In September of 2011 I moved into my first apartment, post break up with the father of my child. I was making $8.65/hr plus tips being a barista at a drive thru only Starbucks. I loved my job. I had a manager who was nearly the same age as me and all my co-workers meshed well together, I even grew to call some of them my friends. I looked forward to going to work because every day was a lot of laughs sprinkled in with hard work. My rent was $765 a month not including utilities and although I had to combine my bi-weekly paychecks to pay it all, I was comfortable and happy.
My only complaint was my unpredictable schedule. With a small toddler, who was spending more and more time away from mom at pre-school I hated having to take her to school on my days off and most of the time I didn’t. But being the futurist I am, I knew I couldn’t maintain this balance forever, especially when my daughter started elementary school, I decided it was time to find the dreaded 9-5.
Ahead of the millennial wave, when social media was still in its infancy, working a 9-5 was not the curse we’ve made it out to be. For many of us that are still in school building skills, trying to identify what our passion is, or just trying to keep a roof over our heads, a stable job with moderate pay is still essential. I had a limited work history and an incomplete college degree I had to formulate a plan.
In a year I managed to grow my salary from $18,000/yr to 35,000/yr. Present day, I’ve made the leap from $35,000/yr to $57,000/yr. I did this all by strategizing and making pay my priority. I started with a temp agency and sorted through a ton of Craigslist I worked 7 jobs in the span of 18 months, in a variety of fields. From hospitality to start ups to marine insurance. I finally landed a job I wanted to keep at the Federal Home Loan Bank in their Business Technology department. I did well but not great enough to stay on with the bank permanently.
After leaving the bank I did a two year stint at the biggest retailer in the world, Amazon.com, which took my resume and profile from random submission to recruited candidate. I now work as an Executive Assistant at a prestigious University and my goals are bigger still. Read below to find what three rules I’ve carried with me.
Always be Impressive, Never Impressed
Being Black in corporate America has often called for ass kissing but I don’t partake in that tradition. What I choose to focus my time and talent on is doing the job and doing it well. While my movement in my varied positions has been lateral, my pay has always increased. Why? Because I focus on building skills more so than being impressed. My boss is my boss, no amount of ego stroking and praise will change that. I can influence my boss with my value. Once you’ve established yourself as a valuable employee, you gain more flexibility to take on projects that of one’s self interest. Self-directed projects allow you to learn new skills outside of those which fit your job description, which makes you an even more valuable employee.
Collect Skills not Contacts
Happy hours are weaved into the structure of the corporate world. A great opportunity to network and build relationships with your co-workers, being introverted (like myself) makes this difficult. If your goals are similar to mine and your more focused on entrepreneurship than a promotion, your attention would be better used building skills. As I stated in the previous paragraph building skills creates value. Gaining new skills also gives you well rounded experience to take on several aspects of managing your own business. Gaining new skills can increase your pay without taking on an entirely new position.
Create an Undeniable Resume
Resumes are your first impression. You want to make sure you’re as impressive as possible. You always want to align your resume to the job or industry you are applying for. Study the job description and extract the skill you’ve perfected in your previous roles. Use varied but relevant vocabulary and keep your resume confined to one page. An impeccable resume will get your foot in the door and the rest is up to you and your interview skills. I’m far more charming in person, at least when I can talk about myself.
Stay tuned for more tips on networking and resume building, but I hope my readers have found this useful.
Love & Light