Disclaimer: This post is just purely career advice for anyone starting out in their respective fields, whatever that may be …. I’ve experienced all of this personally and am merely sharing some things I think will make you happier and more successful in your work.
I was reading this article on how to find the job you’ll love … and it’s loaded with great advice, but no. 4 really got me: “Ignore salary.”
As an employer, I want to pay our team well … I want them to be paid comparable to what their skills, commitment and their colleagues make. But we don’t just hand out money or raises or bonuses because they believe they deserve it … they, along with myself, have to earn it.
In general, and not just as an employer and boss, I’ve observed that some people think they are worth more salary-wise than they truly are. Just because you think you could make more money in another job doesn’t mean you’re willing to make the sacrifices and effort necessarily to do so.
The ones in this camp are the ones I’m aiming this post at.
They are the ones who will never make enough to satisfy their need for “more money.” They will generally flame out and leave their jobs. Or worse, get bitter because their unrealistic dreams don’t make their paycheck. They are perpetually unhappy and it has drastic ripple effects on teams and companies.
Yes, you need to make sure you and your family can put food on the table and pay your bills. But I love this post by Penelope Trunk (one of my favorite career advice bloggers) that says you need around $40K a year to be truly happy. (Of course it was written a couple of years ago, but generally, it still resonates.)
Live within your means — I really struggle with people who live in America and can’t make it on very decent or even “average” wages. The root of this is typically a skewed perspective on status. They think they deserve to live a richer lifestyle, and I’ve been guilty of it as well. But some of the happiest times in my marriage have been the times when we made the least … when we had one income, lived in an apartment and were extremely frugal with our money. We simply found some creative ways to enjoy and focus on each other. But even then, we lived a quality of life that millions of people around the globe only dream about.
Focus on quality of life — This is why I love living in Oklahoma. My money and salary go a lot further. Penelope moved to Wisconsin for a similar reason: quality of life. As I’ve traveled I’ve wondered how people in San Francisco or Boston make a living. I believed with enough commitment and work I could climb the latter at different organizations and make a lot of money. But I never wanted to make the sacrifices in my quality of life to get there. Confession: In the last couple of months, I’ve had to really assess my quality of life and ask myself, ‘Am I having fun?’ It’s not worth it if I’m not having fun. Trust me. I want to enjoy my work or else it’s simply a prison.
Find awesome work you’re passionate about — if you hate your work, you better be paid handsomely. But your paycheck is payment for pain and suffering and enduring your work, not enjoying it. If you love your work, you’ll generally be content with your pay and … yes, the money will come. Happy, passionate people are a joy to work with … and they do accomplish more. Everyone wins. Some on our team could be making substantially more than what they are making now. But we’ve tried to create an environment where it doesn’t matter because they love what they do and they cherish the environment we provide …. to me, and maybe I’m biased, that’s priceless. Some have turned down better offers to work here because of it.
Yes, you should be paid fairly — and by this I mean comparable to other colleagues and being reasonable about salary expectations. You have to be realistic. If you really want to earn twice what you’re paid, count the cost of what it’d take to achieve that. I don’t know about you but my happiness is worth more than simply twice my salary. Employers should pay their employees fairly and adequately. One value I treasure and repeat often is … those who invest themselves in our business and team will be rewarded. I don’t know exactly how that shakes out. It’s not always money. Often it’s me buying their lunch … or just a verbal word of encouragement … Or recognizing and giving them credit for their work publicly … or sending them on a fun, productive business trip.
If you aren’t happy, change it — I remember a coworker from one of my first jobs out of college. This coworker was habitually unhappy. No one wanted to be around her. I realized she had been working this job longer than I had been alive. She was stuck. In a rut with nowhere else to go. I vowed from that time forward to always enjoy my work or change it. Go somewhere else. But don’t get bitter. You’ll look at yourself in the mirror … and hate yourself. And when you look around you, no one will be there because no one wants to be around bitter people. If you don’t like what you’re doing, do everybody a favor and CHANGE IT.
Conclusion: More money is never the key to happiness. Just ask any miserable “6 figure salaried” person you thought of when reading this.
OK … just my two pennies worth.