While growing up, I didn’t have the benefit and guidance of a mentor nor a big brother. So I was left to fend for myself and to explore my own career choices when I grew up (I would say that was about the age of 23 or so). Fortunately, I had two things that worked in my favour when I was young. I was pretty good at math and I knew that no matter what industry that I will be working in, I’ll need to have a solid set of business skills (such as public speaking, leadership, communication, problem-solving, etc.) to complement my main technical skills. With those two factors deeply entrenched in me, applied to study and got my Honours Mathematics and Business Administration degree at the University of Waterloo. When I got my first job back in late 2003, my starting salary was $35,000 per year. It took me about ten years to reach the six-figure income level and fourteen years from my graduation date to save a million dollars. Now that I am looking back and reflecting on my path to get from where I was to where I am right now, I sometimes wondered, “What if I had a mentor or a big brother to guide me? Would I have been able to achieve something better than what I have achieved now?” I may never get the real answer to that question, but it motivated me to think that maybe I can be that mentor or big brother to someone out there. And that thought led me to write this step-by-step guide on how to save your first million dollars or the second million (this is part of my Freedom 48 Journey where I will share with my readers) and be the mentor or big brother to someone who needs a bit of financial guidance. So, here is the first part of my Saving A Million Dollar Series – The First Step To Saving A Million Dollars.
What Jobs Have The Potential To Make More Than $100,000 Annually?
In order to save a million dollars, most likely, you’ll have to make more than a million dollars in your lifetime. I know some lucky people may win the lottery or get a million dollars in inheritance by the time they turn 19 (or you can marry a millionaire), but for the rest of us, we’ll have to earn our million dollars the conventional way – by working for it. (Some may choose the entrepreneur path to achieve this goal, but that was not a path that I took to save a million dollars so I am not qualified to write about it as I did not have the experience.) To start, we can research the jobs/career that has the potential to make the six figures salary a year in the industry that we want to build a career in. Nowadays, most of the online job sites like Workopolis, Monster or Salary have salary information for all industry groups. It only takes a little bit of effort to see if the work that you are interested in has that million dollars potential.
Assess Your Capabilities Honestly
When I was in grade/high school, I could pitch a baseball pretty well and I thought I was pretty good at it and I could one day be the starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and make millions a year. Realistically, that would never happen for a few reasons. First of all, I was only playing leisurely with a few friends in the schoolyard and never really played any organized competitive baseball. Secondly, I was a little shrimp comparing to everyone else at my age (the average Major Leaguer is about six feet tall and I am, well, let’s just say not that tall.) Third, I had pretty good control of where I want to throw the ball, but that’s it. Nothing else. Most of the Major Leaguers have at least three good pitches (fastball, curve, slider, changeup, knuckleball, etc.) in their repertoire and I had zero. When I look back at this dream of mine, it even seems a bit silly right now. So moral of this story is not to be a dream killer to kids out there, but to remind people of an important thing – be honest with yourself when assessing your own potentials. If one dream is not realistic, then build another realistic dream.
Get The Required Training
Whether you are working towards your first career or trying to move to a new one, you’ll need the required education or training in order to perform the basic jobs in that industry. The more relevant your education or training is to the target industry that you want to build a career in, the better the chances that you’ll have to reach that six-figure salary position in that industry. While you are at it, try your very best to come out in the top tier of your class. You’ll have bragging rights with your friends and your future employers.
Acquire The Skill Sets Required To Get Your Dream Job
One common thing that I noticed when was trying to climb the corporate ladder was that hiring managers always ask for the world when they hire. If you read the job posting carefully, then take a step back and ask this question, “If I had all of the requirements for this job, can I get an even higher position than this one?” The most likely answer to this question is: yes. Hell yes. So when you look at the requirement of your dream job and if you don’t have a lot of the required skills, don’t panic. You can use it as a goal and slowly learn those skills when working towards that position. Also, don’t wait till you have all the required skills then start applying for the position. The reason behind it is, if you are not learning, then you are not growing. So how will you learn if you have all the required skills already? The key to getting your dream job is to convince the hiring manager that you can do the job. Even if you don’t have all the required skills, you have the confidence that you will acquire the skills and be able to perform on the job and you will perform very well.
Work Hard To Obtain Industry Designations
Before I joined the workforce, I realized that the bare minimum that I needed was a university degree to start with. It was not the degree that indicated that I was more capable than another candidate. It was a requirement to get me on the list to be considered for certain jobs. In addition, as you move up in your career, you need to work towards the industry designations. Once again, a designation does not necessarily mean that you are more capable than others. It just gives you the opportunity to be considered for the next big gig. The destination can only open the door, but you’ll have to use your skills to get in.
Standout From The Crowd
Throughout my career, I think that I’ve performed quite well at my job. However, I don’t think that I was a star or an outstanding performer at all (maybe that was the reason why I never got any promotions). To maximize your earning potential and promotion opportunities, always perform your job exceptionally well and go above and beyond the minimum duties, even if you are performing a job that no one wants to perform. Also, volunteer to take some workload off your senior peers/managers and perform them exceptionally well. Eventually, you’ll become a very valuable resource at your workplace. And that will eventually lead to better opportunities. There are two blog posts from two personal finance bloggers that I follow, have really good insights into maximizing your earning potentials and opportunities. The posts are: Full Time Finance’s Confessions of a Manager: Tips For Getting A Raise, and Mustard Seed Money’s The Importance of Salary Negotiations.
Connect With People In Your Target Industry
One thing that I felt I didn’t do too well in my career was networking with others in my industry. I don’t think that I made enough connections with people in the industry that I work in and build a good understanding of the requirements for my work. Hence, throughout my career, I never have gotten any official promotions. Every promotion that I got, I had to move to another workplace in order to move up. It was not that I wasn’t capable nor competent nor hard working. It was the industry culture that I worked in. I was usually told that “in order to move up, you needed to work on visible projects and do the work of the next level to be considered.” After a few times, I stopped listening and started to tell myself, “if I want to move up, I’d have to create my own opportunities.” Each time I moved to a new position, the connection that I made in the previous workplace was pretty much lost as I did not maintain it very well. So regardless of how you climb the corporate ladder, always remember to network even if you have moved on to newer and better things in your career.
My two cents
The first step to saving a million dollars is to work towards a career in an industry that will provide you with the potential to earn an annual six figure income and more than a million dollar during your working career. Once you get in the industry, continuously work on developing your skills, network with industry professions, obtain designations and outperform others. All these actions will lead to better chances for career advancement, which will lead to higher earnings potentials and paves the path towards saving a million dollars.
In The Second Step To Saving A Million Dollars, I will provide some insights on how to save your earnings.