Misconstruing salary with professional advancement

I will admit it is difficult to use your life as an example of what not to do, or as James Altucher would say, to bleed.

While I could bleed more deeply over the mistakes I’ve made in my personal life, I want to discuss one mistake I made professionally — misconstruing salary with professional advancement. There are a lot of reasons your employer is willing to increase your salary which may have nothing to do with your marketable value:

For instance:

  • You have skills or proprietary knowledge that is uniquely valuable to the company
  • Upper management or the Board doesn’t want to spook investors with employee or management turnover

Having proprietary skills isn’t necessarily bad, but it is easy to become more valuable to single company because of your knowledge of the business. It is a more subtle when management attempts to create an illusion of stability during transitions (for instance during and after a sale, IPO, etc.) by increasing base salaries and paying sign-on and retention bonuses.

I wasn’t oblivious to the opportunity costs of my decisions, but I still undervalued the chance to advance my career because of my current salary. Most significantly I turned down a position with a non-profit which could have been life changing.

When considering an opportunity look beyond the immediate salary and consider where the new opportunity could take you. Does it open up new pathways which otherwise would be closed to you? Does it lead you to a new market and new contacts whom you might not otherwise meet?

In retrospect, I would have been more willing to make lateral moves earlier on. It can be easy to convince yourself that everything is ok when in fact you are limiting your future options.

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