If someone came up to you and said that you could double your salary would you listen? Of course, but would ACT on it? Maybe they even give you the recipe? Now you know the ingredients and you know that it’ll taste twice as good. But that means you have to make it… when you already have something to eat. Sometimes people need to just figure out their recipe on their own and in their own time. That’s okay! I didn’t just double my salary from complete chance. It was a series of events and actions.
We all work hard and should get what we’re worth no matter what the job/career is. The reality is the only way you’re really going to know what you’re worth is to go out in the world and find out. There’s a bit of a social stigma about discussing salaries so doing your research is important. Even then, you’re likely never going to get your maximum value. BUT, if you don’t try you’re likely going to get less and that’s almost for certain.
At the time I graduated from college the job market was very tough. I was fortunate enough to be able to be offered a job, but it was out of the state. Unfortunately, not a very desirable state. The twilight zone days, as I like to call them. Since none of my colleagues at my university were employed yet, it seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
I was grateful to have anything come my way. But being grateful and knowing what you’re worth in the job market are two different things. At the start of my career I was worthless to most companies. I took what I could get.
At the same time, knowing that you’re worthless is just as important as knowing what you’re worth. Being humble is a good quality to have as I’ve seen throughout my career. When you have a skill a company needs you become worth something. I wasn’t worth anything… yet.
How Did I Double My Salary?
First off, my story starts with a great set of colleagues. I attribute a lot of my success to those motivated individuals. For a very long time I felt like I was playing a game of catch up. Trying to soak in their knowledge as fast as I could. It was only a matter of time before I started to become a valuable asset to the team.
I was really lucky to able to double my salary in less than a year. However, I work with a lot of other people that could do the same thing if they had the desire. Ramit Sethi has a great article highlighting how to ask for a raise and negotiate your salary if you’re looking for ways to accomplish this yourself. It usually takes a unique set of events and most stories won’t be the same. Inc.com has some recommendations on things you can do too. But ultimately yes, it requires you to do something and you must be able to take an acceptable risk.
If you don’t ever ask for an increase in pay/salary, you may never get one. Missing out on raises earlier in your career can cost you a lot more in the long run. It’s also a lot easier to double up your salary earlier in your career than later.
There are a lot of factors that came into play that allowed me to double my salary:
- The ability to learn from a smart bunch of people early in my career. Some published books and others spoke at large conferences.
- Years of work prior to my career helped me understand what it means to have a good work ethic.
- Choosing the right degree for myself and getting a job in the field that highlighted my skills was crucial.
- Observing co-workers that were “slackers” that would get by doing the bare minimum. It boggled my mind how long some were able to get away with this before being approached.
- Learned how to make myself irreplaceable like my other wicked smart co-workers.
I really credit a lot of my career “success” to the team of people I had surrounded myself with. I really do enjoy being around very smart people, even if they intimidate me. Why? Because they have something that I don’t and I want to learn from it.
So what steps led me to double my salary in less than a year?
It was both a series of fortunate and unfortunate events. I had left the job of intelligent and motivated people to another company where there was a combination of both ends of employees, the super smart and the not so motivated.
From that move though, my energy began to drain.
Although the company treated their employees well financially, they also tended to get lost in the shuffle. I was put on a full-time travel gig and sat in a trailer or at my hotel most of my days. I traveled every week while doing work that I wasn’t hired to do. After less than a year I made my exit.
You have to realize when you travel every week your co-workers become almost an extension of friends/family. You tend to get close whether or not you like what you see. Even being the youngest on the team, I tended to mind my business. My coworkers had plenty of drama to bring to the table on their own. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
This set a spark inside me…
Here are the steps that led me to double my salary. In order to keep the salary ambiguity I’ll just mention percentage increases.
1. I quit my job (even though they offered me 15% more). Traveling every week made it difficult to try and find work elsewhere and I was becoming burnt out. It didn’t matter how much money. They even mentioned adding in a one time bonus, but I said no. I don’t mention this to brag or sound ungrateful. I only bring this up to really stress the point that my motives weren’t actually about money at all.
2. I decided to look for contracting roles instead even though I had NEVER done contracting. This was a huge leap for having no prior knowledge. I made assumptions based on the rates that a company could charge me as a consultant. From those assumptions I landed my first contract. Also, the rate I was able to get was nowhere near what the consulting companies charged for my services so I knew there was room to grow.
Timestamp: February – 4 months later – Market was slow when I left previous company and I didn’t rush the job search. I was actually offered a job within a month of leaving, but turned it down since it was heavy travel again.
That offer was actually from a previous colleague of mine. I can’t stress enough how important maintaining relationships are even if you don’t think you’ll see someone ever again. It’s a small world and I’ve seen how people in the IT world tend to circle back into your life. It’s a weird phenomenon.
Pay Increase: 38% after figuring in loss of benefits and vacation time.
3. Another opportunity came 6 months later. A new contract with a new client. I didn’t realize the worth of the first contract until the second one came. I had established credibility as an independent consultant.
Timestamp: August – 6 months later
Pay Increase: 119% after figuring in loss of benefits and 4 weeks off in days per year.
How did/do I find these contracts?
Honestly, it’s much more straight-forward than I thought. For tech jobs, DICE posts a lot of contract positions and recruiters tend to reach out if you put your resume online. LinkedIn also does wonders for contracting. A well groomed resume with the right keywords will do wonders for you. Most importantly is just making and maintaining relationships. If you do good work it usually doesn’t go unrecognized… I mean, unless you messed with the wrong man!
From there, you’re really just selling your knowledge and yourself. I always find honesty is the best approach. If you don’t know something, I find it better to try to relate it to something you know. That’s usually a way to gain some trust.
In less than a years time-frame I was able to more than double my salary! It actually took roughly 10-11 months. This is just one story of many out there. Timing and who you know is everything if you try to enter the contracting world.
Update: 3 years later in the contract world things are still looking good. I’m constantly evaluating my situation and my knowledge-base. If I want to maintain being an independent consultant I have to keep up with the technology. So it’s really about maintaining a level of skill-set that’s valuable in the market and knowing what the price-tag is.
Imagine that it’s like browsing different websites. Some sites sell a product for more than others even though it’s the same product. Don’t think, “nobody will pay me that”. How do you know? Have you checked the right websites? Have you don’t your homework and scaled the job market? Maybe you want to consider ‘upgrading’ yourself and learn new skill-sets. After all, some of the most successful business owners recommend investing in yourself. Can they be wrong!?
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