Strategies for staying at your current company or moving on that avoid the typical advice offered by popular career websites.
Doubling my 9–5 salary several times in my career is something I never thought would happen. My career went from startup land to call center operator in a short space of time.
That meant going from six-figures down to the minimum wage in my home country of Australia. And to top it off, I have no degrees in anything business related — unless you count a sound engineering qualification.
If an uneducated guy from the home of the Kangaroo can double their salary, there is definitely hope for you. Popular career websites like “Seek” suggest the typical advice about doing better in your performance review or getting more education from a university. This advice is out of date and I have watched many colleagues fall for this trap and only end up disappointed.
Doubling your salary, or at the very least increasing it significantly, is about breaking the norm and trying a few things that are a bit more radical as you’re about to see with these simple tips below.
The goal should be more than money
Okay so you can make more money but if that’s your only goal, the extra zeroes on your bank balance will get really boring real quick.
Aim for a goal like one of these:
- To be a leader in your field
- To become a leader of people
- To use your extra salary to support projects you care about
- To make more money to start a side business
My goal to earn more money was two-fold: to become a leader of people and make more money so I could work less and write more. That led me to work a 4-day week and writing two full days with one day rest.
There are two approaches to doubling your salary and both are worth exploring:
- Explore your internal options at the current company you work at
- Look outside of your current company
#1 — Staying at your current company strategies
Each of these tips below will help you to double your salary. Some of them may seem insignificant and that is why they are often overlooked.
Get one customer on your side
There is nothing more powerful in your career than the voice of a customer.
This isn’t BS customer first nonsense that you’ve probably heard over and over; this is the heart of any business.
Without customers, there is no business. When I doubled my salary earlier in my career, it was the voice of one large customer that helped me do it. Rather than trying to please my entire portfolio of customers as a salesperson and account manager, I chose to focus most of my time on one customer.
This involved having a weekly call with them and championing small process improvements for them internally so we could occasionally make their experience better. When things went wrong for them, I took it personally and fought hard for them.
This customer pretty quickly became an advocate of my work and was very vocal to many of the senior managers that surrounded my business unit. Eventually, these same leaders ended up fighting to have me join their business and that led to a substantial increase in pay along with generous bonuses to go with it.
Refer a customer
This large customer wasn’t my customer either. The customer belonged to another department that had nothing to do with my business unit. One day this business unit asked me a question about how to process an application form and I showed them and offered to do it for them.
The next day they came to me with another question and I helped them with that one too. A few weeks later, I took a phone call that was accidentally transferred to my direct line from one of the largest company’s in America. This company needed help and thanks to my unofficial relationship with this outside business unit, I knew exactly where to refer the client.
After taking the call, I walked over and spoke to the leader in charge. I explained to him the customer’s needs and asked for the best way to refer the client to him in the CRM.
This client went on to be one of the largest clients ever to do business with my employer, and it came from being curious and aiming to be helpful. Referring new clients is a great way to be helpful in business and you can work in any department and make it happen.
Choose a role that exploits one skill
A mistake that is commonly made is trying to be good at too many skills, thus mastering none of them.
What helps you double your salary is focusing in on one skill that you have. My one skill has always been sales and that’s why I have spent stupid amounts of time reading up on negotiating, public speaking, relationship building and mastering LinkedIn.
If you want to earn more, choose a role that exploits one of your skills and be known for it internally at your current company.
Take on an unofficial leadership role
Unofficial roles are freaking awesome. It’s where your role title doesn’t change in your company’s HR software but it does when you introduce yourself and it also changes on your email signature.
I have taken many unofficial roles over the years and it has been the bargaining chip I have used when asked to take on more responsibly or do work that isn’t part of my job description. Most leaders will be happy with you doing an unofficial role as long as you’re committed.
You can be the project lead of a new initiative.
You can be the 2IC (2nd in charge) of your team under your current boss.
You can simply be the meeting co-ordinator which is super helpful to a busy leader.
You can be the team leader of your team which is similar to being a trainee manager underneath your current boss.
Once you have done a role unofficially, it makes it that much easier to apply for official roles when they become available. You can use the unofficial title on your LinkedIn profile and on your resume.
Suddenly, from nowhere, you have the holy grail of “experience” which outweighs formal learning in a lot of industries.
The magic of secondments
My current career would never have happened if it wasn’t for a secondment.
That customer mentioned earlier in this article ended up becoming my client when the team asked me to do a secondment. When the secondment ended, it wasn’t all roses and cheers from my colleagues. There was no job, so I went back to my old gig. This led to a promotion to a different department that lasted one year, followed by a new role back in the team where I did the original secondment.
Three years later, the people leader of that team nominated me for a secondment inside our company’s innovation lab. If it wasn’t for this secondment, I would never have learned all about technology and the process of agile software development that is a huge part of my current job.
Ask for secondments whenever you can and you won’t regret it. They become internal transfers that lead to higher salaries if you’re patient.
Sit in a different seat every day
Through flexible seating arrangements at my workplace, I made it a habit to sit in a different location every day. This led me to meet lots of people in other departments who later hired me and recommended me for roles.
It’s easy to sit in the same seat every day with people you know really well and be comfortable. It’s much harder to sit with strangers every day and learn to start new conversations that make you feel uncomfortable.
I promise you that if you can get over the awkwardness of sitting with new people, you’ll be the most networked woman/man in the company and that will lead you down the path of a higher salary and awesome career opportunities.
Be genuinely interested
There are so many people I have met in my career that don’t seem interested in what they do. It seems like their work is nothing more than a job that pays for their Netflix addiction and it’s really sad to watch.
Then you meet someone who cares about what they do and lights up when they talk about their company, product or unique value proposition (corporate jargon).
People that are genuinely interested in what they do go further and earn more. The trouble is you can’t fake it. You have to actually care about what you do and that comes down to carefully choosing the work you decide to take up and making sure it is centered around one of your favorite skills, industries or business segments (ie HR, Sales, Operations, Customer Service).
When I stopped doing work that bored me to death and chose to focus on business functions that centered around people, the game changed. I became interested in my work — and customers, other departments, leaders, suppliers and product managers noticed.
Find work you’re interested in and demonstrate it to everyone you meet.
Attend meetings where you’re the dumbest person in the room
At work, there will always be opportunities to attend meetings if you build up the courage to ask. The easiest meeting to attend is the one your boss does with his/her peers every week.
Ask your boss if you can attend as a learning experience and tell them you’ll take notes and send them out at the end to be helpful. Again, I have never seen this strategy fail because it helps busy leaders.
The meetings you’ll learn the most from are those with C-Suite job title holders. What is amazing about these executives is that they delegate most tasks and don’t work as much as you may think. Hanging out with these folk in meetings will show you that first hand and that’s an idea that might just change your career.
Sharpen your look
Whether you like it or not, people will judge you somewhat based on how you look at work. This doesn’t mean you need to look like a model because clearly this dumbo looking dude from Australia is not that.
What it means to sharpen your look is to be a touch more intentional about how you appear.
If you’re trying to be corporate, sharpen up with a new suit.
If you’re trying to be tech, try wearing a nice set of jeans with a t-shirt and smart casual jacket to dress up the outfit.
If you’re trying to be a leader, dress subtly better than the rest of the team.
Here are a few things to think about:
- Shine your shoes
- Add a briefcase/backpack that is more professional
- Tidy up your hair doo
It’s the small touches to your look that help you appear like you’re serious about what you do for work.
One tip that helped me was this: “Would the leader who could change your career be comfortable putting you in front of their best customer based how you dress for work or would they be reluctant because you look unprofessional?” — or too casual or even too formal.
Don’t ask for a pay rise
A highly shareable article from Ladders (another top-ranking career advice website) on increasing your salary gives what they believe to be a hot tip which is to ask for a pay rise.
Asking for a pay rise is bad advice. Think about what you’re asking for through the eyes of a business owner. Why would they pay you more to keep doing the same job?
Every time I have got a pay rise in my career, it has been through changing roles that come with the glorious conversation about salary. It’s in this conversation that you can ask for more cash without too much effort. If you make it to this conversation, keep in mind these tips:
- Never ever suggest a salary number — always let them start
- Counter-offer with a higher number
- Recite the value you bring, your past performance and highlight the one skill that you’ve chosen
- Be polite when negotiating your salary and use phrases like “Would it be possible to do $100K”
- If the high number you suggest is rejected, say, “Would you be able to meet me in the middle?”
#2 — Leaving your current company strategies
No matter how hard you try, sometimes your current company just can’t help you get ahead.
Your personal brand might be shot. The company may be too small to provide you with new opportunities. Or maybe you’ve done your dash and it’s time to find a new company.
Leaving your current company allows you to have the salary conversation once again and negotiate your way up in salary and perks without it being weird or awkward like it is when asking for a pay rise.
Looking for external opportunities takes time and effort. To make the time to do it, you’ll need to get better with your time. I achieved this by working less and being smarter with my time. In practical terms it meant the following:
- Attending fewer meetings
- Finishing work between 5–6 pm
- Using lunch breaks to send emails to people who could help
- Reading books full of career advice like “How To Win Friends And Influence People”
- Turning down extra responsibility once it was obvious I’d be moving on
Once you have the time back in your day, you can go all-in on finding external opportunities.
Utilizing your work colleagues
The people who have helped me the most in my career to increase my salary have not been recruiters or hiring managers; they’ve been current and former work colleagues.
These people have worked with you and know your skills and interests. A referral or recommendation from them could be the difference between staying where you are, and possibly being unhappy and getting your ass out of there and finding a new career that can look like a dream looking back.
When I lost my job, it was former work colleagues who introduced me to new opportunities and one such colleague helped me find my current job. The simplest way to approach these colleagues is to reach out to them and ask them to have an informal coffee catch up at a time and place that suits them. In conversation, you can mention your goal and ask for their advice.
By asking your former colleague’s advice and opinion, they can unofficially decide to help you and go from advice-giver to enabler.
The other perk is they can also coach you on what salary is achievable and how much, for example, their employer pays. This gives you an idea of how far you can push the salary negotiation that could lead you to double your income.
LinkedIn the money printer
That is exactly what LinkedIn has been for me over the years. It has led me to new opportunities and even consulting gigs that utilize my side-hustle skills of social media and writing.
It’s a personal choice as to whether you want to post content on LinkedIn regularly. If you do, it will lead you to have conversations via direct messages with strangers who may introduce you to new opportunities.
The simple strategy for utilizing LinkedIn to increase your worth in the market is to post one thing daily.
It could be something you have come up with or it could be a carefully curated piece of content from someone else that you add your own commentary to, to make it uniquely yours. When it comes to how to answer the salary question during a job interview, make sure you are prepared for all your interviews.
3 Bonus Tips for Increasing Your Income
Those who have read my work before know that I’m not one to just rely 100% on my day job.
You can develop side-businesses, side-hustles, and hobbies that can supplement your 9–5 income source, and they can all put extra money in your pocket that allows you to work less and not stress so much about bills.
Start a side-hustle
While my 9–5 salary has doubled multiple times, having a side-hustle outside of work has made me even more money. My side-hustle has been writing/blogging and you probably have outside interests too.
One of the easiest ways to start a side-hustle is to post content about it online. As you post content, you force yourself to find more and more content and explore new ideas.
Once you have a small audience, you can offer them extra value in the following forms: online courses, premium content via a membership, real-world events, consulting, 1–1 coaching, and even partnerships with other businesses who don’t have content.
Earning a little bit of extra cash outside of your 9–5 is a freeing feeling that will change your career — it might even give you a touch of the entrepreneurial bug as it has done for me.
Invest some of your paychecks
It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for— Robert Kiyosaki
There’s no point doubling your income if you don’t make money work for you. When I first increased my income, all that happened was my expenses increased.
It took becoming consciously aware of how much I was spending and automating a portion to be invested that helped me generate passive income.
You can put your money into stocks, bonds or real estate and watch it grow. Whatever you do, don’t just spend more or leave your money in a savings account that is eaten away by the toxic power of inflation.
Add in freelancing
We have spoken at length about focusing on one key skill in your career. Something you may not have thought of is that your one skill can be used to freelance to other businesses.
You can freelance as a salesperson.
You can freelance as a customer support officer.
You can freelance as a leader to other companies who need leadership help.
You can freelance as a blogger/writer/social media content creator.
You can freelance as a project manager for another company’s project.
Freelancing opportunities are everywhere and they can allow you to expand your business network and perhaps even turn a freelancing gig into either a full-time business or a full-time job.
There are so many ways to double your existing 9–5 income, or by leaving your current company and starting a new job. You can also add extra income on top of your salary to help make life a little easier.
Try some of these strategies. Watch your income grow. And see how the growth you experience in your career — through funneling money into projects you care about, being a people leader, starting your own business, or being a leader in your field — can feel far better than the money itself.
You are good enough to double your 9–5 salary; you might just need to show up to work differently, leave your company or add in another income source.
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