The Do's and Don'ts of Maximizing Your Workplace Earning Potential

There's an important conversation taking place right now about the pay wage disparity between women and their male counterparts.  This topic impacts millions of people and hopefully, the public conversations that are taking place will bring about real change in how pay wages are determined.

Until then, I'd like to give you a few tips based on my experience as an HR Manager on how you can increase your personal salary.
Over my relatively short stint in corporate America, I was involved in countless salary conversations.  I've seen it all. Salary negotiations at hire, merit increase convos, etc.  I've also had access to the salaries of thousands of employees (including those who were above my pay grade).

Based on my experience, there are certain instances in which you have control over increasing your salary and other instances where your options are limited.  I'd like to share my best advice on how you can maximize your earning potential.

First things first, the worst way to grow your salary in corporate America, in my opinion, is by working for the same company for countless years.  You may think this an admirable act. But it's one of the most ineffective strategies and will hurt you in the long run.  When I first was granted access to employee salaries, one thing I realized is that the most tenured employees weren't always the highest paid.  I was shocked to find employees who have been with the company for decades making what they make.  I didn't quite understand.

After a while, I realized that working the same position for extended periods of time could be detrimental to your earning potential.  If you look at your career path from a strategic point of view, one of your ultimate goals should be to maximize your earning potential.  In my experience, it's darn near impossible to maximize your potential if you work with the same employer (in the same position) for more than 3 years.  Their goal is to get the most out of you while increasing your wage by an average 3% year after year.  And, if the company is struggling, pay increases might even limited.

Meanwhile, others are taking the strategic approach and are making more than you (even if you're working harder). Whenever I brought on a new employee, I tried to be as fair as possible and pay them around the same dollar amount as those currently in the organization with around the same amount of experience.  With that said, we still paid someone a little extra if they worked for a reputable or well-regarded company.  The perception was that you were bringing solid experience with you.  But if you grow up in the company, your internal experience isn't as valued as the experience one brings with them.

If you want to make as much as possible while working for the same company, your only option is to take on multiple promotions.  I've seen it happen with my own eyes.  I've processed pay increases for people who went from making mediocre wages to over six figures plus bonuses. They maximized their earning potential by taking on additional responsibilities.   If you don't plan on becoming one of the big wigs, there are other ways to impact your earings.

When I first entered the workplace, I turned down a job similar position at a major hospital because I figured the corporate world open up more opportunities.  Even though the other position offered a higher starting wage, I guessed that swimming in a bigger pond could offer me more opportunities to climb the corporate ladder.  If you work for a company without much room to grow, you should weigh the pros and cons of continuing down your current path.  Observe others who've worked at the organization for many years.  Are they constantly complaining about how much they make?  This is a telltale sign. Yes, everyone wishes they can make more, but if people who've been there longer than you think they are underpaid, you might be looking at your potential future.

Another option you have is to just ask for a raise.  In my opinion, simply asking for more money isn't the most effective option.  Most often, we ask for raises from a place of feeling lack.  Sometimes we feel underappreciated or taken advantage of.  Because of this, our message isn't received by upper management the way we'd like.  It just looks like we're (selfishly) asking for more.  Timing is everything.  Negotiating your salary after a stellar review is much more effective than asking for a raise out of the blue.

An alternative strategy is for you to take on positions where your earnings are directly tied to your performance.  Most folks like to stay away from positions with sales goals.  Understandably, you're afraid that won't do well.  But, on the flip side, people who do well in sales are some of the wealthiest. It's simple, if you bring more money into the company, you'll get a cut.  Nowadays there are plenty of resources and videos online that can teach you to become effective at generating sales.  I believe everyone should have some exposure to driving sales.  It's an ultra-valuable asset to have.  Selling a skill set that will earn you money for years to come.

While you're still employed, take a look around at how much other organizations are paying for "new talent."  Corporate America believes in paying the best for high-quality talent.  If you're performing well at your job now, you might be considered rare talent by the next potential employer.  The key is to do exceedingly well where you are now, then move into a higher paying role internally or see how much you're worth to someone else.  The times when I experienced the greatest pay hikes in my career was when I left for my employer to take on a position with greater responsibility somewhere else.

Ten years ago, the only suggestion I had for those who wanted to earn more was to strive for a promotion.  Nowadays, I invite you to explore the idea of generating money on your own.  You don't have to quit your job. But working isn't the only way to make money.  When I used to process payroll, I realized that some employees lived and died by their paycheck, while others saw it as another of their many income streams. 

Prior to leaving my position, I asked my supervisor for a raise.  I did it as a sign of solidarity because my peers were also asking for pay increases.  In the back of my mind, I knew that these increases weren't likely and, honestly, I didn't care because my business was growing at a decent pace.

In 2018, your goal should be to generate income (no matter how big/small) from a source other than your employer.  You can start small by saying, "I'd like to earn enough non-paycheck income to fill my gas tank."  Then progress from there.   Just know that we live in an ideal environment to create the type of income we desire. The barrier to entry is low so why not take this opportunity to develop a side hustle that helps elevate your lifestyle?


  1. Thank you so much for this! It is really helpful to have your perspective as a former HR manager.
    Do you have any advice about quitting a job? I've been quitting mine for almost a year because of low pay, poor management, and other issues, but not having a side huddle/another job has kept me here.

    1. I have so much to say on this topic, but in the mean time, I recommend you check out this post ASAP!

    2. A powerful post and definitely what I needed to hear.
      I can't tell you enough how much of a blessing your blog has been to me. Thank you! I look forward to reading more.

  2. This article is so timely, I just started applying for jobs in the HR field in the last two months. Do you have any other links that discuss working and hiring in HR? Thanks

  3. Thank you so much for this, I'm going to read your whole career/finance tab. I Graduated college this year and I'm trying to absorb as much as I can.

  4. your blog is sooo underated!! i had no idea that you worked in HR. Please provide more posts regarding this subject!


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