While few people escaped the pandemic unscathed, there is little doubt women often bore the brunt disproportionately. Many were even forced to opt out of their jobs as they were typically tasked with caregiving during sporadic school and daycare closures.
That is clearly evident in workforce data: While overall employment numbers are bouncing back, there were over 1 million fewer women in the labor force in January 2022 than there were in February 2020. .
With many women eager to return to meaningful work, they may be underestimating their power as employers scramble for talent. In fact it might be the perfect storm for them to negotiate a host of more desirable work-related elements. If you are looking for new opportunities, whether within your own company or with a new employer, here’s what to ask for.
Companies need talent, and they are willing to pay. One survey found 32% of companies planned to increase salaries even higher than what they had initially budgeted – an average of 3.4% compared with the 3% raise they had projected in June 2021.
Now is the time to make sure you get your share of the salary pool. First, be prepared to negotiate from a position of strength by creating a list of recent achievements. Include both hard metrics, such as the number of sales you won or your contributions to key projects, along with “soft” metrics, like explaining how you stepped in to run team meetings or nurtured a key client relationship.
Keep in mind many companies may be facing economic hardships of their own, so if there’s not as much wiggle room in your salary as you would like, ask your employer to sweeten your compensation package with other perks, such as extra vacation days, additional professional development opportunities, increased benefits or even a one-time bonus. Always be prepared to ask for as much as you can, yet continue to present yourself as a team player who is willing to compromise as needed.
Finally, be wary of issuing an ultimatum in the form of a competing job offer unless you are sure you would truly be willing to walk away from your current position if your employer calls your bluff.
Are you feeling unfulfilled in your current role? Many workers used the pandemic as a time to assess their career satisfaction, spurring what’s been called the “Great Resignation.” Maybe you realized you could automate some rote tasks, freeing up time for more creative or strategic activities. Perhaps you discovered new proficiencies as you helped your team cope with these unexpected circumstances. Or maybe you were exposed to an interesting department as you worked on cross-functional projects.
If you’re returning to an existing employer, now might be the time to request a promotion or even a reconfigured job description in your current position. A report by Glassdoor finds that one of the strongest predictors of employee satisfaction is career opportunities. Offer to take on new tasks or manage additional team members, yet be cautious it won’t leave you overburdened and threaten your work-life balance. Discuss what tasks can be removed from your plate to free up time, and of course, ask for a raise commensurate with any new obligations. Or, if you realized another division handled work you find more interesting or relevant, check out open positions that fit your skillset.
Many workers repurposed time they would normally have spent on a commute toward professional development. If you’ve earned a certificate or learned a new skill, make sure your manager knows and ask for opportunities to flex these new professional muscles to further your career goals. A new set of responsibilities can help prevent burnout and keep your job fresh and exciting, which increases engagement and satisfaction.
A more flexible schedule
The last two years have underscored the importance of flexibility although the concept can mean different things to different people: In one study, 41% of respondents said they prefer to choose which hours of the day they work, while 25% would prioritize which days they work and 14% would prioritize location. The good news is that you might be able to negotiate any and all of these.
The key is to ask your employer to evaluate you based on your production and output, rather than the hours worked. Of course, there might be times you have to be available to participate in meetings to show you’re a team player. But if you find that you typically work better in the evenings or early mornings when your house is calmer, don’t hesitate to state your needs, while still assuring your employer the work will get done.
You could even frame your request in terms of how it would benefit your employer; for example, if you want to travel less, explain that you can still maintain excellent client relationships or network effectively without incurring the costs and time required to travel to client sites or conferences.
While women were often forced to leave their jobs to juggle family routines during the pandemic, many realized they missed the stimulation and feeling of accomplishment their career offers. With companies finding star talent to be in short supply, now is the time to take advantage of workplace conditions and carve out a role that’s ideal for you at a price that’s right.