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Q&A with the Career Coach

“Q&A with the Career Coach” is a series of articles featuring questions from readers and answers from 42-year Human Resources veteran and Career Coach Cliff Montgomery. Future questions can be submitted to him at his address below.

Q: I’m in an “OK” job, but find myself constantly thinking about what’s next. I want to start a job search, but I don’t want my current employer to find out I’m looking outside. How can I do this “undercover”?

A: This is a challenging situation, but there are several things you can do and not raise any red flags within your current company.

First, work on your “90 Second Capsule,” which is a 150-word profile of who you are, four to five qualifications you possess and several achievements in your current role. In other words, what you have to offer a new employer. This will come in handy as many interviews start with the question, “So, tell me about yourself?”

Next, update your resume and social profiles and begin to reach out to your network, emphasizing you are doing this prospectively, and it’s enough to say you’re just, “exploring new career alternatives.” Keep your efforts low key at your current company and be sure to schedule any interviews after hours. Update your LinkedIn profile, but don’t advertise your job search.

While you’re still employed, do a lot of research on potential companies and industries you might be interested in; the last thing you want is to go with a company that’s not as good as the one you’re currently in. Lastly, even if you’re not happy in your current company, and it’s not doing well, never talk unfavorably about it to any prospective hiring manager...words do travel.

Q: I’ve read recently that women on average are paid only 80% of what men make for doing the same job. Other than outright compensation discrimination based on sex, are there other reasons one individual is paid significantly more than another for doing the same work?

A: There are several reasons why two individuals may be paid differently for doing the same work. To be clear, in this case I’ll be speaking about “exempt” positions (exempt from the FLSA, (“Fair Labor Standards Act”) vs. hourly, and the range for these positions, from minimum to maximum, can be as much as 20% or more.

Initially, some employees’ starting salaries are higher in the range than others due to their previous experience or additional education/degrees they may bring to the role. Another reason for differentiation can be time on the job. Individuals who have been in a particular role for a long time will understandably be paid higher into the “range” than newcomers due to receiving various salary increases over time.

Another explanation could be performance, with high performers obviously receiving significantly higher annual “merit” increases than lesser performers.

Lastly, some employees are just more comfortable merchandising and marketing their performance with their leadership, as well as asking directly for a salary increases. Unfortunately, sometimes these last two areas are particularly challenging to some women. The good news is these behaviors can be learned.

Send your questions to Clifford E. Montgomery, CPC, executive and career coach in New Hope. He can be reached at 908-209-1642 or at His website is