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Steele’s Story – A Dream

How a once naive corporate worker went from making a $55,000 salary to $145,000 in just five years!
About five years ago, I was in a career making about $55K a year—tirelessly working a job that was unfulfilling and uninspiring. I received numerous awards and accolades for my performance. But thanks to my friend in HR, I found out that I was THE lowest paid program manager within the entire organization. Worse, not only was I the lowest paid, my salary was 20% lower than the salary band for that role!

How could I, as a top-performer, have a lower salary than my coworkers, all of whom I outperformed?

Why am I not being paid within the salary band for this role?

I was utterly clueless!

And then I attended one HR leadership meeting and my life changed…

The A’ha Moment
Almost by happenstance, I got invited to sit-in on an HR leadership meeting that, based on the sensitivity of the topic being discussed, I really had no business attending. In that meeting, the VP of HR casually discussed a strategy to cap salaries at 10% for any employee that received a promotion. Then, in a boastful tone, he mentioned that this “strategy” is saving the corporation hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and he hopes it reflects well in his bonus. The entire room broke out in laughter while I stood in the back of the room speechless. This, I thought, is what happened to my salary. At that time in my career, I had received two promotions in less than two years and for both promotions, my manager gave me an excuse as to why I couldn’t get a salary that was reflective of the new, increased responsibilities of the role I was promoted to.

Nevertheless, I knew I had to do something.

That’s when I made up my mind that I WILL obtain the salary that I rightfully deserve. And while I was not sure exactly what I needed to do to grow my salary, as a starting point, I made a short list of the things I did NOT want to do in order to achieve my goal of a higher salary:

  • No going back to school to get another degree.
  • No training to get another professional certification.
  • No more countless hours and hours spent applying for new career opportunities (I want to actually have a life).

Striking gold!

I called this new strategy, “The Salary Growth Playbook.” As the process-driven maniac that I am, I love the term “playbook” because I literally wrote out a detailed, step-by-step action plan to advance my career and allow me to achieve the salary and career fulfillment that I desired. It took some months, some trial and error, and some patience but eventually, things started happening in an exciting way.
I started interviewing for careers that paid upwards of 90% more than my current salary. I began getting callbacks and interviews. And eventually, I landed the first of what would be many career advancements.

When it was all said and done, my salary was an astounding 245% higher than it was just five years earlier when I got my first gig out of grad school (it was a ridiculous 381% higher when including my bonus).

  • Promotion #1
  • Promotion #2
  • Promotion #3 – 102% Growth
  • Promotion #4 – The BIG Promotion – 245% Growth

245% Salary Growth!

My new life

Now I’m happy to report that I have very fulfilling, challenging, and (finally) lucrative career! I’m able to stash away money for our kids’ college fund. We have a few YEARS of living expenses stashed away in savings in the event that we unexpectedly lost our income. If you’ll allow me to be very transparent in this statement—as a husband and father, knowing that I have a padded savings account to cover my family in the event of an emergency allows me to sleep 1000000% times better at night because I know that if all hell broke loose right now, we would have more than enough money to get back on our feet without our beautiful children ever feeling the consequences. Nowadays I regularly receive LinkedIn solicitations from recruiters with job opportunities. But here’s the weird thing, the salary for the positions that they’re offering me are usually too low for me to even consider and the ironic part of it all is that just a couple of years ago I would have killed to have the salary these recruiters are offering me now. The whole thing is really surreal to me.

I’m no superhero

I’m no superhero. And I don’t even think I’m the best employee out there. Heck, sometimes I feel like I wouldn’t hire me if I was the owner of a corporation because I know that I don’t put in nearly as many hours as some of my colleagues—and yet, in most cases, I’m compensated more than them. Sure, I believe I have a great work ethic and create a ton of value for my employer. But I think I get paid very well due to the fact that I’ve done a great job marketing my abilities. I didn’t exaggerate (lie) any of my skills or work experience but I did highlight them in a way that separated me from most of my peers thus allowing me to receive a very good salary.

I created SalaryMatters to help corporate workers that are in the situation I used to be in—overworked, undervalued and severely underpaid. If I can help just one person get the salary they rightfully deserve then this whole thing is worth it.

But before I finish, I want you to:

Believe that you can do it.
Believe that it can happen for you.
Never give up on your career.
Never accept what “they” say about you.
If you know that you deserve better, take action!
If you fall, get up and dust yourself off.
If you fall again, get back up and keep on going.
SalaryMatters believes in you.
It’s time that you do the same!
Forever on your side,
– Steele

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