Unlocking Career Success: Insights from Morgan McCaughey on Pay Negotiation and Job Transition

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In this interview with Morgan McCaughey, we delve into the world of career transition, pay negotiation, and job-seeking challenges. Morgan, a seasoned professional with a background in corporate finance and a passion for worker empowerment, shares valuable insights and strategies to help employees navigate career changes successfully. From customizing resumes to the art of effective pay negotiation, Morgan sheds light on the misconceptions surrounding these processes and emphasizes the importance of perseverance and networking in today’s competitive job market. Join us as we explore the key concepts presented in the interview and discover how Morgan’s expertise can make a substantial difference in your career journey.

[Q] Who do you assist, and what assistance do you provide?


 I primarily support women working through career transitions, with a specific focus on those in the tech sector who are dealing with pay negotiation challenges. My main goal is to support individuals who feel undervalued at work, as this can have emotional, mental, and even physical repercussions. It’s tough to be in a situation where you want to make a change but don’t know where to begin amidst various job-seeking obstacles. That’s where I come in – helping them develop the tactical (and emotional) resources they need to move forward.


These resources encompass several key areas, such as crafting a compelling resume that highlights their qualifications, creating a persuasive cover letter that effectively communicates their skills and experiences, and optimizing their LinkedIn profiles to catch the attention of HR professionals and recruiters who rely on the platform for hiring. I have a particular passion for assisting women in this regard, given my own experience with over 15 years in the workforce and roughly 18 different jobs. I’ve encountered moments of pay instability and a lack of transparency regarding compensation in various organizations. Drawing on my background in corporate finance, I educate individuals on negotiating a higher salary, one that is more in line with the lifestyle they see for themselves.


Presently, I’m refining my focus even further, shifting from general career coaching to specializing in pay negotiation. In 2023, my clients averaged an offer increase of approximately $25,000 in compensation. My primary clientele consists of women in the tech industry. I provide them with pay negotiation coaching, help them conquer imposter syndrome, and guide them in articulating their accomplishments so they can confidently advocate for themselves without hesitation and demand the compensation they rightfully deserve.

[Q] What are the main challenges your clients face when changing careers?


The most significant challenge my clients often grapple with is their mental state. They come to me desiring a change but feel somewhat stuck, having been on a roller coaster of survival and unsure how to get off. They might get along well with their coworkers but have issues with their boss, yet they have a sense of security in their current job. Frequently, there’s a lack of clarity about the right direction to pursue, leading to a feeling of being overwhelmed by choices. They can be dissatisfied with their current work, but they struggle to envision an alternative path. Sometimes, they simply lack the time or space in their lives to sit down and reflect on their situation or articulate it.


The initial part of my service involves having a conversation to address these challenges. Clients often find this highly beneficial because there are limited places where they can openly discuss their professional lives and receive expert guidance. While they can talk to family or seek advice on platforms like Reddit, what sets my service apart is the provision of professional advice. A significant aspect of this is shining a spotlight on their skills, experiences, and knowledge and helping them realize their value.


For example, I recently assisted a client in crafting a strongly worded email to her boss, making a compelling case for a $20,000 pay raise and a title change, essentially a promotion. She had a meeting scheduled with her boss today to discuss this matter, and I’m eagerly awaiting the outcome. It brings me immense satisfaction to help clients identify their goals and then create concrete action plans to increase their compensation by confidently showcasing their achievements.

[Q] Can you share a recent example?


Certainly, let me tell you about Jess, a recent client of mine. Jess reached out to me in the summer intending to secure GIS (Geographic Information Systems) work, particularly in geospatial mapping, in Hawaii. She was aiming for career advancement but wasn’t quite sure about the specifics. So, we worked together to tailor her resume strategically to align with job descriptions for the next level of GIS positions. We spent the summer on this project.


Around two weeks ago, Jess returned to me with exciting news. She had been applying for jobs using her newly revised resume and had received a job offer from a company. They were offering her $72,000, whereas her current salary stood at $65,000. However, she felt she deserved more and sought my advice. This is where my compensation background came into play – I suggested we consult salary data from reputable sources for similar roles in Hawaii. We found that there was some flexibility in the salary ranges for positions like hers.


We decided to aim for $85,000 and see how the company would respond. Jess went back to them and confidently stated her request for $85,000. Their counteroffer came in at $82,000 with a $2,000 signing bonus, which was a step in the right direction. Yet, Jess decided to take it a step further by presenting this offer to her current employer, inquiring if they would match it. We worked together to devise a strategy for approaching her current employer, essentially saying, “I’ve received another job offer and I’m considering it, but I wanted to give you the chance to counter.” Her approach paid off, resulting in a counteroffer from her current employer for $85,000 with a $4,000 signing bonus. In the end, Jess is now earning nearly $30,000 more than when we initially began our coaching journey.


Ultimately, she chose to stay with her current employer because she saw greater growth potential there. I’m delighted to have assisted her throughout this process, as without our coaching, she might have settled for the initial offer of $72,000.

[Q] Are there any myths or misconceptions about your work?


One prevalent myth in the realm of pay negotiation is the belief that pay is set in stone, and governed by strict rules. In truth, pay negotiation is more like a unique snowflake, shaped by various factors. It’s custom-tailored to you, the specific circumstances at hand, and your skill set. It also hinges on what the business values as the opportunity cost at that particular moment, creating a dynamic situation.


So, when my clients ask if there’s room for negotiation when they receive an offer, the answer is always a resounding yes. There’s almost always room for discussion—it’s just a matter of whether the business is willing to engage in that dialogue. In most cases, they are open to it because, often, it would cost them more to find a new candidate with your same skills than to just pay you the additional $5000 or $1000 you’re asking for. 


Another common concern among my clients is the fear that negotiating might lead to the offer being withdrawn. However, the reality is that this is highly unlikely because it’s typically more costly for the business to walk away from the deal. They generally want to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and close the deal.

[Q] What do you believe prevents more people from seeking your assistance?


I think a significant barrier is the cost associated with seeking the type of help I offer. Interestingly, we’re often willing to invest substantial sums, like approximately $100,000, in our education, such as an undergraduate degree. However, when it comes to improving our job prospects and finding the next career opportunity, there can be a reluctance to allocate funds for self-improvement, particularly when finances are tight or a primary concern.


It’s important to understand that the skills and tools I teach extend well beyond a single job transition. I provide comprehensive pay negotiation skills that can benefit someone throughout their entire career. Pay is cumulative, and every step up the career ladder has a compounding effect on future earnings. For instance, working with someone early in their career and educating them on pay negotiation can result in substantial financial gains over a lifetime. Similarly, for mid-career individuals, a $30,000 pay increase can have a lasting impact on their overall earnings.


I strongly encourage individuals to consider the long-term financial benefits of my services, as the potential increase in lifetime earnings far outweighs the investment they make in my assistance.

[Q] Do you have any tips or strategies for job seekers?


 Certainly, I have some valuable advice for job seekers:


  1. Tailor Your Resume: When it comes to resume writing, my top recommendation is to customize your resume for each specific job title. Many people use a generic resume for multiple job titles, but it’s crucial to understand that employers often have a specific puzzle piece in mind for their job openings. Your resume should clearly reflect the skills, experiences, and qualifications mentioned in the job description. Failing to do so means you’re not telling the right story to secure an interview.


  1. Don’t hesitate to Negotiate: In terms of pay negotiation, remember this golden rule – you don’t get what you don’t ask for. I stress this with my clients regularly. Whether you’re seeking equity, a significant pay increase, or an education stipend, you need to ask for it. I’ve seen cases where candidates didn’t inquire about equity during the interview process, and as a result, they missed out on it. I want to ensure that everyone gets what they deserve and maximizes their job offer by asking for what’s available and then pushing for more.


  1. Persevere Through Challenges: I understand that this is a challenging time for job seekers, especially in the tech industry, where there have been nearly 300,000 layoffs this year alone. It can be isolating and demoralizing, and I’ve heard from clients who have been unemployed for extended periods. It’s essential to remember that you’re not alone, and this journey can be tough. Finding a job can be one of the most stressful periods in your life, and on average, it takes three to six months. So, don’t be disheartened if you don’t secure a job immediately. Keep persevering.


  1. Leverage Networking: Networking is crucial during your job search. It’s the most effective way I’ve seen clients and job seekers find opportunities. When you have a connection within a company that can vouch for you and recommend you, it significantly increases your chances. So, when planning your job search strategy, consider how actively you are networking. Let your direct network, including friends and family, know what you’re looking for, your qualifications, and your availability for work. Networking often leads to more positive opportunities than just submitting applications through online portals repeatedly.

[Q] What are the next steps to learn more about your services and resources?


To learn more about my services and access valuable resources, the next step would be to book a free career consultation with me. I always offer a 20-minute free consultation where we can discuss your current career opportunities or challenges. During this conversation, we’ll work together to determine the best course of action. If it turns out that my services align with your needs, I may offer to assist further. However, please note that the free consultation is always available.


Whether you’re looking for quick resume feedback or seeking unbiased advice from someone deeply connected to the job market, scheduling a consultation can be highly beneficial. I regularly engage with recruiters and hiring managers, which allows me to provide informed insights.


Another way to access resources and connect with me is by exploring my blog. I recently published a post on how to support a loved one who has experienced a layoff. Behind every layoff statistic, there are individuals and families dealing with financial and emotional challenges, and I offer guidance on how to navigate your career during such times. My blog also contains numerous resources on pay negotiation.


I’m passionate about education and ensuring that people know they are not alone when facing career challenges. Whether you’re in search of a new job or looking to negotiate a higher salary, there are resources available, and I’m here to assist if you choose to schedule a consultation with me.

Jeremy Baker

Jeremy Baker has a passion for helping his clients get recognition as experts in their fields. His approach to interviewing helps his clients tell their stories and talk about their unique set of experiences and backgrounds.