I've mentioned in a couple blog posts at this point the "variables" when talking about a pay bell curve. Things like location, industry, company size, years of experience and perceived ability. These are all factors that play into the data you'll find and leverage but you shouldn't limit your understanding of these factors to mean "this is what I'm worth here and now". These factors also illuminate for you what you could be worth "then and there". In other words, you should see these factors as tools to navigate your field and grow financially in your career (if financial growth is important to you).
When considering a change for financial gain, there are a number of directions you can take and a number of different dimensions that make your experience relevant. Many people feel their job title defines the parameters of their job search but that's not true at all. You may be relevant for a different job title elsewhere if you have deep relevant industry experience, or you may be relevant for a different industry if you have experience at another company of a similar (for example, startups love to hire folks from other startups regardless of the industry specialization because they are familiar with the ”scrappy” unstructured nature of work). Get creative with how you sell your experience as "relevant" and you'll open more doors for yourself.
Before you seek the next step in your career, know what these variables mean to you and understand which ones present you with room for change:
Perceived Ability - True ability is the hardest factor to change. Improving yourself takes time and effort. But notice I said "perceived" ability. Your true ability will increase over time with experience, but all too often our perceived ability is less than our true ability. You may be adding a ton of value to your team that they don't even realize. Effectively demonstrating your value is a skill in itself. Track your progress, document your accomplishments, and learn how to sell yourself while staying humble. You really could be just a thoughtful slide deck away from a raise or promotion and there is probably a much more appealing way to tell your story in an interview than what you have been using.
Location - Not everyone is able to relocate. Maybe you have kids or parents to take care of. But if not, don't let your affinity for a particular city tie you down. You'll always have your favorite city, but home is a feeling not a place and being open to relocation can dramatically increase the amount of doors that open to you. Many companies will even pay for the move if you find the perfect match. It's no secret that you'll find higher pay in San Fransisco, New York, and Boston, but those cities also come with steep living costs. You might be surprised at the spending power you could achieve with a move to a place like Austin, TX, Phoenix, AZ or Atlanta, GA. In this blog, I'll talk a lot about personal growth and I'm a huge believer in the benefits of moving around as a catalyst for personal growth beyond just financial implications. Spread your wings. Adapt. You learn and grow and expand your network with every move to a new city. When you change your environment, you are often better for it.
Industry - Not every industry is created equal. Pay varies wildly across industries and you may not have to look far to find a lateral move that pays 50% more if you work in retail or hospitality. You may care more about what you do than what you make, for example if you work in the non-profit space your sense of altruism might keep you from looking for a change in industry. However, always keep an eye open for tech. Tech overlaps with almost every industry today. If you're passionate about education, there's an EdTech company who will pay you more. If you're passionate about non-profits, there's a social impact tech company that will pay you more. If you’re curious and open to opportunity you might be surprised at the directions your career takes you.
Company Size - There are so many ways company size can impact your career growth and it's not as simple as "big and small". Smaller companies might pay less for certain job titles, but you may also be likely to land an elevated title like "director" at a smaller company before you would at a large one. This could serve as a cheeky way to get a leg up in your career, and also to learn a whole lot. A respected CEO once told me that joining a startup is better than getting an MBA - and in my experience so far he's been absolutely right. For example your experience within larger companies might arm you with some real value to add to a scrappy, growing team that could mean a bit of a leap frog from front-line employee at a corporation to a builder/manager at a scrappy startup. Or maybe in the converse scenario, you've worked your way up to manager in the startup world faster than you would have at a big financial firm and now you might qualify for the same title at a larger company that's prepared to pay far more.
Job Title - Job titles often mean something different everywhere, and this is only becoming more and more true as new job titles are springing up out of nowhere at a rate unlike ever before. What did "Product Marketing" mean 10 years ago? It often had more to do with packaging of physical products, whereas today in tech product marketing is all about go to market strategy and product launch plans in collaboration with product, design and engineering teams. Be aware of what your job title means in other environments, and if the work you're doing justifies more pay under a different title elsewhere, be intentional about acquiring that title. Sometimes that's as simple as changing your title on LinkedIn (That's not always frowned upon, as long as it makes sense for the work you're doing. You can avoid an awkward situation by giving your boss a heads up that you're doing it.).
Stay curious. Work hard. But be flexible and open to change, and you'll grow exponentially faster than your peers.
Let's see what happens when we play with some variables that are well within your control:
If you are dead average, a move from Rochester to NYC coupled with a switch from the accounting industry to tech, and landing at a larger company could mean a 26% increase in pay for the same work. 26% is a heck of a lot more than the standard 3% raise if you stay where you are. This doesn't even factor in the credibility you'd gain by adding a larger more esteemed brand to your resume - this added credibility will help you earn even more in the next job. The financial impact of these advantageous changes compound over time. You start to see why people who move around intentionally early in their career end up making at least 50% more by the end of their career.
Okay, these last two posts have been about money but money is definitely not the most important thing. It’s easy to think about compensation strictly in terms of money, but what if I told you that money is only one element of compensation? Especially early in your career, there are numerous elements to compensation that have nothing to do with dollar signs and by understanding each of them better you will gain more leverage over your growth in life. Read my next post about ”Understanding Compensation” to learn more.
From "knowing your worth, and asking for it" to "managing up and leading without authority" or "when to jump", be sure to subscribe for more insights from a recruiter in tech.