Improving Your Earning Power - What Works
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
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 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
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
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
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
© 2016 Peg Cole