Career Advancement and Moving to Work of Higher Value


In my first real job out of school I earned a whopping $13,000.00 per year, at least I think it was per year. I only stayed in that job for a little over a year before doubling my salary by taking a different job in another organization, and then doubling it again with my next move a little over a year after that. It wasn’t the last time.

The rapid increases in salary in my early days had more to do with where the market was for the sorts of skills that that I had acquired by that time rather than the dwindling demand for the skills that my formal education had given me. Soon people began hiring me more for my track record of successful projects, and my attitude and willingness to learn new things, (or rather, to figure out what the customer needs and deliver on that.) I never recall stating that the work was not in my job description as some of my colleagues had done. I was happy to work above my pay grade.

Those meagre beginnings were a lifetime ago. Like many of you, in the early 1980s I was part of a new breed of worker in a world where union jobs and lifetime employment was still the norm. Including those modest first steps, every significant step in my career has been the direct result of my willingness to do the things outside of my formal job description that enabled me to stretch my competencies (I’m not talking about also being willing to wash the toilettes, but instead willing to perform some of the duties of my boss, or those of a vacant more senior position when the opportunities arose).

My willingness was one of the keys to career growth that gave me the exposure to new skills and new ways of thinking that I would never have learned if not for my attitude. Meanwhile many of my colleagues who preferred to stick to work within a smaller comfort zone found that their jobs eventually disappeared as they not only failed to progress, but also to adapt to changes in demand for their skills. Some went back to school again in order to change direction. Others took safe jobs in other positions or industries where their low salary reflected the poor fit of their past experience and the relative commodity of workers in those areas. The ones that took risks and stretched their comfort zone excelled beyond the norm.

I’m not recommending that you leave your employer or go back to school, but what I am recommending is that you recognize that work evolves and so should you.

About Wayne McKinnon

Wayne McKinnon works with organizations to change their course of evolutions from extinct to distinct
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