Here are the 5 steps I used to triple my income in 3-Years, while working for other people!
It’s that time of year again, tax season. As I was going through my 2018 income statements and calculating whether I’d played the tax-withholding game and won, I was struck by a sudden realization: this is the first year I’ve personally cleared 6-figures. As I reflected on the journey I’ve taken in the past few years to go from $19 an hour to $120K+ salary, I can see there are clear steps that led to my success.
Step 1: Research
If you’re familiar with the job market in your area, you may be able to breeze past this step. However, in 2015 my husband and I moved 800 miles to a town we’d visited only once, and knew not a soul within said 800 miles. It was the great adventure of our lives, at the time. We packed up our cars with whatever would fit and rented an apartment sight unseen. No jobs, no prospects, no health insurance! Something only two crazy newlyweds from Wisconsin might do to never live through another polar vortex winter. I share all this to demonstrate that I didn’t have connections through work, family, college alumni, or even knew a guy who knew a guy. As a result, research was an important first step!
Need to Know: Who are the largest employers in the areas?
Right now we are going for size, odds are you won’t be with this company for long. Large companies typically have the most training programs, associate resource groups, advanced systems, and most importantly job openings!
Step 2: Get Hired
Once you’ve narrowed down the largest companies in your market, start applying. This is a step to get your foot in the door. Don’t expect your dream job at this point. Make sure your resume and cover letter are professional, complete, and targeted towards the job you’re applying.
Q: Do you need a unique resume and cover letter for every new role you apply for?
A: Yes, don’t be lazy! Make sure to use keywords found in the job post to help raise your submission to the top. Employers typically use computer software designed to pick up certain words in your submission, often found in the job posting.
You got the glorious call from Human Resources or a recruiter to setup an interview! Congratulations! Now seal the deal.
Look up at least the top 20 situational interview questions online and prepare unique answers for each. Although they may not reflect word-for-word what your interviewer will ask, you will be able to use those examples. Having thought through, written out, and practiced out loud beforehand, you will appear to think quickly on your feet and have broad experiences to draw from. The most important question to have a response prepared for is “Tell me about yourself.” I always say who I am, my current employment situation, why I’m here today, and then something funny or memorable about myself. Essentially, this is a version of your cover letter delivered in person.
Step 3: Level Up
I bet you didn’t think getting a job would be step 2! Tripling your income can be a short journey, it was for me.
The objective of this position is to grow and develop your skillset (leveling up). You want to start the clock on your resume while working with a large company in your area. Do amazing work for them, and in return leverage all the resources they have.
Where to win:
Introductions – Have prepared talking points for the many times you will be asked to introduce yourself. Repeat the names of colleagues and especially members of leadership you’re introduced to. I used to practice out loud in the car every opportunity I had. The car is often the only place I’m truly alone and other commuters will think I’m just singing along to the radio.
Training – Ask questions about the complete process you’re involved in, not simply your role. Learn about other department (cross functional teams), and never turn down an opportunity to meet someone new. This is how I realized I didn’t want careers in finance, supply chain, or human resources!
Groups/Clubs/Classes/Project Teams – As time allows, join company sponsored groups, training programs, and clubs. I joined the Network of Executive Women (NEW), signed up for Excel training, and logged overtime helping on a short-term project team.
These activities will help you meet people, diversify your experience, and you may even uncover the career you really want. Who knew a lunchtime book club with my co-workers would end up being my first exposure to Category Management, the field I’m in now.
Step 4: Don’t Settle
You’re working hard, learning a lot, and people really like you. You might even be able to make it on your salary if you’re frugal. If you put in a couple more years you might be able to transfer or get a promotion… STOP. You didn’t start reading this article to get stuck on step 3. I’m glad you’re comfortable where you’re at, but don’t settle.
I recommend putting in 3-6 months in your current role, and then begin searching for a new opportunity. It may take months or longer for the next opportunity to present itself, and you don’t want to miss it. Some companies may require you to stay in your current role for a specific amount of time, but I’ve seen this waived countless times for the right candidate.
Apply for positions at least slightly, if not more so, out of your comfort zone and existing skillset. You’ve now worked for one of the largest companies in your market, understand various cross functional roles, and have a new set of diverse experiences to pull examples from. In your next interview, you don’t need to focus on exactly how to do the role. Once you move up in an organization they want to know that you learn quickly, work well with others, and are continuously trying to improve yourself so you can better service the business.
Step 5: Ignore Doubt
I can imagine after making it this far, you’re thinking there’s no way this can work for you. Did any of these questions run through your mind?
Q: What will a future employer say about a job on my resume for 1 year or less?
A: Do not worry about this. You will be asked why you are leaving your current role, and it’s all in how you phrase your response. Example, “I’ve been working at XYZ Company for the past 8 months and have appreciated all that I’ve learned there. The direction I see my career going, and where I know I can make an immediate impact, is with your company in this role.” Everyone will always search for their greatest opportunity, and often will not fault you for doing the same.
Q: What if the company doesn’t offer any training or resource groups?
A: This is highly unlikely, but some alternatives I would recommend are: Asking to job-shadow other functions to help you understand the business as a whole, looking up various tasks and team names online to have at least a basic understanding of their function, reading/listening to career development books/podcasts. Bonus points if you create your own resource group, find a training program in your area and sell your boss on taking point to start your own.
If you’re curious about my specific journey, I’ve shared my story below. If you have additional questions, please reach out in the comments.
When I first arrived in Arkansas I applied for any job to get my foot in the door. Within two weeks I interviewed for a job I knew little about, but the title sounded important, at the largest company in the market. Guess what, it was a call center! I completed the 90-day new hire training 30 days (a record), and trained the next associate to join the team shortly after. While not a glamorous role, I knew any position could be one to launch your career from. I learned everything I could about the cross functional teams I had to contact to help me solve problems. I tried to get to the point where I could solve any problem on my own.
I was supposed to be promoted, but the timing kept getting pushed back. I read the writing in the sand and started my search for a new role. I found an even more important sounding title and applied externally. I researched a lot about the company, and the skillsets of the desired candidate for this role. In this day and age when you can look anything up online, to be unprepared is a choice. I wowed them in the interview by being confident and prepared, and I got the job. Increasing my salary by 50%.
A year into the role I was part of every group the company had to offer, and one involved associates from all teams in the organization. I learned a little bit about category management, and expressed I’d be interested if an opportunity presented itself. Shortly after there was an opening, and I learned and lobbied hard to get it. The time–in–role was waived so I could accept it. Not only was I thrilled, and loved that role, it came with a 60% increase in salary and higher bonus potential, and a company car!
I was not even 6 months into my role when I got in touch with a recruiter who was looking to fill an opening in my field. I had very little experience but I had taken every opportunity to learn that I could, so I was ready to speak as if I had much more. One of my go-to lines in an interview when asked about my experience gap, is that the quality of one’s experience is more valuable than the quantity. I received an additional 25% bump to my salary, and a higher bonus potential. I’ve been there 4 months now. At this salary level my family and I are comfortable, so we’ll see what the future holds. I won’t stop researching, learning, or making connections because you never know when you will be drawn to that next opportunity, or honestly the next time a corporation needs to make significant cuts.
I wanted to at least touch on what was going on in my personal life at the time. My journey described takes place from 2015-2018. In that time I moved to a new apartment, bought a house, my husband and I had our first child, became pregnant with our second, traveled, and with new kiddos we were all sick A LOT. We also lived through sickness and loss of loved ones. If I can successfully leverage these steps into tripling my income and designing my path, so can you!
Parting Words: If you wait until the opportunity comes to be ready, you’re too late!