Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Top Three Career Dilemmas

In your professional life, many decisions are relatively easy. When you're asked by your manager to tackle an assignment, you do it. When a colleague needs help and you're available, you pitch in. When you're offered a job you want, you take it. But what about those tricky situations where the proper course of action isn't so clear-cut? They come up on rare occasions, but when they do, it's important to be prepared.
Following are career dilemmas you may encounter and suggestions for how to handle them:
Dilemma 1: You find out a colleague makes more money than you do.
You're at the copy machine and find a coworker's pay stub. Seeing the salary, you realize the person makes more than you, even though he has the same job.
Proper course of action: While you might be tempted to immediately march into your manager's office to demand an explanation -- and a raise -- take a more cool-headed approach. Going to your boss with financial concerns arising from confidential information will do more harm than good.
Instead, use this knowledge as an impetus to examine your own pay and value in the employment market, reviewing resources such as the U.S. Department of Labor's website and the Salary Guides published annually by Robert Half International. With an idea of what others in your area and with your skills and experience are paid, you can approach your manager and back up your request with relevant information that's not sensitive in nature.
Dilemma 2: You are offered a new job, but you're happy with your current one.
A friend who works at another company just found out a position has opened up there. He calls and pitches you the opportunity, saying he's sure you'd be a front-runner for the role. You're intrigued, knowing how much he raves about the organization, but you like your current job.
Proper course of action: Ask your friend for more information about the company and role, so you can see how it compares with your current situation. Are there opportunities for quick and steady advancement? How competitive is the salary and benefits package? What is the corporate culture like?
Assuming you're still interested, there isn't any harm in interviewing. This will give you the chance to find out more about the ins and outs of the position and get an additional perspective on the organization. If the interview goes well, you may want to seriously consider this new opportunity.
Dilemma 3: You have the opportunity to take on an important but difficult project.
You find out a major project is approaching, and your manager is looking for someone to lead it. It promises heightened visibility within the firm, but it's also a big challenge.
Proper course of action: If you're undecided about volunteering for the project, first ask yourself if you can handle the responsibility in addition to your current workload. At the same time, consider the abilities you'll develop by taking on the assignment. You'll improve your project management skills, meet people across the organization and potentially put yourself in position for even more challenging opportunities in the future.
If you are uncomfortable about the prospect of leading the project, ask your manager if there is another way you can be involved in it. Taking on at least a partial role can help you expand your skill set and increase your value to the firm.
These tough decisions and others like them can test the mettle of even the most experienced professional, mainly because there's no clear right or wrong answer. But by carefully considering your options and using sound judgment, you can come up with the best answer for you.
Taken from Robert Half International , the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit For additional workplace articles and podcasts, visit

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