave the company or you will have to pay it back. You may not always get what you ask for, but it is always worth asking your human resources officer. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll get the polite reply, “We are not currently offering a sign-on bonus for this role.”

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If they do decline, you are not in a worse position – but if they agree to your request, you will be in a more positive cash-flow position. One of the least used but most beneficial tools is equity. With listed companies, we can often use this as our main negotiating tool. By requesting shares and trying to negotiate the vesting period as far as possible, you can help increase your net asset value in the long run if the company performs well over time.

Companies are often more willing to negotiate on equity than they are for cash. Remember that a negotiation is neither a dictatorship nor a one-sided conversation. Enter this arena with the confidence and knowledge of your own worth. You are providing a valuable service and need to be compensated accordingly. You must confidently answer the question: “Is this the best I can do for me?”

So when the music starts and the dance of negotiation begins, be rhythmic in doing the best you can for yourself. If you are looking for a career change and negotiating your salary, it is important that you are prepared to ask yourself the question: “Is this the best I can do?” Become comfortable with asking this question, because you may have to ask it at least eight times.

Vumile Msweli is a career coach, TedX speaker and founder of Hesed Consulting, a Pan-African coaching firm with presence in Botswana; South Africa; Rwanda; Nigeria and the United States of America. She has successfully lead her teams globally remotely and been able to effectively adapt during these unprecedented times of the pandemic whilst growing the business. She holds an Accounting Sciences degree, Honours in Financial Planning, postgraduate from New York University, an MBA from the University of London, postgraduate at Harvard University and is currently studying her doctorate in Switzerland. Her business accolades include being named Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans, CEO Magazine’s Pan-African Business Woman, and Brand South Africa’s “Play Your Part” Ambassador.

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