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Nine to Strive: PayScale’s Advice Column


Welcome to 9 to Strive, PayScale’s new career advice column. We’ve enlisted Industrial/Organizational Psychology Practitioner Muneeb Bukhari to answer all the questions you’ve ever wanted to know about career, salary, teamwork, performance and more.

Muneeb is an expert in organizational effectiveness/development, change management and performance management, and he’s here to answer your questions, tell you how to deal with tricky work situations, communicate more effectively and get ahead in your career.

If you have a question related to your career that you want answered by our resident pro, email us at All questions will remain anonymous, so you don’t have to worry that the guy in the cubicle next to you will know that it was you who asked about how to deal with smelly coworkers. (Besides, we already wrote about that topic.)

 Nine to Strive Get Expert Advice from PayScale

Do You Know What You're Worth?

When Does The Past Become The Past?

Dear Muneeb,

How do I get into my career of choice when I have couple managers from my previous company giving me unfair negative references? How long will it take for those work reference to not matter to my potential employers, or how can I deal with them proactively?


Falsely Accused

Dear Falsely Accused,

We all have those skeletons in our closets. In college, I worked for a medical device manufacturer.  The person that was supposed to train me left three days after I was hired and I was never formally trained. I didn’t speak up, and I was eventually let go for my inability to properly perform the job. If I had taken some accountability for myself, I could have made sure I got proper training and left the company on good terms. 

In your situation, be as proactive and transparent as possible.  The good news is that not all jobs require references based on your performance. State laws vary, but in my home state of California, a recruiter is only allowed to confirm that the individual worked at that organization, for how long, and their pay.  When you are filling out job applications:

  • Ask your other coworkers or anyone else who can attest to your positive attributes to be a reference.
  • Explain the situation to the interested employer but take ownership and accountability for the outcome.  If you can show that a lesson has been learned from these negative experiences, the maturity and growth will help sway the pendulum in your favor.

In my situation I was very upfront with my next potential employer about what had happened in the past, as painful as it was.  Thankfully, with lots of interview prep and some charm, they decided to give me a chance.  I took advantage of that opportunity and turned things around by doing some great work for that organization.  I eventually left to attend grad school, but my boss wrote me a letter of recommendation that helped me get accepted into that program.  As soon as you can find that next employer who is willing to give you a shot at doing your best, the negative references will no longer affect your chances of employment. 

Dear Muneeb,

What advice do you have for recent graduates on how to start their career? All of the jobs I want to apply to want somebody with work experience.


Trying To Get On the Corporate Ladder

Dear Sir Edmund Hillary,

Things could seem pretty bleak if organizations only hired candidates who explicitly met the experience requirements included on most job listings. Lucky for you, the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has never been more applicable than today.  The first thing you should do is make social media your BFF (best friend forever) until you get that job.  LinkedIn, Twitter and PayScale’s  should be the first three sites you visit every morning. 

  • LinkedIn will help you find out who you know at prospective employers.  Not only is it about building your personal network, but doing your best to understand the field you are trying to enter. 
  • Join work specific groups on LinkedIn and ask relatable questions. Add your own insights into discussions whenever you can.
  • Most organizations have Twitter handles, so tweet them about questions regarding positions.  If you can be the first to apply for a position it can help increase the chances of your resume being seen, even if you do not have a contact within the company. 
  • Finally, make use of all of the valuable resources here on Payscale. PayScale Career News can give you great advice on a wide variety of business related questions, new trends in hiring, resumes and technology and getting ahead at work. Connect your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to your PayScale account, and when you look up the job titles and companies you want to apply to in PayScale’s Research Center, you can see connections you already have with those jobs. Finally, PayScale displays job listings related to the positions and companies you are researching, so you can quickly apply to as many jobs as possible.

Once you’ve put your name out there, focus on the intangibles about yourself that will help you land a job over someone with experience.  Consider signing up for PayScale’s #MakeItHappen program and get personalized emails about the career goal you’re pursuing.  Finally, be persistent.  You might have to go on what seems like a million interviews, but in the end it’s worth the effort; you have to work to get to where you want to be.   

Well, that’s it for this week folks. Next week we’ll answer a new round of questions. If you want my advice on any career question, email and your question might make it into our next column.

Follow me on Twitter.

Muneeb Bukhari
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I am a hard working person with excellent work ethics and was nationally recognized as a DAISY Award winner for outstanding nurses. Unfortunately, I tend to speak my mind and known to be outspoken at work. I was then labeled as a troublemaker for speaking the truth. Four years ago the director decided that she does not want to hear our opinions/concerns and blacklisted me from being promoted. When I was a relief charge nurse, my co-workers asked me to speak up during meetings because… Read more »

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