The Job Search Money Trap
Earlier in my career, I took a job because it allowed me to start shifting my career in another direction. I wasn’t in love with it but knew it was a good move for me. About 1.5 years into the role, I took a chance and expressed an interest in doing something else within my company. While the results didn’t come immediately, one day my boss approached me about taking on a different type of assignment. I had minimal amounts of experience in this area, but knew it was another stepping stone to something greater for me so I took it.

Nine months later, I was approached by an executive of another department and asked to take on yet another assignment – a recruiting manager role. This was the big time! Although the years before had consisted of me being a sales representative, business analyst and trainer, I had done recruiting throughout all of them. I knew Human Resources recruiting was where I really wanted to be, so I was excited about the opportunity yet also very nervous.

“What if I failed at it?”

“What if I didn’t enjoy it the way I thought I would?”

“How would I recover?”

“What would I do then?”

At that point in my career, this was my dream job. And because it seemed too good to be true, I almost walked away from it because of fear. However, a mentor helped me assess the opportunity and encouraged me to take a chance. Good thing I did too because I was able to negotiate an almost 40% base pay increase! I knew then as I know now that because I was willing to take a chance and try new roles, it set the foundation for my “opportunity of a lifetime.” And, because of the experience I had gained in those previous assignments, I was also rewarded with a hefty pay increase.

While people often take on new jobs for a myriad of reasons, the hope of a larger paycheck is always there. The problem is people often ignore the big picture when it comes to career moves and get fixated on symbolic salary increases which end up trapping them in assignments that don’t really reward them or take them anywhere worthwhile. If you want to know one of the BEST ways to advance your paycheck, here are three simple steps I encourage you to follow:

1.Approach your career strategically. In my 25 years of working with candidates (and coworkers!), I was amazed at how tactical most people were about their career. I saw so many people take or pursue assignments for very short-sighted reasons and ultimately end up not much better off financially, and not very happy with their career. If you know where you want to be long term (e.g. 5-10 years) and select assignments strategically, you can make smarter moves that will better position you for bigger payoffs.

2.Assess every opportunity with one question. If you are a strong performer, different opportunities will come your way. But, this doesn’t mean they are the right opportunity for you at that time. When you know your long-term career goal(s), you should assess every opportunity you encounter with this question, “Based on where I want my career to go, will this opportunity help me to get there?” By asking yourself this question, it will help you to stay focused on your bigger goals and bigger payoffs.

3.Take a chance. Yes, taking the plunge can be scary and not every opportunity that comes your way will give you the big payoff. But, could it set you up for it? I took an assignment once that was considerably more responsibility and was only going to pay me 4% more per year. However, it was an opportunity to not only run a recruiting department, I would have the responsibility of building it from scratch. I knew having that on my resume would set me apart from my competition and make me even more marketable for the next opportunity – I was right. When I decided to leave, my next employer paid me considerably more….because of my experience.

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? On the surface, it appeared the hare would easily win the race, but because he didn’t stay focused on his goal, he lost to a tortoise that did. If you identify a career goal and remain focused on it, you will not only win financially in the end, you’ll also enjoy what you’re doing. You can certainly hop around making frequent moves in your career but, if they aren’t smart moves, you might still lose the race.