Career Takeaways
Personal Finance

My biggest takeaways after working full time for a year

The year 2020 has passed by incredibly fast. It’s already been more than a year since I’ve started my full-time job.

Throughout the past year, I have several important takeaways from my job. I believe these learnings will help me in my future career and hopefully yours too!

Do note that all these points relate to earning a higher income. There are, of course, other important factors in looking for a job such as job satisfaction. What everyone looks out for in a job is different but since this is a personal finance blog, I’ll be focussing on the financial aspects of it.

Ask for more

Always ask for more, whether it’s money or work.

When you first receive the job offer, always negotiate for higher pay. Most people afraid of doing so they are afraid that it will harm the relationship with their future manager. Let me clarify that this is untrue!

To understand why this is the case, you’ll have to first understand how the hiring process works. The hiring manager first has to propose to their boss the manpower that they require. After discussing with the finance team, their boss will approve their request with a budget range.

The hiring manager will likely quote you a number that is on the lower end of that range. This gives them some wiggle room in the negotiation. It will also save the company a little bit of money.

By negotiating your salary, you’re telling your hiring manager that you’re worth more. Your potential manager might also see you as a proactive person.

A few months into work, I found out that I was getting >10% higher in salary than my peers just because I asked for more at the beginning.

This amount compounded over time as pay raises are usually given in percentages of your base pay. As a result, I received a higher dollar amount in pay raise.

If capacity allows, be more proactive in taking up tasks outside of your work scope.

These additional tasks set you apart during performance reviews. As these are not part of your “expected” efforts, they really help in improving your review score.

It also improves your manager’s impression of you. This is what matters as they are the ones grading you and determining your score/salary.

How much you earn is not (fully) determined by your grades

We are no longer living in a world where how much you earn is determined solely by the grades you got in school. It depends more on the field you choose.

Salary depends on demand and supply. If there is a very high demand for a particular industry, salaries in that field will typically trend higher.

If you’re looking for a job that pays well, look into getting a degree in Data Science, Data Analytics or Software Engineering. However, industries will not always be in high demand. It really depends on market trends and what the market needs at that point in time.

This also leads me to the point of up-skilling. Upskilling is definitely good to be relevant, but we should not be learning new skills just for the sake of it.

There are certain skills that are in higher demand such as coding, SEO and digital content creation. These are also skills that are likely to still be relevant in the coming years. If making more money is your goal, then you should be looking to pick up these skills.

Remember that if a skill is harder to acquire, there’s a high chance that it’ll be more rewarding to acquire it. This means that there is a higher barrier to entry, lowering the supply of workers for that field.

There is no such thing as job security

A few months into the job, a pandemic hit the world and the economy went into free fall. Many companies went through retrenchment exercises and mine was no different.

I saw many colleagues or even peers lost their jobs in an instant. Even those who were with the company for a long time were not spared.

This showed me that loyalty meant nothing when companies have to cut their employees to stay lean during times of crisis. We as employees should also see our jobs as a transaction and do not overextend our loyalty.

Networking is key

I’ve seen many of my colleagues or peers get good job opportunities through networking. Job proficiency alone is usually insufficient to obtain an interview with the company.

Due to the sheer number of applications top companies get everyday, most of these applications go unnoticed. My personal experience blindly applying for jobs through the company’s job portal or LinkedIn is usually unsuccessful.

At your current workplace, make it a point to set up impromptu coffee meetings. Make small talks with other colleagues that are outside of your lunch group. This way, you can expand your professional network and you’ll never know when they can help you out in the future.

Conclusion

The past year of full-time work has been very fulfilling. I’ve learnt and acquired a lot of useful knowledge from it.

I hope that the article is helpful to those of you who are also just starting out in your careers. There’s still a long journey ahead. With careful planning and positioning, we can surely craft out the ideal career path that we want.

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