When I signed my first salaried offer letter it was Cinco de Mayo and I was freshly 22. The interview was a Hunger Games style group interview that along with two others, I survived.
Moments after the interview, I checked my email and to my surprise, an offer letter with a salary, benefits, and equity was sitting in my inbox. A few days later, I started working as a customer service representative for a tech startup in NYC. It sounded legit. I mean, it was my first salary, an entrance into a new industry, and we had all of the free beer and food we could need.
It didn't take long for me to realize that most of the organization (myself included) didn't stand a chance when it came to gaining a promotion or pay raise. I hated the lack of trajectory along with the office politics. I wanted a new job stat.
At this point, I was 22, living and working in NYC, a college dropout, and my job experience read retail and customer service.
I've shared the following advice with dozens of friends on how I doubled my salary in six months and today I'm excited to share it with you! Here's how I did it!
I researched my current job title like crazy.
One of the most valuable practices to have when looking to make more money at your job is to get a clearer understanding of what companies are willing to pay people with your title. It’s important to get a bigger picture of what else is out there.
Most people don’t typically feel comfortable talking about money, especially their salary, right? So how do you find out how competitive companies within your industry are compensating their employees?
These days, online forums and website exist where you can get honest intel from employees in your industry or even at your dream company. Sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, and Linkedin help compare salaries based on location, industry, job title and more. But your research shouldn’t be limited to these three sites.
There are niche sites within every industry and for every job title. There are even freelance networks where you can rate, review, and disclose details like pay and what it was like working with certain clients, websites, and brands.
I personally recommend that people at minimum:
- Search the company you work for and their competitors in Glassdoor
- Read the employee reviews including both the good and the bad
- Check out the interview tips section to learn more about the process
- Check out the listed employee salary ranges
Companies are increasingly becoming aware of Glassdoor and it’s significance. In order to boost their sometimes unfavorable ratings, some companies will email employees recommending they review the company anonymously on the site if they choose so. When reading reviews (whether positive or negative) take note of the date they’re posted to tell if this is organic.
Questions to guide your research:
- How are competitive companies within your industry paying their employees with the same or similar job titles?
- What is the average salary in your city and state for your role? Seniority? Years of experience
- What other jobs can you land with your current skill set?
- What is the national average salary for this position?
- Is there a certain skill set that's becoming more in demand in your industry?
Does someone close to you have your dream job? Are you comfortable talking to them about the job, expectations, and salary? Say something like, "generally speaking, do you know what salary range [insert company name] pays their [insert job title that you're applying for.]"
If you’re like me and lack someone to ask, Facebook groups, mentors, AngelList, and Reddit are also great places to look for information.
Is there an online class or a certification that you can complete to lead to higher pay or a promotion? Does your job offer tuition reimbursement for these certifications? It's worth the effort to find out. It’s becoming increasingly popular for companies to offer tuition reimbursement or a professional development allowance to keep employees up to speed and growing their skills while also retaining them.
I defined my workplace needs.
Start to define your work environment, ideal industry, and work style needs. Do you want to work for a large company or small company?
How much money do you need? How much do you want? What’s your budget? What's the lowest you’re willing to accept for a job? Is this an industry change or a job title change? What’s important in your new job? Money? Time? Environment? Benefits? Social?
I read job applications for my dream job.
Another great habit to get into when job searching is to read the Linkedin profile, websites, and job applications of your dream job and people who have held that position in the past. It's a great way to get a clearer idea of what paths you can take to achieve your professional goals.
Research their job history, how your's aligns, and how you envision getting there.
I opened up my mind.
Your path won’t always look like your idol's or the person sitting next to you. I opened my mind to alternative jobs outside of my original expectations. I didn’t want to be in customer service or sales.
During my interview process, a recruiter reached out to me on Linkedin about a sales job. I had never known anyone who worked with a recruiter in the past and the job opportunity he presented was in sales, but I decided I would say yes to every interview and make the final judgment afterward.
I took the initiative to train myself on technology.
One of the biggest strengths in the workplace by far is the ability to adapt with change in your industry, including the software and technology that you use. By continuing to understand the technology I used more than the people around me, I was able to become more efficient, which opened even more time for me to research my industry.
In the workplace, I hear a lot of bitching around technology and how quickly it changes. The reality is you can opt to address and adapt with technology or bitch and fall behind. If you're not willing to teach yourself in order to stay current, being indispensable is not important to you. It's your choice.
I ignored what must of the people around me told me.
Most people are negative, just focus on yourself and your goal.
I applied for jobs even though I didn’t meet 100% of their qualifications.
Job descriptions and qualifications are guidelines of what an employer thinks an applicant needs to be successful in a role. I've had several salaried jobs and a number of freelance gigs in which I didn't fit 100% their original job descriptions. Take a chance and apply.
I applied to dozens of jobs.
At first, I really sucked at applying to jobs. I cast a super wide net and pretty much applied to any new posting I saw. I mean, I was desperate for a new job. Eventually, I learned what worked and what wouldn't work for me to land a job effectively. I started to target in on a certain job and industry in hopes of landing more than one offer so that I could negotiate my salary.
I didn’t stop learning.
A lot of people have this issue where they think their college degree is the golden ticket to their dream job or company. This is wrong and an entitled opinion. Name dropping where you went to college is no longer enough to woo the hearts and minds of hiring managers anymore.
No one cares where you went and what crash course boot camp you took. What are you doing with your knowledge? Did you start a blog? Make a few graphics, make a simple website? What are you doing with what you know? People want to know that your skills will be directly applicable to the work you're doing.
If you want to stand out, learn the skills required for the specific job that you want. Take those skills and launch an online project to display and keep your skills up to date.
Some of the skills I taught myself are HTML, CSS, inDesign, Illustrator, and email marketing.
I didn’t expect anything of anyone but myself.
No one taught me these things 1:1 these were all things I learned on my own on my own time. I don't think people are told this enough, but it is your job to stay competitive in the workplace. Once you realize this, accept, and stop bitching about this and start taking action, your life and career will change.
I took advantage of my time.
Don't be afraid to apply yourself on the weekend, during breaks, and vacations.
I read and read and read and immersed myself within my industry.
I signed up for newsletters for career advice for niche websites within my industry, I started learning more about VC funding, industry buzzwords, what worked, what didn’t work, what the standards were, etc. I read articles daily including interview tips. Regardless of your skill set experience or age, you need to be consistently learning to be indispensable because the reality is, things change quickly.
It gave me more insight to my industry and something to talk about during interviews. I stopped coming off as desperate and started to come off as a highly researched and engaged individual who wants to work in the industry and company that I'm working for. It brought more value to myself as a candidate.
I had an online footprint.
I started using Linkedin to network and find job opportunities when I was 19. Although I didn’t know much about it, I gathered Linkedin was like Facebook, except where people are willing to pay, share, and network with me. This allowed another gate for me to socialize in a professional way online.
Regardless of where you are in your career, get on Linkedin. If you're late to join, don't worry. Search for your friends, classmates, and coworkers to start building your network.
Linkedin is great for many reasons. It instantly boosts your credibility, allows you to grow and manage your network, and it allows you to blog directly on their platform.
Another great way to develop a stronger online footprint is to have a professional page for yourself on Facebook. Regardless of your profession, having a social media presence will always help. Especially creatives, marketing, photographers, writers. Collaborations, gigs, and fans will be easier to achieve when you publish your work on the internet. Hell, I booked a few standup shows through people finding me on Instagram!
It’s 2016, everyone needs a blog or a website or you don’t exist. These days when an employer or agent searches Google for your name, they want to see that you exist both on and offline. If you're a writer, where do you write? If you're an artist, where do you share your art?
I became more confident.
Plain and simple, the more I learned and researched during my job hunt, the more confident I felt in myself.
I didn’t limit my options.
I can’t count on my hands how many people approach me with pain during their job hunt who only apply for two or three jobs, just to get upset that they’re hearing nothing. You need to give yourself the best options possible so that you can choose the best job for you, negotiate and never settle.
I tracked my job hunt in Excel.
I tracked my job search in an Excel sheet, which allowed me to not only follow up on my application status but also learn from my data and previous failed or successful applications.
I didn’t hand out my resume and business card expecting to get a response.
For the most part, I network online, but in the event, that I meet someone at a networking event in person, I try my best to get their information, rather than handing them my portfolio, resume or business card. This allows me to be in control of following up.
It is not enough to hand out your contact information, expecting for your dream job to find you. Go out there and make shit happen.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself.
Job searching can become draining. Remind yourself regularly that you are intelligent, important, and an asset. A company would be lucky to have you. During a long job hunt, it can be easy to feel down and sorry for yourself, but don't.
I applied exclusively to startups.
Because I was a college dropout, I assumed corporate America would neglect me. I decided to only apply to startups since they seem to be forward thinking and paid a lot better than I expected.
I leveraged my network.
Most people think the biggest benefit to going to college is the network that you build. The thing they forget to mention to you is that when you graduate, your entire network is entry level with very little influence to land you your dream job.
It's best to start building meaningful relationships with people who are currently in your industry. The best way to do this is by reaching out, give opportunities to others, and share relevant news and information with your network. Don't be that guy that only says hello when you need something.
Using Linkedin, I discovered that the recruiter who contacted me worked with a guy that I ran track with on Long Island during high school. I used that connection to start conversation earlier on during our phone interview.
I didn’t say yes to the first offer.
My first offer was harsh. They wanted me to work 40 hour weeks, including weekends, basically build out their customer service department, plus there was a discrepancy. They needed a manger and wanted to pay associate salary. I desperately needed to leave my current job, but I couldn’t settle for this.
I over prepared.
I don't think I'll ever have the words to express the importance of well-done research. Before I went into my interviews, I did research on each company, the people I was interviewing with, along with the founders of the company. I then typed them into Evernote and studied them on the subway to and from work until the day of my interview.
During the interview process, I received two offers below my desired salary. But because I did such detailed research, I was extremely confident in my ability to land a quality job at the salary I desired.
This allowed me to take my time, negotiate, and make the best decision for my career. I negotiated offers with the understanding that I may lose the offer, which is a possibility in any negotiation so make sure you have options.
Saying yes to the first offer isn’t only irresponsible, but there is a mindset shift when you’re able to make a decision versus last resort opportunities.
I stayed true to what I needed as a person and a professional.
I went into the job application process originally making $35,000 looking to make $45,000 at a startup where I could continue to learn and grow as an employee. I also wanted to get out of customer service. If everything worked out, this would lead to a $10,000 pay increase and a department change.
I achieved and surpassed my goals and expectations when I received an offer to work in software sales for a tech startup for $60,000 + benefits which I happily accepted.
Whether you're a salaried employee or a project based freelancer, it's always a smart choice to research industry rates for your skill set. Download my free salary cheat sheet to guide your salary and rate research.