When it comes to early financial independence, unlike some people, I do feel like there are shortcuts there. And should opportunities present themselves to you along the way, you owe it to yourself to exploit them as much as possible. Because the fact of the matter is, if you don’t, someone else will…
For most of us, in order to get to the top of the summit, we will have to make the bulk of our progress working for someone else. Since a great majority of people get their start in Corporate America, there’s really no way to escape the traditional pyramid (hierarchy) system that’s in place where we all have to answer to a boss, or “superior” early on in our careers. The rules are the rules… We can either learn and adapt to them, or get abused every step of the way.
The choice is ours.
In my old life as an engineer, I’ve made it no secret to anyone that the majority of the success that I achieved was made through the means of “job hopping”. What is “job hopping”? It’s exactly as it sounds — I jumped from one company to another to another… Routinely and regularly… Every single chance that I got, I took it. And each new time around, I always had the intent of scoring: a larger salary (15%+), a fat signing bonus ($15,000+), more RSUs, stock options, etc.
Sure, many years ago, it might have been taboo or shameful for someone to admit such a thing… But today? No way, we live in the Information Age, and what works… works. I have no interest in bullsh!tting any of you readers, so I’m just going to tell you exactly how it is. In Corporate America, you either look out for yourself, or you get eaten alive… It’s very a much a dog-eat-dog world out there.
My Old Co-Worker
Please don’t get me wrong here — I am NOT advocating anyone resort to shady tactics to get ahead in life! No, I’m NOT telling you to do anything illegal… No under the table type of dealings or anything like that… All that I’m saying is that you have to learn to recognize your own self worth. No matter who you are, and no matter what it is that you do, you’re probably more valuable to your company than you realize.
In my younger days, I once job hopped to Newport Beach to work for a semiconductor company in that area. During my short stay there, I met a fellow engineer who was a few years younger than me. This guy was from China and had just recently graduated with a M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from UC Irvine, a highly regarded university in California. I worked alongside him only briefly, but it didn’t take long for this guy to impress me. Every day, he would show up to work earlier than everyone else, and he would oftentimes grind it out in the lab until after dinner, when most of our other co-workers had already clocked out for the day. How do I know this? I hustled alongside him much of the time…
The only difference was, I had joined this company as an outsider. As such, they had to “wine and dine” me to secure my services. In other words, they gave me the “fat package” that I was after. So, in that sense, yeah, I owed the company, and it was only fair that I do my part and give them 110%… But my co-worker? He was converted from intern to full-time, and he had only ever known this company… For him, because he was an internal promotion, he got: a minuscule 5% raise, no stock options, no signing bonus, no RSUs, close to nothing… While I was walking around at the time just a notch below “senior” engineer, this guy was engineer level I, at best…
But that all didn’t seem to matter to my co-worker… He was just grateful he had such a “wonderful” job, so he was always more than content to keep on playing his role as the hard-working, obscure engineer. That suited him just fine… The only problem with that? It suited our boss just fine as well.
Over the course of the next year, I got to witness first-hand, “corporate abuse”. My boss and his boss would feed this guy task on top of task, non-stop. My old co-worker was an automation guru, so his “superiors” loved to leverage his skills to the max. They argued, if he could keep on automating various laborious, manual lab routines (that until he arrived on the scene needed to be performed by a technician or intern), he could essentially do the job of 5 workers… So, they indulged in lab equipment, machines, the works, and just kept telling my old co-worker to keep on writing automation scripts…
And it wasn’t before long that all his hard work started to pay dividends for the company. Productivity went through the roof because of those automation scripts… And the bosses were looking pretty damn smart… They were routinely lauded with praise, one of them got promoted into senior management, and although I can’t confirm this, I’m pretty certain they each got a big fat pay raise, or bonus along the way… As for my old buddy?
He worked harder, harder, and harder. There were times I would stopby the company on a weekend to hit the gym, and I would venture off into the lab (sometimes) to pick up a jacket, or something that I had left behind… Almost every single time I went in there, my old co-worker was busy at work… Still grinding it out on a freekin’ weekend!
Man, I could not believe what I was seeing…
I confided in another co-worker buddy of mine, and we both agreed that this guy was being royally shafted…
And although I’ve always known full well that the corporate world is COLD, I had no idea that it could be this bad…
This “lab rat” was a ROCK STAR, and they were treating him no better than most interns!
Before I left this company for good, I always made sure to put in an AWESOME word and strong rec for this guy… I went to bat for him as best I could, but deep down, I knew that unless this guy ever spoke up for himself, he would never get fair market value for all his hard work.
Not by a long shot…
Look, I’m not going to tell you that I had the whole corporate game all figured out, but I will say this — Early on in my career, I knew that I had to value my work because if I didn’t, I knew damn well that no one else ever would.
Unlike my old co-worker, I always made sure to advertise and promote my creations (credentials). Just like him, I was a “lab rat” and pretty handy with writing automation software. I am seriously not trying to boast or anything like that, but as good as my old buddy was, I was a mentor to him. But the difference between us was that I knew that my work had value and I always made sure to use it as leverage wherever I went…
And it’s not about being smug, or arrogant, or conceited, or anything like that… But if you’re gonna bust your ass all day long, and work on your craft for many, many, many years, and then you do get pretty freekin’ good at it, well, you of all people had better recognize that fact!
I knew my work was legit.
I knew my work brought immense value to whatever company I was working for.
I knew that I was not easily replaceable.
I knew that I had leverage.
For instance, these days, everyone is hyping up Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors for his 3-point shooting prowess, and for good reason… Perhaps in the entire history of the NBA, there has never been another player who could shoot the rock like he can… But don’t you think he knows that? As polite, cordial, and respectful as he may appear on camera, or in person when you meet him, deep down, you must well believe that this man is indeed a “baby faced assassin”. Steph knows better than anyone else out there how good he really is! When he shoots a 3, he doesn’t even need to watch it go in…
That’s playing with confidence!
That’s playing with swagger!
That’s knowing how to recognize your own game!
And yes, that will lead to a MAX CONTRACT, when the appropriate time comes… Not a penny less!
In the corporate world, you must do exactly that! Know your talent! Know your contributions! And damn well, recognize your true worth and value!
The difference between us and professional ballplayers is that they get to advertise their skills for all too see (both their current employer and the competition) on a daily basis. We don’t!
In my own experience, believe me, someone else out there will GLADLY pay for top-notch talent, if your employer is too stupid to do so. But if you never let anyone else know that you exist, then for all intents and purposes, you don’t!!!
By the time I finally decided to walk away from engineering for good, I had pushed my own market value to north of $200,000/year. I started my career out as an intern earning maybe $65,000/year.
Do you really believe that such a figure would have been possible for me if I didn’t fight tooth and nail for it? There was no cheating, deception, or any kind of funny business going around… My talents had real value in the workplace, and I was always more than happy to shop that around to get top dollar.
Even now, I have no doubt that I could get a job at almost any high-tech company…
It’s just confidence… maybe a tiny bit of swagger, but there is absolutely a time and place for that!
Recognize your own game for what it is and don’t ever sell yourself short! Because if you do, chances are, you’ll end up like my old buddy who is most likely still working for the same company for the same low pay.
Photo Credit: NBC Sports