Improving Your Earning Power - What Works

Updated on November 15, 2017
PegCole17 profile image

Peg worked for a global telecom company as a project manager traveling the US. She owned her own business and worked in a variety of fields.

Corporate Team Building exercise in San Diego CA
Corporate Team Building exercise in San Diego CA | Source

Graduation day came and went and then reality set in and I asked myself, "What kind of job can I get with this degree?" We were brought up believing that earning a diploma would take us far in life. That is true. It's also true, it doesn't come easy.

If you're like many who've entered the work force or are still looking for that perfect job, it's possible that you were surprised or disappointed at the starting salary for many jobs. From personal experience, I spent many years underemployed while I earned a degree that took nearly two decades to achieve. Life took precedence over my educational needs and I began my career with only a high school diploma. Years later, I realized the only way to improve my salary would be to go further with my education.

If you ain't the lead dog, the view never changes.

— Lewis Grizzard
By Frank Kovalchek from USA (Great looking dogs from Hank Debruin's team) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Frank Kovalchek from USA (Great looking dogs from Hank Debruin's team) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Where Do I Begin?

Start by taking charge of your future; take the lead. One of the most valuable things I learned working for a large corporation was that I was in charge of my future, not the Human Resources Department or my frequently changing management team. While working for one corporation, I worked for more than twenty different managers in a span of nine years. If you leave your future up to your manager's good nature, good luck, because you'll need it. You'll be lucky if they even know who you are.

Climbing the ranks of the corporate ladder
Climbing the ranks of the corporate ladder

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Working for a major corporation has many advantages. For instance, many employers offer a tuition reimbursement program if you're trying to work toward a degree. In some places, they do not restrict the courses or degree program you're trying to achieve or limit the classes you can take.

When I worked for a Fortune 50 company, the guy in the office next to mine got a promotion and his job became vacant. Through our conversations, I discovered he performed many of the same tasks I did. We drew financial numbers from a data base, compiled a variety of reports and prepared summaries of the results. When I discovered that my salary was nearly twenty thousand dollars less than his I immediately applied for the position as a Financial Analyst.

Average Salary By Employer - With PMP

Applying Within the Company

To my dismay, I was told that I did not qualify for that job level since I did not hold a college degree. You can imagine how I reacted. Especially after finding out my coworker presented some of my work as his own which helped him get his promotion. I was furious! But there was little I could do other than quit or earn a degree if I wanted to advance. That was the stimulus I needed to enroll in night classes.

Project Flow Diagram

Plotting out the process flow aids in estimating the sequence of tasks and project duration.
Plotting out the process flow aids in estimating the sequence of tasks and project duration. | Source

Exceeding the Job Requirements

My boss used to say I kept a copy of my job description in my drawer and checked it whenever he gave me an assignment. The fact was that I was doing a whole lot more for the company than was required of the position I held. To some people that may seem like a waste of effort. The best part was the valuable education that the experience provided.

You Better Think About What You're Trying To Do

Saving the Company Money

For example, when I worked for a different company, I was required to report the copier usage on each of the thirty-plus copiers in different buildings. Every month, the copier representative collected my data sheets with the current readings. I began to study the copier leases and crunch the numbers on the click charges noting the range at which the charges increased based on volume.

Through this analysis, I discovered that by moving the high volume copiers into different areas of high usage, that we would save thousands of dollars in click charges. Clicks are recorded every time the copier makes a copy. On the low volume machines, the company penalized us for excess usage by increasing the click charge over a certain maximum.

Corporate Sponsored Seminar

Attending training classes at the corporate level
Attending training classes at the corporate level | Source

I presented this information in a formal report to my department Vice President. Using Excel spreadsheets I calculated the average monthly savings that moving the equipment around would make. From that, it was easy to project the annual savings, which turned out to be nearly sixty thousand dollars a year. We made a lot of copies as we printed up software and operating manuals for nearly every customer who used our equipment.

Work in Progress

After hours, I created this project progress recap whiteboard so the VP would see it when he passed through the department.
After hours, I created this project progress recap whiteboard so the VP would see it when he passed through the department.

Earning a Bonus Can Be Tough

The company posted an incentive program offering cash bonuses to anyone who could come up with ways to save the company money. My idea certainly would save a lot of money - at least to me - it was nearly three times my annual salary at the time.

I wish I could say it was easy to win the bonus. But it wasn't. My manager (of the week) was new to the company and he resisted putting me in for the cash reward for unknown reasons. Through the chain of paperwork, I discovered that he told the Vice President that I shouldn't be rewarded for something that was clearly part of my job. As stated earlier, I was quite familiar with my job description and as a Class 5 Administrative Secretary, I was only required to report the numbers, not figure out ways to improve costs.

Easy to Be Hard - Easy to Say No

I filed a rebuttal protest and the paperwork went back and forth between the higher ups in management. Months later, I was surprised when two upper level managers quietly came into my office in my new department where I had taken a different job. Without any ceremony, they handed me a check for fifteen hundred dollars with a handshake and asked me to keep it between us. I was happy and sad about the secrecy of the win, but the money was green and I spent it with no problem.

One manager says to another, "But, what if we train them and they leave the company?"

The other manager says, "What if we don't train them and they stay?"

The benefit of the cost analysis had a long term effect. I used the example to gain a new position as a junior buyer in the purchasing department, citing that experience as an example of my initiative and cost saving abilities. I stayed at that company for nearly thirteen years, during which I managed to work my way up the ladder and eventually triple my salary by enrolling in every training class that they would permit. First I concentrated on certifications within my own field, that of Purchasing Management taking classes on negotiation, supply management, logistics and distribution management, business statistics and other relevant classes.

My company paid for these classes as long as they were within my job parameters. Despite the additional training, it was a struggle and a few years before I would rise again within the ranks and become a Purchasing Supervisor. The predecessor who performed the same job duties held the title of Purchasing Manager, but that's a completely different story for another time.

We Never Do Anything Nice and Easy

The main point of this story is to encourage anyone who thinks they deserve a better salary to go out there and earn it. The way to do it is through additional education. Unfortunately for me, I started at an entry level job even with a college degree. There was no corner office or six figure income, at least, not for many years, and not without lots more training in my field.

Find a company that offers growth potential. Be willing to prove yourself, yes, again and again to new managers who come and go. Go the extra mile to learn and take courses on your own time and take every class that the company will pay for. You'll never regret it. Remember, whatever you learn, you'll take it with you wherever you go.

Notes and Sources

  1. How to Become a Certified Purchasing Manager
  2. How to Become a Project Management Professional, PMP
  3. Pay Scales for PMP Certified Project Managers

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Peg Cole


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      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        6 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Thanks for stopping in, Brian. I'll never forget the helpful tips you shared with me long ago to correct my use of dialogue in written stories. That was thoughtful and necessary to help me learn. Thank you, again.

      • B. Leekley profile image

        Brian Leekley 

        6 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

        You're a role model for those striving to survive and thrive working for a big corporation. I imagine the classes, the trainings, the new positions with greater responsibilities all helped keep your work interesting.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        11 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Sorry to learn that inequity in the workplace is over there, too. Progress is slow but I think we will see changes in the right direction. Thanks again.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        It's mad that salaries are so irregularly scaled. I believe the same thing happens here though, despite progress being made in many areas.

        It is good to read of others' experiences. I believe it helps us get a perspective on things.


      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        11 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hello Ann, I believe that we are from the same generation of workers who battled our way into the better paying jobs. I worked a short time as a teacher in a business school. Then I moved into the placement coordinator role at the same place. Working with employers directly to hire our secretarial graduates, I discovered that their starting salaries were higher than my salary with a degree. I took a secretary role at a major corporation in hopes of working my way up the ladder. It turned out well. But it did take additional training, studying, hard work and time.

        Thanks for sharing your experience here. I feel certain that it will provide inspiration to others.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        It's true that anyone has to work hard to get anywhere and especially to get recognition. It might be a little easier these days but way back it was always more difficult for a woman. I was in education, then in an office environment as a secretary/PA, then back to teaching. I found it much easier job wise as a secretary! But I preferred the teaching.

        I had to specialise to get back into teaching as my 'life experience' meant that I commanded a larger salary and the newbies always got the job I applied for as the money was short. Specialising was my way to get to where I wanted, so, as you say, studying and education pays off. Everyone has to work hard and so we should!

        You've obviously worked very hard and deserve all that came your way, Peg.

        Great piece!


      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        22 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Thank you, Happy. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on this article and wish you the best in all your efforts.

      • Happymommy2520 profile image


        22 months ago from East Coast

        Love the comment you made that whatever you learn you take it with you. That is an awesome affirmation for working in general. I also love your story on saving the company copying expenses. I enjoyed this article. Great read!

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        23 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Thanks, Bravewarrior. It's amazing the doors that open with that little piece of paper. And working in a male dominated industry certainly does pose its set of challenges. I didn't know you had been a Purchasing Agent, too. What a small world. You are so right about the joy that comes with a good negotiation and in saving the company money. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and for your keen insight.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        23 months ago from Central Florida

        Excellent article for up-and-comings, Peg! While it's possible to rise in position without a degree, it's beneficial to have that piece of paper behind you if you expect to be paid the big bucks, especially if you're working in what's typically a man's world.

        I was Purchasing Agent for a while for an aluminum fabricator. I loved it. There's a lot of interaction with customers, vendors, shipping companies, etc. Negotiating prices and coming out ahead was always a rush for me.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        23 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Thanks for the visit, Peggy. It truly is important to continue our education to keep up with the current trends and technology. In fact, I just completed a few hours of required education to renew an occupational license. Cheers.

      • profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        23 months ago

        Hi Peg,

        You proved that education is never wasted and that perseverance towards a goal in the right direction eventually pays off. This advice is particularly important today for youngsters to read who may just be starting their careers.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        23 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hello Teaches, I hope your son will heed your advice and take advantage of all the classes and knowledge he will be exposed to at work. Life truly does teach us a few things. Thank you for taking time to comment.

      • profile image


        23 months ago

        You have shared excellent advice, especially for those fresh out of college. You can learn much from a book but life experiences are the best teacher. I have often shared with my son that whatever he learns on the job will valuable on his his path forward. Great article!

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        23 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        MsDora, times were different when we first started in the work force. I often wonder what would change if we were starting off now with what we know. I'm sorry this was the case for you when working. Me, too. Thanks so much for stopping by.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        23 months ago from The Caribbean

        I was one of those people who did the work and watch others get the pay because they had documents I didn't have. Hope the younger people who are still in the workforce will heed your message. Thanks for sharing from your own experience.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        23 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hello Mar, Thank you for reading this and for your positive comment. It's amazing that writing this brought back so many memories - both good and bad - of the work force. Each of us has a story that can hopefully help others. I know yours certainly are valuable. So nice to see you today. Hugs.

      • marcoujor profile image

        Maria Jordan 

        23 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

        Dear Peg,

        This information is a godsend to our younger set who are starting their careers and an inspiration to those of us who have shared part of this journey with you (another bat time - another bat station)...

        I love your musical selections and turns out so do 'A and Z'... ;)

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        23 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hi BlossomSB, I'm delighted that you stopped in and that you liked the story. I appreciate your kind words.

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

        23 months ago from Victoria, Australia

        This was such an interesting story. Congratulations on the way you handled things, too.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hello AliciaC, So glad you stopped by to leave a comment. Your insight is always valuable. Thanks for the kind words.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        24 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        This is an interesting and valuable article, Peg. You've provided some great examples and advice for other people who want to progress in their chosen career field.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hello Blond Logic, Yes, I'm a big fan of Napoleon Hill and several others whose words have helped me rethink some of my faulty practices of the past. Their advice to pursue a course of self enlightenment is key to growing and shaping a better life for ourselves.

        I appreciate your thoughts here and your important words about the fairness of life. Thank you so much for adding to the discussion.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hello Flourish, That means a lot from someone like you who knows business and the corporate culture.

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        24 months ago from Brazil

        I don't know if you have ever read anything by Napoleon Hill but he discussed much of what you did. You made yourself valuable to your companies.

        Sometimes life isn't fair but we have to decide what we do about it. People can either whine or get up and do something like you did.

        You're an excellent example of how to take charge of your own life.

        Great read.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        24 months ago from USA

        Good for you! You have fight and a lot of determination!

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hello Martie, As we've discovered from past conversations, you and I have a lot in common. We work hard and we take things to heart. I love the quote from Napoleon Hill. He is among my favorite mentors. Indeed I believe that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Another favorite quote is from Jim Rohn who said, "Never work for anyone but yourself." He went on to suggest we treat the company as if we owned it and then act as we would if it were our bottom line at stake.

        Thanks so much for coming by and adding your thoughts.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hi Mck, You know as well as I do about the blessings and pitfalls of the corporate struggle. That's why they call it a rat race. You're absolutely right about that climb up the ladder. It's a one person job. I do hope this helps to inspire those entering the work force to put reality into perspective. Thanks so much for stopping by. It's always great to have your insight.

      • MartieCoetser profile image

        Martie Coetser 

        24 months ago from South Africa

        Hi Peg, this is a profound and very inspiring hub. "..... doing a whole lot more for the company than was required of the position I held...." This was and still is the story of my love. But I think it was Napoleon Hill who said, 'Doing only what you have to do, you are being controlled. Doing more than what is expected from you, you are in control."

      • mckbirdbks profile image


        24 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Peg - What a great super peep talk for those beginning their careers. No one is going to help you climb the ladder. It is hard work, initiative that gets people noticed. It helps if you have business skills and people people skills. I hope many find this helpful.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hello Bill, It's always delightful to see your remarks and to get your take on the subject matter. Thank you for being such a loyal reader and source of inspiration.

      • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

        Peg Cole 

        24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

        Hi WillStarr, Thanks for the inspiration to pen this trip down memory lane. I appreciate the conversation we had online that got me thinking.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        24 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I love the opening line....take charge of your future! Not just in the corporate world but in life in general. Great points!

      • WillStarr profile image


        24 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

        Excellent, Peg! A terrific guide to career success.


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