How to Maximize your Income

One of the harsh realities of the new millennium is a dearth of good-paying jobs, even for college grads.  It’s obvious middle-class jobs are quickly disappearing and being replaced by low-paying retail and service jobs.  Wage erosion is only going to get worse in the future.  Here is how to survive and get paid a living wage.

Career Tips for Millennials

Working Hamster in a Retail Window

Image by Ludovic Bertron

Have a Plan – The best advice I can give anyone who is starting out in life is to have a career plan.  Drifting through work life, changing jobs frequently or shifting careers aimlessly will almost certainly ensure you will underperform and be underpaid.  Choosing a sound career path, working towards the requirements for that career and demonstrating employment stability will almost certainly ensure you will have above average pay and opportunity.  It all starts with a plan and the follow through that meets your career goals.

Appear Employable – Nothing shouts minimum wage potential like visible tattoos and piercings.  I know they are becoming more acceptable to some people in society, but those people usually aren’t hiring managers.  In a professional environment, they aren’t very professional.  The same can be said for extreme clothing, hair, makeup or appearance.  Employers usually have a choice of many candidates and they often choose the ones who will fit in and work well with others.  Avoid any visual clues that can be used to disqualify you, before you even get your foot in the door.  If you have to be a rebel, keep the tats hidden.

Get Promoted – For many years I was a lowly Systems Analyst, while I dreamed of being an IT Manager.  I was certainly qualified for the job, but no one was going to hire me, because I didn’t have the title.  So, I got myself promoted, which changed everything.  Soon, employers and headhunters were calling me with offers for jobs I was previously considered unsuitable.  The truth is, only my title was unqualified.  I was more than ready and performed well in those jobs.

Upward Mobility – This ties into another critical factor in your career, working for companies with upward mobility.  It’s nearly impossible to get promoted from a dead end job at a stagnant company.  If you want to get ahead, you need to make sure you choose an employer that can provide career opportunities for you.

Career Tips for Students

A college education no longer guarantees a good job.  Some college degrees barely generate enough income to cover the student loans.  Fine Arts and Philosophy degrees aren’t well received, even from prestigious schools.  It’s more critical than ever for students to pursue in-demand majors in growth fields.  Otherwise, they will be chasing a dwindling number of jobs with substandard pay.

Top Majors – STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  These are currently the highest paying majors, often by a wide margin.  If a college major is hard to complete, it’s probably going to pay pretty well.  If it’s easy, it probably won’t.  Americans have become lazy students and they don’t want to take the courses for hard sciences and engineering.  That means fewer qualified people are competing for these high-paying jobs and the demand is growing.

  1. Computer Engineering
  2. Chemical Engineering
  3. Computer Science
  4. Aerospace Engineering
  5. Mechanical Engineering
  6. Electrical Engineering
  7. Civil Engineering
  8. Finance
  9. Construction Science
  10. Information Systems

Source: Forbes

Growth Fields – My niece wanted to major in Journalism, but she quickly figured out those jobs were disappearing.  So, she is studying Nursing instead.  There is no sense in wasting a lot of time and money studying for an obsolete career.

  1. Biomedical Engineers
  2. Network Systems Analysts
  3. Home Health Aide
  4. Personal Care Aides
  5. Financial Examiners
  6. Medical Scientists
  7. Physician’s Assistant
  8. Skin Care Specialists
  9. Biochemists & Biophysicists
  10. Athletic Trainers

Source: Career Path

Automation & Outsourcing – I worked with a guy 10 years ago who had a great career in Software QA, until they shipped most of those jobs overseas.  At my last job, I had three programmers that reported to me from Bangalore.  Most of the jobs that can be done remotely will be outsourced for cheaper labor.  Most of the jobs that can be automated will be very soon.  Choose your profession wisely.

Start a Business – My Mom went to night school for 11 years to get a business degree.  But, back in the 80s, most of the jobs available to women were secretarial.  So, she started her own tax and bookkeeping business, which she sold when she retired.  The moral of the story is if you don’t like the wages and opportunities being offered to you, you can always create your own.  It has never been easier to start out moonlighting and turn your side-gig into a full time income.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that you can definitely affect the size of your income, by carefully managing your career.  Once you achieve that higher income, be sure to save and invest some of it, so you can live a more prosperous life.

“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.”

Jane Austen

Recommended Reading

Don’t Quit your Day Job – Athletes are Still Underpaid
Modest Money – Out of the Box Way to Pay Off Debt
Wealth Informatics – How to Escape the Minimum Wage Hamster Wheel

12 comments to How to Maximize your Income

  • The jobs situation is slightly alarming no doubt about that, more than ever youngsters should be smart when chosing their majors and career paths. Personally I prefer the last option – start a business, its not only something that you’ll enjoy and grow, but you also sorta determine what you earn (or want to).
    Appreciate the mention!
    Simon @ Modest Money recently posted..How Not Being Careful Almost Cost Me $1200+My Profile

    • I have had businesses and side gigs for the past 25 years and I highly recommend it. Not only has the money helped, but the knowledge gained is very useful. I have always dreamed of going it alone, but I have the best job of my career right now.
      Bret recently posted..Rainy Days Come at the Worst TimeMy Profile

  • “I worked with a guy 10 years ago who had a great career in Software QA, until they shipped most of those jobs overseas. At my last job, I had three programmers that reported to me from Bangalore. Most of the jobs that can be done remotely will be outsourced for cheaper labor”

    I was told this by my mother after the .com bust, and there’s a HUGE need for US software developers and QA engineers. As someone who has managed projects with components outsourced to India and other places, the results are as garbage as the low salaries — you pay for what you get. Want a system you can’t change? By all means, outsource to low-paying countries and see where you end up =P

    • Thanks for stopping by Greg.

      I was out of work for six months during the dotcom crash. Luckily, IT recovered faster than some of the other fields. Those were crazy times.

      I agree that some of the jobs that were outsourced are starting to come back. But, that didn’t help the people whose jobs disappeared almost overnight and were gone for a decade. My friend had to sell his condo and move to Arizona.

      I always prefer working with local programmers, but I didn’t have a choice at my last job. My guys from India were very educated, talented and professional. They produced good code for me.
      Bret recently posted..How to Maximize your IncomeMy Profile

  • MAX

    Have a plan. Get promoted.

    Those are the two takeaways I definitely agree with. I hope more young professionals realize the importance of thinking about your career plan early in your life to always be on track. Some people just go on with life unprepared and just “going with the flow” only to realize that the flow didn’t work in their favor.

    • Hey Max,

      Luckily, I stumbled upon a career field I really loved when I was 21 years old. I give the “Have a Plan” advice to anyone young who will listen. Like you, I think it’s the natural state for people to drift along in life. But, it’s not very productive, while opportunities are slipping away.
      Bret recently posted..How to Avoid Bad Financial AdviceMy Profile

  • I am definitely going to look up to your “Career Tips” plan for my son’s upcoming college years. Thanks for your advice.

  • I’ll vote for oil and gas being a growth field. At least for the next 10 years or so.
    101 Centavos recently posted..Coffee Break: Nu Skin Gets Flayed in ChinaMy Profile

    • I agree Centavos. All of this fracking has led America to become the top oil producer in the world, surpassing Saudi Arabia. Just when there was talk of peak oil, it seems like we are producing more than ever. I have a friend who moved to North Dakota and is making good money.
      Bret recently posted..You are Wealthier than you ThinkMy Profile

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