Increase your Income Potential Before It’s Too Late!
College kids, listen to this old dude for a minute…
I hate that hindsight is 20/20.
There are so many lessons that I’d rather someone told me than me having to live through. “Don’t date that girl from your Early Civilizations class, she’s a stage five clinger.” “Don’t eat that food from the sketchy Chinese place down the road; you’ll be spewing regret for days.” But I really wish someone had been around to tell me how to do college the right way. Because I entered college with all the following misconceptions:
-Try do get through college as cheaply as possible
-Pick a smart major and study hard
-Don’t spend all your time
getting wasty-pants and partying socializing
-Beware of the Freshman Fifteen (ok, this one actually has some merit)
And while it’s pretty much understood that you should go to college to better your chances of getting a high(er) paying job, most kiddo’s enter college with the mindset that all you have to do is pick a smart major, study, get good grades, get the internship, then get the job.
Except it’s all bullshit.
There’s a secret, underground world where employers don’t inherently care what your major was or what classes you took. Which completely contradicts the crap your parents have been feeding you. Today, I’ll be taking you through what really makes the difference in salary when you apply right out of college. The following tips will put you in a position to increase your income potential either through negotiations, or stunning your employer so much that they just throw money at you (hey, it happens).
Become a Leader
You’ve more than likely heard this spewed at you from the day you hit your college campus, but there is some truth to it: there are lots of reasons you should have leadership experience before you hit the real world. You’ll learn communication skills, how to meet deadlines, management techniques, and
how to throw a kickass party how to foster teamwork. But let’s call it out for what it is: very few employers are going to bring you on and expect you to lead a team the first months that you’re on the job. So then why would you having leadership skills be important if you’re going to be little more than a “yes” man/woman?
Because the hope is you’re not going to stay that way forever! It’s so much easier to promote from within than look elsewhere for talent. If you’re someone who’s demonstrated leadership potential even before you’ve started working, then the firm will expect that you be able to lead a team after a few years on the job. Always remember: hiring is expensive! It can cost a company anywhere from 1 to 1.5 times the salary they’re going to pay you just to get you in the door and trained! Any company would much rather move someone up who has all the necessary qualifications as opposed to flying people in from all over the country to find the right candidate.
You can (and should) use this to your advantage in salary negotiations. Remember that by the time the recruiter/manager and you are talking about salary, they’ve already interviewed you a few times, brought you in to their company, and most likely bought you some meals/gave you some gifts/swag. They’ve invested quite a bit in you, and won’t be willing to have all those costs be for nothing! So they’ll probably entertain some salary negotiating on your part, even if you’re a new graduate.
Key Takeaway – The more developed your leadership skills, the higher your income potential.
Show Outside Interest In Industry
Imagine this scenario: You going to interview for a marketing job. It’s sometime around February 5th, give or take a few days. It’s an entry-level position, but there’s lots of growth opportunities at this firm. You sit down for your interview, and after the “three strengths, three weaknesses, tell us about a time you had to resolve a conflict” questions, the interviewer asks you about the most prominent marketing event of the last month: the Super Bowl. And you haven’t watched a single ad, have no idea who even advertised, and didn’t bother to think that it might be important for this interview.
I promise you that if you’re the guy or gal who doesn’t know what’s going on in industry, you will be at the bottom of the list of candidates, if you make the list at all. If you’re going into finance and can’t pitch a stock, forget about it. If you’re going into fashion and have no idea what styles have been trending this year, then you’re screwed. If you’re in tech but can’t tell the difference between Python the programming language and python the snake, then kiss that job offer goodbye.
Now, if you’re the kind of employee that regularly follows up on industry trends, and can speak intelligently about what’s going on in whatever market you’re in, then perhaps you’re the kind of employee that will be able to bring in new accounts or see trends develop before others. If you’re that employee, then it’s worth a company paying a few extra bucks to keep you around.
Key Takeaway – The more developed your knowledge of industry trends is, the higher your income potential.
Majors Don’t Matter – SKILLS Matter
This was one I struggled with for a long time, and now that I’m out of college (#sadface) I wish someone had explained this one to me. Please please PLEASE don’t waste time worrying about what your major is; it really doesn’t matter! Want to know how I know?
Art History. That’s how I fucking know.
Let’s assume that there are roughly 5,000 Art History majors in a given year, and that there are 10,000 museums in the United States that would even consider hiring a new graduate. That means that there are 2 museums for each grad.
Let’s call it out for what it is: there is no way that each of those Art History majors is going to find a job in a museum. Sorry, all those years spent studying Van Gogh and Picasso will be for nought.
They obviously HAVE to find something else to do!
Like this guy who’s son was interviewing for finance roles as an Art History major. Or the one in eight Art History majors that find a job in the commercial sector. How do you think they get these jobs? Is it by being able to differentiate enlightenment paintings from renaissance paintings? I highly doubt it. Is it because they spent four years studying what would cause most people to claw their eyes out with a spoon? Maybe, but most likely not.
It’s because they’ve been able to demonstrate their value through other skills! They can show they contribute value to employers outside of their major. These can be broken down into two separate areas: soft skills and hard skills.
Soft Skills – These skills are going to be anything that has to deal with people. Negotiating, conflict resolution, team building, ability to improve morale, work ethic, relationship building, and a host of others that all boil down to people skills. If you can demonstrate that you lead a team of 20 volunteers to build 13 houses in a high need area of Uganda, then do it!
Hard Skills – These are the literal “What can you do?” skills? Can you program in Python, SQL, and C? Do you speak 5 languages fluently and can translate between them all? Can you sing like Whitney Houston and shamelessly self-promote like Kanye? Can you raise money for a cause you believe in?
I know I harped on Art History, but this applies to all the other “useless” majors as well: Music, English, History, Psychology, etc. So whatever your major is, remember: the more skills you have, the more valuable you are. The more valuable you are, the more you will be able to make after you graduate. And college major does not equal skills!
Key Takeaway – The more skills you have, the higher your income potential.
P.S. – Don’t write to me saying that you were an English Major and it was the best choice you ever made. I’m not saying they’re not valuable studies; I’m saying that if all you do is read for 4 years that no one is going to want to hire you.
Achieve A “Bottom Line”
You are going to be asked to do many things over the course of your career. You might be asked to design a marketing campaign, or reduce operating costs out of Asia, or design a new smartphone. However, (and this applies even to the non-profit sector) every time you do one of these you will be responsible for the bottom line, aka how much money are you making or saving the company. And seeing as this is pretty much what your job will be no matter where you land, achieving a bottom line (either making moolah for a school organization or saving an organization some moolah) before you get into the real world can really help you increase your income potential.
For example, let’s say you’re in your student government at college, and your responsible for making sure you have enough attendees at your “Spring Fling” to pay for the Taylor Swift concert, the Gordon Ramsay food truck, and the Barnum and Bailey Circus. So you make posters to put all over campus, have all members of government invite their friends to the event on Facebook, and every time someone likes and shares a status about the Spring Fling they get entered into a raffle where they get to watch Gordon Ramsay scream at Taylor Swift while she writes a song about how much he hurt her feelings. All while riding elephants.
And through your ingenious marketing efforts, you raise over $250,000! This is the sort of initiative, tenacity, and creativity that will make you stand out amongst your competitors for the job. And when you sit down to talk salary with whatever head honcho they put in front of you, you will be able to demonstrate to them why you deserve the salary you think you deserve.
Key Takeaway – The more bottom lines your responsible for, the higher your income potential.
Increasing Income Potential – The Wrap Up
There are lots of techniques that can be used to increase your income potential once you’re out in the working world. But there are quite a few things, simple things, that you can do while in college that will allow you to command a higher salary. They are:
- Become a Leader
- Show Outside Interest
- Majors Don’t Matter – Skills DO!
- Achieve a Bottom Line
Remember, getting the grades, showing up to class, and applying for internships simply doesn’t cut it any more. We live in a globalized world where competition for spots at top jobs is fierce. So, go start a company, become the president of your student government, save orphans, or whatever it is that strikes your fancy and shows the qualities above to employers.
What was the most important thing you did in college to get your first job? What was the most important bullet on your resume that helped boost your salary? Comment below!
Keep trying to crack the code,