Do you look for every financial edge you can get? Do you use coupons, shop for savings account rates and research stocks? All of these are important, but you also shouldn't overlook how sensible career management techniques can help boost the amount of money you receive in the first place.
What's at stake is your chance to get ahead financially. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the past 10 years (as of June 30, 2013), total civilian compensation had risen by just 29.3 percent. Over the same period, inflation rose by 27.1 percent, meaning compensation has barely kept pace with inflation. If you aren't making an extra effort to get ahead, chances are you are just treading water.
Managing a career intelligently
What kind of career management steps can help? Here are seven examples:
- Get the right credentials. It's generally known that getting a college degree can help your earning power. However, don't pursue education blindly. Before you decide on a degree, check out the wages and job growth in related professions. Also, make sure the degree you are pursuing is one that hiring managers in that profession view as valuable.
- Keep your skills up-to-date. Don't assume that your education ends once you get into the workplace -- especially if your job involves technical skills. With technology advancing at a rapid pace, you have to make an effort to advance with it or you will be left behind.
- Understand what adds value. Don't take a narrow view of your job. Understand where it fits into the organization, and how it adds value. Knowing how your efforts support the objectives of the company can help make you more valuable to that company, and also might make your day-to-day work more fulfilling.
- Clarify your performance goals. Try to have your supervisor be as specific as possible about what you are supposed to accomplish, and what level of performance would be considered above-average. This will help ensure that you and your employer are on the same page about the quality of your efforts.
- Know your market value. Even if you aren't considering changing jobs, look at the market for your position so you have a feel for what compensation levels are and how much demand there is for that type of work. You might also look at this more broadly, by researching whether there is stronger demand for your skills in another part of the country if the market where you work is not very encouraging.
- Negotiate constructively. Putting some time and effort into how you negotiate your raises come review time can pay off in higher wages throughout the year. Don't approach these negotiations as an adversarial process. The constructive approach is to state your case factually in terms of goals accomplished, value added and the going pay for your abilities.
- Bank your raises. Getting raises is the best opportunity to improve savings rates, because you won't miss money that you didn't have before. Banking your raises in a high-interest savings or money market account can help compound the wealth-building impact of those raises.
Think of your career as a form of investment: You have to put something into it, manage it carefully and understand its value, but doing those things will likely help you get a better return.