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Are you underpaid and wondering, “How can I increase my salary?”
I graduated with a 4-year Honours Bachelor degree in Accounting absolutely debt-free. I was pretty “lucky” in that I found a full-time job within 2 months of graduating. My starting salary was pretty average for Canadian standards – I was earning somewhere between $40,000-45,000 at my first job. However, within 3 years of graduating, I managed to double my income.
Did I switch careers? No. Did I get lucky? Also no. I was simply strategic in my pursuit of a higher income.
Read this article to learn how I doubled my income within 3 years of graduating college.
1. I set smart and ambitious goals
I prepared a worksheet to track my income and career goals.
For example, I set the goal of completing my CPA within 2 years of graduation and earning a salary of $75,000 by the time I completed my CPA.
I knew how much I deserved to be paid and I was constantly in search of jobs that would pay this desired income level. I revisited these goals at least monthly to remind myself of where I wanted to be and to hold myself accountable.
2. I worked hard
There’s no kidding that I worked hard. I worked SO hard. During tax season and year-end, I would work upwards of 70-80 hours a week. Of course, this is nothing compared to some of my friends in other industries, so I am not complaining.
I also never complained to my boss when I was asked to do more work, even if the work was outside of my job duties. I looked at every additional work assignment as an opportunity to showcase my talent and to build my resume.
When I was asked to work overtime, I gladly accepted. I didn’t mind doing over time because I either got paid for it or could take time off later.
3. I built my resume
I joined professional networks, found new hobbies, and volunteered in order to build my resume.
Sure, I already had a full-time job on my resume and it looked great, but I wanted to showcase that I had other skills to offer as well.
I joined Toastmasters International in order to build my public-speaking skills. Within 10 months, I had delivered 10 speeches and achieved a “Competent Communicator” award. Posting this on my resume highlights that I’m motivated, organized, and great with interpersonal communication – some highly sought after skills by most employers.
Toastmasters also gave me great networking opportunities. I volunteered to be a mentor and I actually ended up coaching a senior VP in another branch of my company!
In my spare time, I found new hobbies such as classical ballet, tap dance, and dragon boat. Putting these hobbies in the “interests” line of my resume shows that I’m a dynamic person who is not just about the numbers. I had personality too and can be a team player!
The hobbies line of my resume often attracts a lot of interest from recruiters. That’s usually one of the first things that employers ask me about during an interview!
Lastly, I jumped at any volunteer assignments that came up. I offered to join the Social Committee at work and also offered to work on any special projects that came up. Outside of the office, I also volunteered in the local community.
I always advise jobseekers to seek out volunteering opportunities in order to build their resume. Even if it’s not paid work, it shows that you have the skills to work in a team setting, which is highly valuable.
4. I kept my resume current even if I wasn’t looking for a job
I updated my resume every 2-3 months. Whenever I had a new task at work, I would add it to my resume right away.
It’s always good to have a current version of your resume in case your dream job comes up. You can apply right away without having to worry about updating your resume.
If you update your resume only once every year or whenever you’re applying to a new job, then you increase the chances of omitting some important tasks that you’ve accomplished, say a year or two ago. That’s why I like to always keep a current copy of my resume. Just in case 😉
5. I sold myself on LinkedIn
I added 500 connections on LinkedIn to show that I’m well-connected and to increase the chances of my profile being viewed by people outside of my network.
I asked colleagues to write testimonials for me or endorse my skills. The more endorsements you have, the stronger and more attractive your profile becomes.
I also added recruiters in my industry in case they found my profile interesting and wanted to pitch me a job. I know it’s weird to add recruiters randomly on LinkedIn but trust me, this strategy worked for me. I’m still getting at least 2-3 recruiters contacting me weekly to offer me new jobs.
6. I checked job boards frequently
I checked the kind of skills or experience that these jobs were asking for and then devised an actionable plan to achieve these qualifications. This could mean enrolling in a course or asking my boss to add some additional responsibilities to my plate.
7. I built a solid relationship with recruiters
I spoke with recruiters, especially those specializing in finance/financial services. I love working with recruiters because they know the job market much better than I do. They offer solid advice on how much I should be pricing myself at.
The recruiters I’ve worked with were able to pick out the job leads that matched my criteria to a T and then pitch them to me as soon as they were available. In the past, I had received 2 job offers by working with recruiters.
Another reason I recommend recruiters so much is that, a lot of times, recruiters receive jobs that are not posted in public forums. This means that you have access to jobs that no other jobseeker does. With less competition, this increases your chances of getting an interview and landing the job. Not to mention, your recruiter already knows the company and will be sure to sell you hard to your prospective employer!
8. I applied to jobs even if I wasn’t “qualified” for them
I applied to jobs that were “beyond my reach.” What do I mean by this? I applied to jobs even if I didn’t meet 100% of the requirements.
At my last job, they asked for someone with 5-7 years of experience. At the time, I had only 3. I still applied and got the job.
At another instance, I applied for a job that asked for a native German speaker and work authorization in Switzerland. Let me tell you, I had neither. And I was still able to land the job while living abroad!
9. I networked like crazy
When I wanted a new job, I emailed people from within my company for opportunities. I usually set up informal discussions over coffee just to learn about their department and to see whether I was actually interested in the job.
Outside of internal opportunities, I also reached out to other professionals in my industry. I attended industry events (such as CPA networking events) and talked to like-minded individuals. I asked about how their companies were and if there were any job leads. A lot of my peers were happy to pass my resume on to their employers.
It’s also a good idea to network with other professionals even when you’re not searching for a job. Why? Because when a job opportunity comes up, THEY will reach out to YOU. And who knows, it might be your dream job!
10. I completed my CPA
To get a decent salary in my field, I needed to become certified. I found the most prestigious and highest-paying certification for my profession, the CPA, and I enrolled. I even got my company to pay for it.
Once I completed my CPA, I knew that my market value would be a lot higher than before. And whenever I searched for jobs, I always benchmarked the proposed salary against the CPA salary surveys.
11. I wasn’t afraid to leave my first job after only 6 months
I was really unhappy with my first job. My manager and I did not get along and the work was too easy for me. I knew I did not want to spend my glory years at a company that was going under.
I started applying to jobs and going to interviews within 3 months of starting my first job out of college. I realize that this is “taboo” and looks bad if you don’t stay at a company for at least a year. I didn’t care. I wanted to pursue a more reputable company with more interesting work and higher pay. I applied and I landed my dream job with a 50% pay raise from my first job.
12. I asked for a raise and a promotion
After 8 months at my second job, one of my coworkers left my team. There was an opening for a job that is one level higher than my current one at the time. I knew I wanted this job so I spoke to my manager and told him explicitly.
I had a great relationship with this manager and since I had an excellent track record from working hard (see #2), my manager was able to convince the VP to approve my promotion within only 10 months of working at that company.
13. I negotiated my salary
I am not afraid to negotiate my salary. I know it’s super uncomfortable for most people to talk about salary. And most people I know just accept the salary that is handed to them. In the long run, this can cost you up to $1 million.
This is how I did it.
First, I researched the company and similar positions in the industry to see what they were paying (I recommend using Glassdoor or Payscale). I then set this amount as my target salary. When the company made their initial offer, I had to refute it by saying that I will not go below this minimum target salary. A few days later, HR contacted me and accepted my offer.
The key to being successful at negotiating is to show that you are not desperate for the job. I showed that I had other offers on the table and that if they did not offer me what the competitor was offering, then I would walk away.
I couldn’t believe it when I joined my company and found out that my senior who had almost 10 years more experience than me was getting paid nearly $10,000 lower than me! This goes to show how important it is to negotiate your salary!
14. I had realistic conversations with my managers
I was upfront and honest with my managers.
I had weekly checkups with my previous managers and I always asked for feedback on how I could improve my performance. I also indicated what my goals were (i.e. I want to work on more interesting projects, I want to work on opportunities to showcase my presentation skills, I wanted a promotion).
The key to a rich and colourful career is to leverage existing relationships with colleagues and managers. They are probably the people who can help you the most with helping you land another job.
I started out with a low salary out of college because I didn’t know how to negotiate and I didn’t know how to price myself. Through a few years of working and learning the market, I was able to double my salary.
I hope you are able to benefit from these tips and I wish you good luck with your job hunt!
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