One of the biggest questions that guys have about their careers is how to make more money. Women wonder this, too, but my psychotherapy and coaching practice focuses on men (gay and straight) and I know more about those dynamics. Even though there is certainly a social injustice about men, in general, getting paid more than women, in general, this is not about that issue today, even though it’s an important political issue with lots of data behind it.
Instead, I like to support my clients making more money because even though, as we know, “money doesn’t buy happiness”, there can be a correlation between money and quality of life, for all kinds of reasons. And even though “make more money” is not usually a goal in traditional psychotherapy, it certainly is a goal for many of my clients in Los Angeles/West Hollywood, especially when I am working with them in “career coaching” mode, which is more interactive and more concrete-goal-directed than what we normally think of in therapy.
How does career coaching help a client to make more money? Well, I’ve been doing this a very long time (over 23 years), and so I’ve seen a lot of guys in many different professionals fields and jobs, and from that experience comes certain “rules” that have played out in my observation with hundreds of clients. When we have those patterns and “historical data”, they become a type of quantitative and qualitative research data. We can use that observational data and trends to our advantage, even though the economy and times can fluctuate over the years.
In no particular order, here are some of the ways that you go from whatever you are earning now (assuming you haven’t really “topped out”) to earning more, especially over the course of time. These could be useful at any stage of your career, but I think they are especially good to keep in mind if you’re a 20-something and really launching what your ideal professional life would look like. Think about which of these apply to you; some will “ring true” more than others and motivate you to perhaps make some changes in your perspective, thinking, and behavior:
1. Education – There are entrepreneurs without much education who have gained wealth and influence, but as a rule, the key to class mobility in America today is still about education, not only college (which is controversial, because liberal arts degrees that come with high student loan debt have been questioned lately), but certainly graduate degrees help you earn a lot more over time. Being a middle-aged guy, I notice that my peers who are also middle-aged who “live high on the hog” (houses, cars, wardrobe, vacations, better health insurance, fully-funded retirement plans, etc.) are ones who got graduate educations (or at least very good undergraduate ones) early in life. Numerous studies support the statistic that basically more education means more money in your career, especially long-term, including liberal arts or arts majors.
2. Management of Personnel/Direct Reports – One of the things that drives up a salary or rate of pay is whether you have responsibility for hiring and firing, and whether you have staff reporting directly to you for assigning, prioritizing, and evaluating their work. When you’re trusted with personnel as a human resource of your organiztaion, regardless of the setting, your income generally goes up the more people numerically you supervise, and also with the level of sophistication of staff. You earn more by supervising managers and directors than you do supervising mailroom clerks and administrative assistants.
3. Fiscal responsibility – When a company or organization trusts you with making, preserving, or spending its capital, your salary goes up. Non-profit executive directors (excuse me, ”CEO”’s now) are generally compensated in proportion to the size of the organization’s annual budget. If you have profit-and-loss responsibility for your division, or if you have responsibility for demonstrating profit for shareholders, that drives up your salary, too (think about the high CEO pay at banks or corporations). Basically anytime you are entrusted to manage a company’s money, they entrust you with a better salary, across all fields from public utilities, to clothing, to electronics, to arts organizations, to medical settings, to non-profits.
4. Revenue Generation — You generally earn more money, in whatever field and in whatever position, if you generate revenue for your company/organization. I once worked for the most royal bitch ever in a non-profit organization, who was universally hated by her staff, colleagues, associations, and community associates; hell, even her own dog would’ve bitten her if she had one. But she was great at generating revenue for the organization through various forms of fundraising, so her higher-ups gave her a pass despite her nasty demeanor and widely-observed allegations of discrimination and even embezzlement. Many of us have worked in organizations where there have been cocky, grandiose, narcissistic, cutthroat salespeople who were complete jerks, but if they met or exceeded their sales quotas, they wore halos and cried all the way to the bank. They didn’t need to be popular with their peers, necessarily; they only had to be popular with paying customers, which is what “counts” to them and to their managers. Conversely, when I was very young and worked for a software company and a recession hit, the staff positions that were not “revenue-generating” were the first ones to be cut. They were “nice to have” positions for the company, not “need to have”. They fired the “videographer”, not the salespeople or the software developers who made new products. So whatever your position, ask yourself if you help your employer generate revenue — or sometimes, finding ways to avoid expending revenue — and that will translate to both job security and to internal upward mobility. Ask yourself, “How does what I do here affect the bottom line?” If you can’t answer that, get coaching on how to make yourself known and associated with your employer’s fiscal health — including if you’re self-employed!
5. Mission critical/Scope of mission – If you know your organization’s mission statement (credo, motto, purpose for being, etc.) and your job directly contributes to that mission, your salary will go up. If you’re leading a home health care agency, and you are really good at getting nursing aide or other help to paying clients, you’re in a good position. If your company manufactures electronics, and what you do helps run the production of making electronics, that’s also a good position. The more extraneous your job is, away from the mission, or the more what you could do could be done by a thousand other people, the less salary you can command. One tip in any job is to understand how your role supports the bigger mission, and emphasize that, for both job security and upward mobility. Another aspect is “scope”: If you own a dry cleaners, you’re running a small business and maybe that’s a nice living with a study clientele who know, like, and trust you. But if you expand the scope – carefully — and you end up owning a chain of dry cleaning stores, you’re going to earn exponentially more. One of the things I coach my entrepreneur clients on is how to expand mindfully; not impulsively, not leaping before you look, but in a way that is carefully planned so that you don’t expand too much, too fast, which can lead to implosion (Boston Market? Pinkberry? Koo Koo Roo, anyone?).
6. Credentials – When a physician passes a medical licensing exam in his state, he’s a doctor. He can practice and earn decent money. But when he becomes board-certified in a specialty, his income goes up. Why? Because he has more credentials. As a psychotherapist, my prestige goes up when it’s known that I am a professor in a graduate school program (USC School of Social Work, MSW program). Earning the additional credential or endorsement increases your overall value as a figure in your field, just like many years of experience will, too. Whenever you can, build your list of credentials, endorsements, licenses, certifications, publications, associations, and any other connections you can think of to prestigious resources. They just “look good” because you’ve earned them and it’s “prestige by association” with well-respected organizations and institutions (which is why executives are encouraged to serve on the board of directors of non-profits). Since both your time and money for “self-improvement” are limited, part of career coaching can be talking out how you identify, evaluate, and implement your options for undertaking more credentials, such as graduate degrees, certificate programs, vocational licensing, or relocation. Evaluating your options with someone else’s help can prevent you from making impulsive or not-thought-out decisions that waste your resources.
7. Rarity/specificity – The more rare your skill set is, and the more it’s needed, the more your salary goes up. For example, I am bilingual in Spanish, and when I graduated from grad school and worked with LA County Department of Mental Health, many of its clinics’ clients were indigent immigrants who were monolingual in Spanish. And yet they needed help. So, because MSW-level social workers who spoke Spanish, particularly male ones, were rare, they offered a small but still appreciated “bilingual differential” to my salary. Those who are willing to work a graveyard shift sometimes get a “night differential” because few want to work those hours. During the military’s ban on LGBT servicemembers during “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell”, our country’s security was at risk because the relatively rare Arab linguists who were LGBT were forced out, depriving the military of both a rare and needed skill, which led to the end of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” for practical reasons that work roles with rare skill sets needed to be filled. In Hollywood, if you are rare in how you look, speak, act, sing, dance, or move, you can work a lot. Little people have been used for so many kinds of movies, because being a Little Person is genetically/medically rare. However, rarity is only a good thing to earn more IF it is needed. You might be able to provide a great musical score for a silent movies, but that’s not really in demand these days. For earning more, the skill/trait needs to be both rare and valued. Similarly, if you are willing to do something most people simply don’t want to do (garbage collection, dangerous occupations, working in heat/cold, commuting to a “bad” neighborhood, etc.), that will drive up your commercial value in the workplace. Coaching can help you identify where the Sweet Spot of Opportunity is for you. This sweet spot is where what you like to do, what you can do well (well enough to compete successfully), and what the public will hire you to do (there is a market for that) overlap. Many of my clients need help so that they do not overlook their own hidden talents, and can recognize and exploit (in a good way) their unique talents. Ask yourself: What can I do better than anyone else I know? Now, how can I monetize that? (Mrs. Fields? Famous Amos? Martha Stewart? Rachel Ray? Oprah? Charo? Andy Serkis? Vern Troyer? Muhammad Ali? Stephen King?).
8. Networking – Sometimes, earning more money is about finding and keeping the opportunity to do so. Working in isolation in almost all fields will stunt your income growth. Work is an inherently social operation; it takes conversations, meetings, phone calls, emails, texts – in short, it takes relationships with others. In order to earn more, you have to be noticed and be given the opportunity to earn it, and sometimes this opportunity is not “what you know, it’s who you know.” This is why Coca-Cola still advertises well over 100 years after its invention. If Coke didn’t spend millions of dollars a year on advertising, after a while, no one would remember what it was, let alone buy and drink it. So think about this: Who knows you? Who can “vouch” for the type and quality of work that you do? What objective sources would someone who was considering you for a job have to evaluate you? To move up in your own organization, or to move up in your field, to higher-paying positions, you have to be “in good” with whoever it is who is in a position to hire you. Carefully and diplomatically tooting your own horn will help put more money in your bank account; whereas being shy and low-profile, even if your skills are good, will stunt that steady progression of earning more and more until you get old enough to retire (if you want to). Make sure you, and what you can do with your skills, are visible to the right people (think LinkedIn, and how valuable that is, to the American workplace landscape right now).
9. Good Enough – Perhaps the most poignant part about earning more money is actually from the inside, out. What are your core beliefs about money? What were you taught about it growing up? How do you really feel about what you earn? What are your beliefs about what you “deserve”? Would you feel guilty or like the “disloyal kid” if you earned more than your parents (especially your father)? Or more than anyone else in your family? Or more than your best friends? How are your self-worth and your salary related? Do you think wealthy people are “bad” and therefore keeping yourself “not wealthy” automatically makes you “good” by default? Not necessarily. Some great self-help materials can really help you clear your mind about this. Chellie Campbell’s book, The Wealthy Spirit, is fantastic for this, along with her book, From Zero to Zillionaire. Louise Hay’s audio lecture and Q&A about “Receiving Prosperity” is also one of my all-time favorite self-help resources. Even the Finances chapter of my book, Self-Empowerment: Have the Life You Want!, including its “Seven Ways to Take Care of Your Financial Self”, may be helpful. To really address our beliefs about money, which could be driving us rather unconsciously, therapy and coaching can help. If you remove the barriers to success, and MOST of the time these barriers are in our heads, then success is just a logical progression of the consistent application of good skills and the advocacy of our skills to others. One of the ways that I get to do what I like to do and do well, is by writing blog articles about it. It’s not enough to have the skills yourself; you have to advocate and promote those skills for you to have the opportunity to utilize them. For therapists and coaches, helping you helps us, not only by livelihood, but also intrinsic value, which is of course another aspect to consider. Not all compensation is monetary, which is why many people having lower-paying jobs but with high levels of satisfaction. But when the rent/mortgage is due, or your car breaks down, or you have a medical issue, or even when you see something to buy that would just delight you, it’s important to have the means (money) to do it to support your health and your quality of life. Money is not “the root of all evil”, excessive greed that exploits or hurts others is. Money is a neutral resource, like electricity; it’s all about how we apply it. Electricity can be used to warm a premature infant’s incubator, or it can be used in the electric chair to execute someone at a prison. But the element of a electricity stays the same.
If you’re like many people, frustrations about not earning enough for what you really need (or want) can be demoralizing. You might not be able to do everything you want ideally, because we have to live life on life’s terms and accept cultural, political, and economic realities. But when you have career coaching to support you to be at your best, you probably achieve more than you would have going it alone. Consider whether career coaching might support you in your goals. I’m here to help.