There are many, many ways to make money. However, only one of thee ways has consistently worked for me. Strategically managing my career has paid the most dividends in increasing my income and wealth.
Many others talk about getting a second job, side hustling or starting a business Truth is I know not much about them. However what I do know is how to make more money at the day job. Here I share what worked for me to increase my income to over six figures, which allows me to save 80% and be on track to retire by 40.
Strategically Manage your Career
While some people do stumble upon success and riches, it’s important to remember they are in the minority. The vast majority of us have made a significant effort to manage our careers. It’s not an easy process, it’s not simple but it is possible.
Initially, I drifted through mediocre jobs and waited for new jobs to find me. To be fair they did, but there was a lot of sideways moves and small incremental gains. Now when I started strategically planning my moves my career took off. I got more positions of responsibility and my income grew. So how do you strategically manage your career – I share my approach below.
The most important question is where do you want to be? What do you really want to be doing? Are you driven by the job itself, the money or the status? If you already know this you are ahead of the curve, well done- you can skip to the next section.
Goal Step 1 – Ideas
Now’s the time to dream big and come up with an audacious goal. At the idea generation stage, it’s important to not discount any idea. Note them all down. What jobs would you love to do? Your boss? Your boss’s boss? Or perhaps a friends? What are you good at? How do you want to spend your days at work?
Goal Step 2 – Evaluation
Now you’ve got lots of ideas, it’s time for the evaluation. And yes, it’s perhaps really unlikely you will be able to make it as a professional football player. But if working in that industry is a dream, maybe you need to research other opportunities for those with less footballing prowess. On the other hand, if you want to be the team leader of your current team, that is much easier to achieve as a goal.
Goal Step 3 – Decision
Once you’ve evaluated your goals, it’s time to pick one. What gives you the most joy? Which excites you the most? Pick one that you really really want and are prepared to work for.
Plan Step 1 – Timelines
Now you’ve got your goal – how are you going to get there? Now it’s time to brainstorm. Evaluate where you are now and where you want to be. Is your goal one step up the ladder and achievable next year? Or is it a more long-term prospect? If you have a long-term goal, such as making CFO, you then need some more milestones or mini goals – what are the logical steps along the path to CFO? Perhaps making VP?
Plan Step 2 – Actions
Once you have the timescale and goal it’s time to evaluate the actions you need to take to get there. Sometimes these are easy to spot, such as degrees, qualifications or time served. More often, especially as you climb the ladder these are interpersonal and soft skills.
Plan Step 3 – Feedback
And then comes the important yet often overlooked part. Once you have an idea of the steps you want to take, you need to seek input from people who know you and your industry. I recommend presenting your goal and timescales to mentors and seeing input on how to get there. Importantly, it is time for some candid feedback on how you rate yourself and how others do. Do stakeholders see the same strengths in you that you believe you demonstrate? Where do they think you have to develop?
Plan Step 4 – Incorporate feedback into timelines and actions
After getting perhaps some difficult feedback, take the time to reflect on it and evaluate. And then you need to combine your steps with your mentors to come up with an actionable plan. This might include easily quantifiable tasks such as exams or more likely stakeholder management skills such as build a better relationship with Sue or become seen as an expert at Y by the whole department. Pencil these steps in with timelines when you’d like to achieve them.
On the topic of thinking strategically, it’s really important to realise success is not linear. Your effort is likely to be continual and linear, but the success comes in stages. You become more influential at work. Then you get invited on a committee. Next, you are the committee chair. And finally, you get the converted promotion. Each of these successes follows from its predecessor, but they may be spaced randomly out. Here you are at the mercy of the intersection of your hard work and effort, people’s interpersonal situations, company goings-on and just plain luck.
You don’t want to be the guy demanding a plum assignment the day the boss’s wife files for divorce. Or requesting a pay rise the day the company announces job losses. So you need to be careful with your requests and aware of your surroundings at all times. But by planning your career strategically you know where you want to be and what your next step is.
And when all the ducks fall into the row, you will be there to take the next step – you might be completely ready for it in which case celebrate. Or you may feel you have a few things to work on – but don’t let any perceived development points hold you back. No-one is perfect and new roles give you the perfect opportunity to refine and polish your skills. Either way, make sure you celebrate and enjoy your hard earned success.
Deviations from Plan
And finally, a topic that is close to my heart. Don’t hold back on making a plan or thinking strategically about your career as you have a few concerns or think you may want to change tack in the future.
Flexibility is key here, and I always believe tweaks to plans drive the best outcomes. Making some changes as you go, based on real lived experience ensure that your plan is realistic and you are hence more likely to achieve that goal.
Other Awesome Resources on Increasing your Income
- Liz At Chief Mom Officer shares her story from $22k to six figures
- Steph at Simplistic Steph shares how she recently landed her dream job
Make More Money at the Day Job Series
Over to you
- What are your thoughts?
- Do you manage your career strategically?