Do you ever sit at your job and think “I don’t get paid enough for this crap.” I had that realization two years ago working a retail job over the summer. I was getting paid minimum wage and berated by customers day in and day out. God forbid I had a free second I was immediately sent to do some benign task to make myself look busy. But, the hours were short and it was summer time. I could spend most my time at the beach, or going out to the bars. I wasn’t making a lot of money but I didn’t need a lot of money. Summer quickly came and went and then we were beginning to enter the fall months. Now this retail store specializes in sporting equipment, so you can guess when their busy time was. During busy times in the retail world the proverbial poo definitely rolls down hill and I was at the bottom of the line. I was miserable. Something had to change. I needed to at least triple my hourly rate.
Now to give you a little background about myself, I am 24 with no college degree. I tried going to college at two different schools and it wasn’t for me. It felt like I was wasting time. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in and I still don’t. Education is too expensive to spend time studying something you are unsure of. So I decided to go straight into the workforce after my first year of school and try to get some real world experience.
Well where does someone with no real world experience and only a high school diploma go? To retail! So I began the climb through retail working crazy hours and slowly crushing my soul. Now hats off to those who work retail and enjoy it but I was not one of them. So after working retail for longer than I could bear it was time for a change.
The Journey to Triple my Hourly Rate
So I started applying for jobs. Well let’s apply for retail management jobs since all my experience was in retail. I probably sent in 100 job applications with nothing but crickets. So one day when I was browsing one of the dozen job boards I was on I stumbled across a retail banking job. “It is worth an application” I told myself and filled out their personality questionnaire. This was on a Friday and I had a call on Monday to come in for an interview. The interview was on Wednesday, and I was nervous. I hadn’t interviewed for something that I felt under qualified before. Turns out it was a breeze. They were looking for a certain personality and I had it.
So began my career in retail banking. Now just like any job it came with its own fair share of problems but it felt like my success had a direct reward, monetarily and emotionally. I enjoyed helping people with their finances and solving problems that I had never encountered before. I quickly became a top performer not just in my district but for the entire region. After a year I began to feel stagnant and needed a new challenge to conquer. So I started to apply for new positions yet again.
Climbing the Ranks
I ended up getting an offer for a different bank in a position the next rung up the later. Luckily my manager at my current branch became a sort of mentor to me so I went to him with what they were offering asking for some guidance. “You can jump company to company for 10% raises year after year but you will never grow that way.” He told me to hang tight for a week and let him make some calls. I respect and trust him enough to listen and sure enough at the end of the week he called me into his office. The current company wanted to promote me while paying for further training and specialization. It would results in a 40% raise and potentially triple commissions. I was on board.
That brings us to where I am currently. I love my new role and the people I work with. I am currently making more than three times what I was making in my retail job. I have continued to perform at the highest level and have grown my network of influence tremendously. I also have a game plan in place. I know I can now apply for positions that are even greater reaches for me. Which I plan to after a year here unless, another new position in the pipeline appears.
The first thing I want to reinforce is knowing your worth. When you are working any job it is easy to fall prey to stagnation which results in a loss of potential income. Most companies give out minimal yearly raises if any that can’t keep up with inflation. It actually ends up costing you more to work year after year than the increases you are getting. There are wonderful tools out there like Glassdoor and Payscale that aggregate salaries. They can be incredibly useful during salary negotiations.
You also need to take risks. The key to growth is stepping outside of your comfort zone. When applying to new jobs apply for positions that you think are reaches. I always figured, what is the worst case scenario? Most the time the worst case is that you don’t hear anything back. It is the most painless rejection I have ever been through! But, the upside is enormous! You could potentially receive a massive raise and/or an increase in work-life balance. The other part about taking risks is being vocal to your managers about your professional development. Communicate with them about your goals and your plans. I have found that when you present your manager with a clear and concise plan and ask for help when you need it they will give you more than you ever expected.
The last take away which should be obvious is the value of hard work. If you want something you have to go out and get it. You are the only person looking out for number one. However, if you make your superiors look good they are more inclined to help you in any way they can. A simple way to earn respect is say what you mean and do what you say. These little things are considered common courtesy but you would be amazed by how many people forget about them in the workplace.
Now I want to hear your stories of success! Where did you start? Where are you now? Was it a rocky road or smooth sailing? Let me know in the comments below.