Dear Matt: I have a college degree, years of experience, but I'm just not making the money I feel I should be. How can I make more money in my profession? What are the tricks to getting my dream salary?

Matt: Wade Rastall, vice president of McKinley Consulting (, a Minnetonka-based search firm, says they hear this kind of question a lot when recruiting candidates. There are really four steps to changing this situation, says Rastall:

Does the candidate's career have a salary ceiling? Every job has a pay scale - does the chosen career actually afford the possibility of making more money or is he or she maxed out at the current salary?

Don't sit on this kind of frustration - talk with your manager or HR lead to determine a mutually agreeable path to achieving higher income.

Success doesn't just happen - people plan for it. Career paths need to be plotted for the next five, 10 and 15 years and everyone should have a game plan to get to each milestone. It's a good idea to interview people in the job you want and pick their brains about how they got there.

Lastly, when money is the real motivating factor, drastic action is sometimes called for - switching jobs or even careers. Sometimes that is unavoidable.

Patrick Foss, CEO of ThinkTalent Human Capital Partners (, a Minnetonka-based firm dedicated to the empowerment of talent leaders to solve business problems, says if you have a healthy work environment and good manager, you should be able to ask for a raise based on the market information you discover.

"If a raise isn't an option due to economic conditions, internal equity, or the company view of the role you are performing, you may find leaving for another company is the only way to achieve a sizeable increase," says Foss.

Foss recommends trying to take on additional responsibilities/projects or complete additional credentials by going back to school for an advanced degree. Also, ask yourself some questions. Is the number you feel will make you happy realistic in your profession? Would the number you're thinking of create internal equity issues? Are you prepared to leave in pursuit of the "happiness number?"

You owe it to yourself and your current employer to come up with a realistic market based number and see if it's possible where you are. If not, you will have a solid foundation to begin exploring other options outside of your current opportunity.

Dear Matt: I have been laid off and I think my unemployment benefits are about to run out. How can I find out how long my benefits last? I'm really starting to wonder how I'm going to make ends meet because I can't get a job. Do you have any advice on how to get a job - any job - that can help me stay on my feet until I find something?

Matt: According to infor-mation provided through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the duration of unemployment benefits will vary based on an individual's recent employment history. The maximum is six months if you receive your full amount each week. There is currently a temporary federal extension of benefits, passed by Congress, which provides a maximum of three months of additional benefits. Go to the "What's New" area on Minnesota's Unemployment Insurance Program home page (, to see a list of eligibility requirements and to watch for any changes or additions to the federal extension. As for getting a job, working with a staffing company is one option. You can work as a temp to generate income while you are looking for other work, says Jackie Engmark, executive director of the Minnesota Recruiting and Staffing Association ( She recommends selecting a staffing company that specializes in your specific skill area (IT, healthcare, administrative, engineering, sales, industrial, management, etc.) or geographic area. Another plus is that many staffing firms now offer benefits. And if your skills need a bit of help, the staffing industry provides free training for many workers in various fields. Another plus?

"Once you begin working you put yourself in a position to explore other opportunities within the company - opportunities that might never be advertised for or posted to the public," says Engmark.

If you haven't been able to find a job, consider trying a new job search plan. Don't stick to what isn't working - look for something new. One resource would be to sign up for The Simple Job Search Manifesto (, created by Twin Cities résumé guru Kevin Donlin. This program includes a free job search e-book and information, tactics and tools to help find a job you want. Also, is an excellent source of skills assessment tools, education and training information.

Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to