I saw an article last week that really got me thinking. It was all about this concept of doubling your salary. One of the top complaints of unhappy employees is money. They want to make more. They want to be paid fairly. And, who can blame them? With the two to three percent annual raises out there today, it’s impossible to keep up!
In fact, Forbes has argued that employees who stay at a job more than two years make 50% less than those who don’t — over the lifetime of their careers. Isn’t that nuts? The sad reality is, it’s true. It’s an unusual situation when an employee is appropriately rewarded for staying with a company. Even when they receive a raise, it’s typically small compared to what it would look like if they switched companies altogether.
And, how do I know this? Because I’ve lived it. There are lots of people out there giving advice on this topic. Sometimes I wonder how many times they’ve actually negotiated their own salary increase. Honestly, it gets me fired up. But, I digress…. Rather than give some high level, fluffy advice, I’d like to provide you with a few real life examples from my own career.
I don’t typically share this information, but I want you to understand where I’m coming from. To give you an idea of the success I’ve had with my own salary negotiation, I once doubled my salary and twice, I’ve negotiated my salary up over fifty percent. Not bad, right?
So, this is how I did it. First, I was never afraid of two things: 1. Negotiation and 2. Changing Companies. You have to ask for what you want. You’ve got to do it. It’s not hard. Like anything else, it just takes practice. I know it can be scary, but it’s worth a lot of money to you and your family. You’ve probably done far scary things for much less money.
Second, you have to be willing to get over the fairy tale that one day, your company is going to recognize your value. If they don’t see your value now, there’s a good chance they won’t see it in another year or in five years or ten more years. That’s just time passing by when you could be earning more.
Now, with those things out of the way, there are three main tactics I’ve used in my own salary jumps.
- Increase Your Qualifications – As you know, I never encourage you to run back to school without carefully thinking about why. But, there are times when more education will pay off. For example, my undergraduate degree is in Computer & Systems Engineering. This degree is like a combination of computer programming and electrical engineering. Partly in an effort to rebrand myself (and also in an effort to increase my knowledge), I went back to school and earned a M.B.A. One of the big salary jumps I described was after I completed my M.B.A. I was offered twice as much money to do the exact same type of job I had done before graduate school. The same job. It required no new skills, but my perception and personal brand had been elevated because I had a new degree. (Please keep in mind: There is no guarantee that an additional degree will give these results. Like I always say, think carefully before you commit to another degree program. It’s a ton of time and even more money.)
- Change Industries – We rarely think about this, but different industries pay different amounts for the same job. Yes, the same job. Project management and marketing are both good examples of this. Part of the reason is that certain industries generate much more profit than others. Another reason is that a certain position is more valuable in one industry than another. It may be closer to the money, so to speak. So, as nuts as it may sound, you could find yourself making much more and doing the same thing — just by switching industries. To really get a sense for this, check out sites like Glassdoor.com. Employees report their salary on Glassdoor and you can look up salaries by company.
- Know Your Worth – One of my biggest salary jumps came at a point in my career where I’d really honed my skills. My work was generating significant revenue and I knew it. I also knew the going rate for my industry, and I’d taken the time to give myself options. I didn’t have to work for one company or another. It gave me the ability to negotiate for more money with no fear. And, it worked!
The bottom line is this: If you want to make more money, it’s up to you to do it. Your current company is unlikely to shower you in big raises. You’ve got to release a little bit of your company loyalty, and think about being more loyal to yourself. In other words, if it no longer made financial sense for your company to have you on staff, they’d get rid of you, right? So, if it no longer makes financial sense for YOU to work at your company, why are you still there?
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