Dear Sam: I read your column weekly and have appreciated your answers for many years. I have a question for consideration: In these times of rising gas prices, is it a good idea to ask my employer for a gas stipend versus a salary increase to cover the high cost of gasoline? I travel 80 miles each day I work which is 400 miles for a 5-day work week. I average 21 MPG, which equals 19 gallons per week or $114 @$6/gallon. A year ago, it equated to $85/week. What are your thoughts? – Gary

Dear Gary: You could certainly negotiate a gas stipend while reviewing your benefits and compensation package with your employer. For an employer, the additional $1,508 per year may be fairly insignificant but could mean a world of difference to you. You could also consider asking to work remotely a certain number of days per week, creating a hybrid schedule that would allow for a reduction in your expenses. As gas prices fluctuate, and with our other current cost of living increases, I would likely focus your negotiations on an overall compensation increase and not just a gas stipend. How you approach your employer depends greatly on how large the organization is, how many years you have been with the team, and where you are in your annual performance and compensation review cycle. I have had some clients develop brief presentations showing the value they are adding to the employer and the minimal cost associated with a cost of living compensation increase. Doing so could create a compelling picture to add this minimum amount to your annual compensation package to ensure your continued engagement and retention. As I said, however, I would likely focus on a slightly more significant compensation increase—called a cost of living adjustment—to account for the higher gas prices and the overall increase in our daily expenses. Do your homework, choose the appropriate time, and ensure you establish yourself as a valuable employee that your employer doesn’t want to lose. I wish you all the best in approaching your employer with this request.

Dear Sam: Maybe you can offer insight into our son’s frustration. He graduated from Harvard with High Honors in Astro Physics, Physics, and Danish. Since then, he has continued his pursuit of his Ph.D. in Astro Physics at a prestigious university.
However, he is completely burned out and has decided to seek employment in analytics since he has exceptional math skills. He has submitted roughly 50 applications and has heard back from one company. What, if anything, can you recommend to improve his chances? – Thomas

Dear Thomas: What an impressive young man! While I have not seen your son’s résumé, I imagine he is being seen as overqualified for the positions he is applying for. Does he include the pursuit of his doctorate on his resume? Some in the hiring industry believe that when a Ph.D. is not a requirement for a position, it can immediately over-qualify a candidate and make them seem too expensive to recruit. If studies at that level are not mentioned in the postings he is applying for, I would remove the pursuit of his doctoral degree from his resume. He can always include select courses he has completed that relate to the analytics feels in a professional development section. However, removing the Ph.D. pursuit would make him a more “qualified” candidate.

When your son looks at positions of interest, he should “hear” his qualifications within the posting. Have him look beyond the requirements for the role and instead focus on the nuts and bolts of the position and the job functions. He should try to emulate those functions within the presentation of his own experiences, whether course-related, internships, or early career and part-time jobs. While he may be highly analytical with exceptional mathematics abilities, he still has to show the transferability of his foundational experiences to the positions of interest to be seen as a rightly qualified candidate. I am confident if he takes an analytical look at his candidacy, he will be able to send a message that resonates more strongly with hiring managers and recruiters.