How I Grew My Salary by $100,000 in My 20sCareer Success
We may receive a commission if you sign up or purchase through links on this page. Here's more information.
My first “real” job was as a staff accountant at an accounting firm. Now as a staff accountant, I was low man on the totem pole and didn’t make much money. Let’s call my starting salary an unimpressive $xx,xxx. However, within six or seven years of receiving my first “real” paycheck, my salary had grown to more than $xx,xxx + $100,000!
I’m sharing this piece of personal information with you to show you that even if you are not in a traditionally high-paying field like law or medicine, you can still make well into six figures in your 20s. You just have to know what you want and go for it.
And making a healthy income early on in your career will set you up for a lifetime of wealthbuilding because time is your best friend when it comes to developing streams of passive income.
So although I’m by no means a top-income earner, I have had a moderate amount of career success in my chosen profession, accountancy, where the average income is only about $75,000 (according to government data at least).
And I’d like to share what I’ve learned about workplace success with you. So without further ado, here are my 8 tips for growing your salary as an employee.
1. I Worked Harder Than Anybody.
I worked extremely hard in every job I had. I suppose it’s just in my nature. I refuse to give up on a project or an assignment until I’ve looked at it from all angles. In fact, I worked harder than most people I know.
Before I bought my first property, I would live in rented homes with several roommates. And most if not all of the roommates I lived with during those times have told me at least once that I “work too much” or that I was a “workaholic.” Well, in my opinion, “workaholic” is a fake disease that lazy people made up to feel better about themselves!
Readers, don’t be afraid of hard work. Don’t be afraid to be that “weirdo” workaholic. Look, people who put you down for your work ethic are going to end up a lot poorer than you and will have to work a lot harder than you later in life. You put in the hours now. You focus on building your financial base. Future you will thank you.
2. I Always Sought to Perform at the Next Level.
In my field, public accounting, there is a standard, near-universal ranking system utilize by nearly all accounting firms. You start out as a “staff accountant” and are then promoted to “senior accountant,” and then “manager,” and then “senior manager,” etc.
When I was a staff accountant, I made it my goal to perform the duties of a senior accountant. This would often mean being the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave. But I didn’t care. I wanted to perform at the next level.
And with every promotion I received, I carried this desire to perform at the next level. I was not content to kick back and relax.
Incidentally, this go-getter attitude caused my superiors to notice me and give me promotions and raises earlier than my peers.
3. I Did My Best to Respect Everyone and Hold My Tongue.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with whose careers were significantly set back because they couldn’t bring themselves to respect those above them, those at their level, and those below them. Aim to be well-liked, especially if you are lower on the totem pole.
A big part of respecting people is not lashing out at them, especially if you have a temper like I do. There’s really no place for that, especially if you’re not in the C-suite (as most Millennials are not yet). Respecting others also means not talking behind your co-worker’s backs. No matter what profession you’re in, word travels faster than you know, and it’s very difficult to salvage your reputation if you become known as a gossip.
4. I Wasn’t Afraid to Leave.
The first office I worked in had only about 15 people in it. I saw that people were stuck at certain ranks for years, and promotions were rare. Even though I was extremely well-liked in that office, I decided to transfer to a different office in the same company where people were promoted extremely quickly. This decision had a huge impact on my career.
And a few years later, I saw that the opportunities at that new office were not as great as I thought they would be. So I sought an opportunity at a larger company, obtained it, and immediately received a 20% pay increase.
Don’t be afraid to leave. Don’t be afraid of hurting people’s feelings. This is your life, this is your career, and this is your financial well-being we’re talking about here. If you’ve made an effort to be well-liked at your workplace, those who know you will be happy for you that you found a better opportunity elsewhere.
5. I Wasn’t Afraid to Almost Leave.
After I had been working at the larger company for a year or two and had gained some valuable skills and knowledge, I decided to interview around and receive offers from competing firms.
After I had received these offers, I went back to my employer and told them that I was considering taking an offer with another company for $115,000, which was $25,000 more than my $90,000 salary at the time.
At first, my company originally told me that they could not match the competing firm’s offer. However, after it was clear to them that I was going to stand my ground and leave the firm, somebody in the upper echelons of management informed me that they would offer me a salary of $120,000 a year beginning with my next pay period. This resulted in an instant 33% salary bump without having to change employers or take on any new responsibilities!
6. I Took Constructive Criticism Well.
Nobody likes to be criticized. It hurts our pride, our ego, our belief that we’re amazing. But some of the greatest learning experiences in my career have come when sitting in a boss’s office, listening to him or her tell me what I could’ve done better, and keeping my protests to myself.
I remember the first time I was sternly criticized at my first accounting job out of college. My manager’s name was Anita, and I had given her some accounting schedule that I had thrown together really quickly and hadn’t really checked. She took one look at it and told me that I had done a “very poor job” and that until I have two years of experience that I need to “triple check everything.”
Those words stung! I had always been a good student and had never been told that I had done a “very poor job” at really anything that mattered in my life.
But you know what? I took her words to heart. I triple checked everything my first two years, and never again did I hear her tell me that I did a “very poor job.”
7. I Didn’t Waste Time.
Just yesterday my boss took me out to lunch, and she commented that she noticed that one of my co-workers was “always on his phone.” Don’t be that employee who’s known for always being on your phone. If you have downtime during the day, see what else you can help out with at the office. Check in with your superiors.
I’m almost positive that one thing I did that bolstered my career early on was not only checking in with my boss but also my boss’s bosses to see if they had anything I could help out with. I started building a professional relationship with one of these “boss’s bosses” named Blake, who would give me interesting side projects that gave me the opportunity to really shine. No one else at my level had a relationship with Blake. While they were goofing off in their downtime, I was in Blake’s office, laying the foundation for my career.
8. I Took Good Notes.
In most jobs, you are given verbal instructions, often a lot of them, and are then expected to follow those instructions to a T. Make sure you write all those instructions down or perhaps put them in your laptop, tablet, or cell phone. And if you don’t understand some particular instruction, don’t be afraid to ask the person instructing you to slow down or repeat. If they’re good instructors at all, they will be happy to.
I’m not afraid to take my work laptop to a boss’s office when he or she is giving me instructions. I want to make sure that I do things correctly the first time. And now that I too have several people taking instruction from me throughout the day, I have a rule that they absolutely must take notes when I’m explaining something to them.
What About You?
Do you have any good advice about increasing your income at your job? Tell me in the comments below!
Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.