In my behind-the-scenes interview with YahooFinance: 4 Tips to Increase Your Salary — thank you to the CBS News Pannel and former guest Jeanie Anh (PB81: Don’t Leave Money on the Table ft. Jeanie Ahn) — I was asked to share seven tips that helped increase my salary over 400%. Through the magic of editing, four made the final cut:

  • TIP 1: Always negotiate
  • TIP 2: Come prepared
  • TIP 3: Invest in yourself
  • TIP 4: Chase money (if you want it)

These four strategies are still relevant, but I wanted to share the remaining three as well. Each tip on its own is important, but they all work together to increase the likelihood that you will see salary raises and advance your career versus reaching your peak income and watching your wages and effective buying rate start to decline as early as age 45. To avoid this fate, in addition to the four tips above, sprinkle these three into your long-term career planning.

Focus on High Paying Career Fields

“I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” – Willie Sutton

For the record, I’m not telling you to become a bank robber. If you like money, there is no shame in focusing on going into a career where the money is. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel guilty for pursuing a high-income. After all, they aren’t the ones that have to pay your bills (or school loans).

Next to negotiating your salary, choosing the right career is one of the biggest factors impacting your pay. I hear the “follow your dreams” career advice and that’s not a high-probability rule. While it may be a nice long-term strategy, in the short-term, most of us have immediate bills. You can pursue both your dreams and a traditional career, but they might not pull you in the same direction. Keep in mind that the more complimentary the paths, the more each can benefit from the work you put in the other. For example, the free training your employer provides at the day job may be useful to you in the side hustle too (PB72: The 9-to-5 Training Ground ft. Lynnette Khalfani-Cox). Always keep an eye out for cross-over growth and skill development that benefits you in both areas.

Eventually, the career can become the backup plan if that is your dream scenario. A dream is good. A goal is better. A plan is best. A plan is when your dream has measurable steps that ensure your dreams become reality. If you have a dream, and no plan, you might as well keep wishing on stars because your odds of reaching them are exactly the same.

People often confuse their hobbies with their careers. Hobbies keep you entertained. Careers keep your bills paid. Until we can pay our electricity bills in dreams, you’ll need a combination of both. Whether it’s by college major or mother nature, the majority of your income at a typical 9-to-5 will be determined by your chosen career field. The fact is that some career pathways and income ladders max out sooner than others. Fortunately, there is no shortage of six-figure jobs for you to choose from

Let me be very clear, there is way more to life and happiness than money. For most people, finding a great career they actually like is hard enough to find. There is intangible value found in jobs that make you happy that might not translate directly to income. That is ok. However, no matter how long you work in a career you love — if money is your motivation — you will not make a lot of it in any given year because of the very real limits of your salary if you stay in a low paying career field. Of course, you can still save and accumulate a significant amount of lifetime savings on a decent salary. The key is to be as happy with your career choices as you are with your money choices.

Research How Much You Are Worth and Then Ask for It

On PB41: Know Your Role, we discussed how tools like the federal Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you determine your career’s median pay, whether it will exist in 10 or 20 years, and the estimated job growth in your field. Using this and other resources can help you determine if you’re majoring in a degree for a job that won’t be hiring when you graduate or if the salary you expect to earn aligns with the career you’ve chosen. There are several other great tools, like Glass Door, Salary Scale, and Salary Wizard too. Remeber, we all have access to the same Google. Just as important is accepting that no tool is ever going to replace knowing and asking for what you’re worth.

That is why it’s important to know your value and ask for what you’re worth. Remember this any time someone tries to devalue your work by attempting to negotiate your fees down to free. Once you promote above getting paid in exposure, then stick to your rates. Period. This is especially important for entrepreneurs. Don’t let anyone dictate your value just because their budget has a limit. If they can’t afford you, respectfully recommend someone in your network they should contact instead and keep it moving back to the money.

I’m not saying you can’t pursue your dreams. In fact, you should. No one has ever looked back at their life and wished they spent more time working and less time pursuing their dreams. I am saying that if your dream doesn’t have an income stream, you will either need a paying job, a sugar mama or daddy, or family willing to let you live in their home, for free. Fortuantely, if the main job isn’t enough to supplment the lifestyle you desire, you still have more options.

Higher education is one other way to not only increase your skill set but also your career prospects. For instance, just because you’ve already graduated, doesn’t mean your education has to end. A lot of people choose to pursue graduate degrees such as Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) at USC Dornsife. It’s all about finding something you enjoy and doing your best to become an expert in the field.

Multiply Your Income Streams

As Jason Brown (How I Reached Six Figures in My Trading Account ft. Jason Brown – PB105) said, “the only way to have more cash is to spend less or make more money.” I was nearly mid-career before I fully appreciated the value of multiple income streams. At one point, I worked three jobs in my 20s, but it was never a strategic choice. I simply liked making money. The only skillset I knew I had was to trade my time for money. In this instance, I worked one traditional 9-to-5 salary job and two part-time, odd hours, or seasonable jobs. For most people, this is unsustainable. One, most people don’t want to spend their entire lives working. Secondly, it is literally physically and mentally draining. It’s fine as a short-term sacrifice for a long-term payoff. Sometimes you have to work really hard to reach the point where you hardly work.

Once you’ve secured the primary bag, it’s time to start looking into how you can get paid for your other talents or hobbies that are not a direct trade in time for money. For example, after repeated positive feedback on the podcast about our original intros and drops, I created a voiceover page and offered it as another paid service. Why? It’s low maintenance, and I now have another opportunity to make additional income for something I was already doing for free. Many of you are familiar with my book and ebook series as well, Debt Free or Die Trying: How I Buried Myself in $30,000 in Debt and Dug My Way Out by Age 30. Ideally, you want to find ways to get paid while you sleep or find an activity you can do once and get paid multiple times for through resdiual income (i.e. one live training video, then make monies from the sales of the recorded video, etc).

Start thinking about what services you offer (or could/should offer) that people have repeatedly told you they are willing to pay you for. The best advice I’ve gotten: when people are offering to pay you money, find every avenue possible — check, credit card, online payments, cash or cash app, carrier pigeon, or whatever means necessary — to take their money and deliver your service. Stop blocking your financial blessings.

Find Mentors and Expand Your Network

Perhaps one of the most slept on tips I see people passing on is finding a career coach and personal mentor that is adapted as their career, life, and goals mature. As Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche (From $300,000 in Debt to The Live Richer Academy ft. The Budgetnista – PB102) said about the critical role her mentors have played in her success, “some doors can only be opened from the inside.”

You are the average of your closest five contacts. What she meant with this insight is that you don’t know what you don’t know. If you aren’t partnering with the right leaders, you may stagnate in your career growth and development. If no one in your immediate circle is making moves, then stagnation looks normal and progress looks foreign. PB76: 5 Tips to Get Your Work & Money Up emphasizes this point thru an MIT Sloan finding, “A person’s developmental network can’t be static but needs to evolve over time.” The right mentor, coach, or sponsor will make sure you continue to move forward even when you’re not sure what direction you’re supposed to go.

Lastly, remain open to calculated career risks. Opportunity isn’t like pizza delivery — it’s not going to conveniently arrive at your front door and knock at a perfect time of your choosing. You need to meet opportunity halfway (or further) and be prepared when it shows up. For example, both Paychecks & Balances hosts have had positive career and money experiences result from relocating for the right opportunities. Before making your move, read our post on the tools you should use to adjust for cost-of-living to ensure your new paycheck is a net increase in your new city or state. You don’t have to be 100 percent sure to take a calculated risk. Absolute certainty is rare. Instead, a calculated risk is when you’re 70-95% certain your chance will pay off 100 percent of the time.

Then, take a leap of faith.

Accept That Opportunity Is When Good Luck Meets Preparation

“The harder I work, the more luck I have.” – Coleman Cox.

It is annoying when successful men and women fail to attribute some of their success to plain dumb luck: born to a wealthy family; having access to the right network of connected people to open the doors for you; or simply joining the job market before or after a recession is enough to significantly improve your odds of career success and wealth-building. There is no shame in admitting you had luck on your side, however, relying on luck alone is not a career plan.

Luck occurs most often at the collision of opportunity and hard work. While we all have the same 24-hours, we don’t all have the same opportunities to choose from within those hours. This might bring you peace when you wonder why you didn’t get picked for this or that opportunity, the opportunity door never seems to get knocked on for you, or you got passed over for someone that is, in your opinion, less qualified. If I had a nickel for every time I got told I “don’t meet minimum qualifications” by an automated system where I just typed in my complete resume work history — after already attaching my resume like it requested — but I accidentally forgot that one keyword that triggers its acceptance algorithm for a job I am literally already doing I would have reached financial independence 10x over.

Life isn’t fair. You can raise the odds in your favor. Sometimes you’re literally just not at the right place at the right time. For every “overnight success,” there are millions of people that have been working decades to reach the same milestones. When your next opportunity arrives, using these seven tips will make sure you’re well-positioned to take advantage of your “lucky” break.

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