Compensation is one of the “5 C’s” key to your career — no surprise there, right?
But it might surprise you to find out what increased my compensation. Towards that end, I plotted my compensation over my career to figure out what caused it to go up (and down).
Above is my income data from 1989 to the present (with the income (exact amounts hidden) in the vertical axis and the years in the horizontal axis).
The key takeaways on what caused my pay increases were:
1) Joining A New Company
In my early years, the main way my pay increased was when I joined a new company. They tended to give me a higher salary just to join them.
My compensation increased when I agreed to take on a role that offered both salary and commissions.
This was the first time I made any money beyond salary. I loved it because my commissions were calculated based on metrics I needed to hit (i.e. revenue objectives).
Similarly, in one role I was able to participate in a bonus program that, like commissions, paid me when I reached certain goals. This increased my compensation.
Finally, as I began to take more senior roles at companies I had the opportunity to add equity (i.e. stock) as part of my compensation.
I was able to sell this equity later on which increased my income.
Note: I did have to sacrifice my salary to get in the position to obtain equity, but this was worth it for my long-run compensation.
What If I’m Not Eligible For Commissions, Bonus Or Equity?
I believe that everyone has the opportunity to increase their pay through non-salary items such as commissions, bonus and equity.
While my background is in sales and marketing, I know engineers, product managers and content/editors who have worked these compensation things out with their manager (it helps to pick an awesome hiring manager!).
If your current employer doesn’t offer these options for pay, you might consider finding an employer that does.
If you limit your pay to just salary, you will have limited increases to your compensation.