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What's Better Than a Big Fat Paycheck?

Whats Better Than a Big Fat Paycheck
No, this isn't an eyeball-catching headline to get you to click. I'm really going to prove to you why, if you spend your career focused on salary, you'll lose out big-time in the long run.

Yes, I know that times are hard and paychecks pay the bills. I get that. I have bills too. But if that's your primary job criteria, you'll never get ahead of the game and you'll be living hand to mouth your entire life.

Even worse, you'll always wonder why so many people are doing better than you and what you did wrong. That's no way to live. And just so we're clear, I'm not saying money doesn't matter. Are you kidding? The goal here is to achieve financial success, enjoy the process, and feel good about the result.

What I am saying is that, when it comes to your career, you need to look at the big picture. If your focus is too myopic or narrow, you won't achieve big things. For example, a higher salary doesn't trump working at a company with greater opportunity to advance to the next level. Make sense?

You see, this isn't the latest business school blab, some professor's research study, or a survey from Monster or Manpower. This is serious stuff - real career advice that really works in the real working world. Okay, now that I've teed this up, it's time to deliver the goods.

10 Things More Important Than Your Salary

  1. Your goals. Yogi Berra said, "If you don't know where you're going, you may not get there." He was right. You need to have goals and a plan. You can revise them anytime, but you need to have them and focus. If you're smart, opportunistic, adaptable, and work hard, you'll achieve great things ... including financial success.
  2. Loving what you do. From a Steve Jobs Stanford University commencement speech: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."
  3. The company you work for. If I have one secret to career success, it's this. Think of every company as a possible rocket ship to the moon. Sure, you've got to get on the ship, but if the ship can't get you there, what's the point? Work for a winning company where you'll have room to advance or a cool startup where you can wear lots of hats. You have choices. Exercise them.
  4. How opportunistic you are. Given the choice between skill at negotiating a fat comp package and being adept at creating your own opportunities and making your own luck, I'd choose the latter in a heartbeat. That's the gift that keeps on giving for your entire career.
  5. How hard you work. These days it's more popular to talk about working smart than working hard. You need to do both. Success does not come without hard work. Period. You need to be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals.
  6. Your attitude. If you believe you're entitled to what you didn't work for, you may get it, but that's all you'll get, and it won't be much. If, on the other hand, you earn everything you get, are willing to work your tail off to get that promotion, and have a can-do attitude no matter what's asked of you, you'll kick butt, guaranteed.
  7. Making an impact on the business. Business is about business, and the closer you get to making a real impact on the business, the more valuable you'll be to the company, the more opportunities for growth and advancement you'll have, and the more money you'll make.
  8. Opportunity to get out and network. If you're locked away behind a desk all day long, your opportunities are limited. But a job where you can get out into the industry and network and schmooze is like gold to a young up-and-comer. In terms of future opportunity, it's worth far more than a fat paycheck.
  9. Equity ownership. In my experience, salary pays the bills and bills have a funny way of rising to meet your salary. Equity, on the other hand, is a potential windfall that, by definition, you absolutely cannot count on until it's liquid. It also adds an element of diversity to your income since it's based on the whole company's performance, not just yours.
  10. Pay for performance. Salary is only part of the compensation picture. If you're aggressive and believe in yourself, you can benefit more from a healthy, well-structured, and somewhat open-ended bonus plan where your goals are clear and achievable and you can knock them out of the park.
Bottom line: if you focus on these 10 things instead of your salary, you'll do far better in the long run. Especially financially. No kidding.

One more thing. Clearly, if you're challenged, gratified, engaged, like your boss, have better benefits, flexible conditions, etc., you'll be happier and do better in the long run. That sort of goes without saying, n'est-ce pas?

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