After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Big Buck Theory

Being rich doesn’t solve every problem in life.  But it does solve a big one: being poor.

Throughout my career, having interacted with many individuals in all walks of life and all phases of their careers, I cannot think of a single person who set an upper limit on his/her desired earnings.  On the other hand, by their choices and their actions, many individuals do set upper limits on the earnings they can actually achieve.

If your career objective is to make a lot of money, as opposed to work/life balance, wearing jeans to the office, or family time, how do you accomplish that objective?   Here are some factors I’ve observed.

Choosing your path:

1.      Examine your hard wiring. There is a whole chapter devoted to this in my book. You will not excel at something you do not do well. 

2.      Pick a path that utilizes your talents.  There are choices.  If you are good at math, you could be a math teacher, an engineer or an accountant.  If you are good at science, you could be a teacher, a researcher, a doctor.  If you are a good writer, advertising, editing, marketing or journalism might be areas of interest.  If you are good looking and charismatic, modeling might be an option, but so would sales.

3.      Pick a path that offers a realistic chance of success based on your level of ability.  I was a great high school hockey player with thoughts of playing professionally. I got a reality check when I played for Notre Dame – and ended up majoring in accounting. 

4.      Pick a path that offers the highest financial reward potential.  If you decide to be a biology teacher and not a doctor, you will always make a teacher’s salary, not a doctor’s salary. 

Once you have established a path:

5.      Work hard.  Duh.

6.      Work very, very hard.  Contrary to popular belief, success and wealth are usually a result of hard work, long hours, and extreme commitment.  You may have to sacrifice some evenings and weekends, and possibly some family life and/or social life to the cause

7.     Work smart.  You can work 15 hours a day, but if you fail to notice and solve problems, your upward mobility will plateau at your current level.

8.      Set short-term, achievable goals.  Not “I will be a millionaire in 20 years,” but “I will get a promotion in three years or seek a position elsewhere.”  Aggressively target these goals.

9.      Be confident.  If you doubt your abilities, others will too.

10.  Claim credit for your achievements.  Or someone else will. 

11.  Differentiate yourself.  Never forget that you are competing with your co-workers and your peers outside the firm for your next promotion. What are your peers doing to get ahead?

12.  Educate yourself.  If you need a degree, a certification, or a course in XOOO to increase your salary, sign up now.

13.  Cultivate relationships in your company.  Your achievements must be noticed by someone in management before you are rewarded for them.

14.  Cultivate relationships in your industry. Your first employer may not provide the financial upside you are seeking over the long haul.  Knowing professionals at other firms may provide entry into more lucrative positions.

15.  Be open to change.  Do not marry your employer.  If a higher paying opportunity or an opportunity with greater upward mobility comes along, forget your BFF co-workers and go.

16.  Be open to risk.  Sometimes a commission-based position or an entrepreneurial position can offer huge financial rewards.  Does your station in life allow you to take a chance?  Do you have the self-confidence to take a chance?

Notice that the term “good luck” did not appear in the above list.  Notice that the ideas of hard work and sacrifice, in varying terminologies, were consistent throughout. 

Keep in mind that not everyone wants or needs to be wealthy and that being rich is not synonymous with living a great life.  At some point sooner or later in your career, you might make the choice that the rewards of being very rich are not worth the price that you will pay in other areas of your life.  Be happy and confident with whatever choices you make and live your life accordingly.

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