Earning $0 to $120,000+ in 2.5 Years And How You Can Too

I can’t sit here and say the transition from earning $0 to $58,000 to $120,000+ was just because I’m a badass. I have been very blessed over the years and have had several lucky breaks along the way, but I also worked hard to place myself in a position to become successful. Here is exactly how I made this happen, and hopefully you will be able to find some value in your current role to increase your earnings. Back to the beginning.

March 2016 – Broke and in Debt

This was the time when I realized the startup I was working for was no longer going to cut it. I had over $20,000 in debt, needed to pay the bills, and I wasn’t making any money. Since I was still a fairly recent graduate (May 2015) I decided to double down on the job search and make that my full-time job. I used this tool here in my job search and this post walks through how I went about finding the opportunities. For sake of time I am going to fast forward to that first job.

June 2016 – Started Working

This was when I officially started working at a publicly traded company. I accepted the offer to join the operations team as an “Implementation Consultant.” (Part of the reason I picked this role was to travel. If you are interested in finding a traveling job, check out this prior post). The starting salary was $58,000 a year before taxes.  I had no idea what I was signing up for since this was my first “real job” out of college. I had internships before, but none were related to this field or line of work.

In order to adapt quickly, I went out of my way to learn everything as quickly as I could. I started reading all the product manuals and asking countless questions. Whenever a customer asked me a question that I wasn’t prepared to answer, I would first write the question down. Then I would tell them honestly that I didn’t know the answer just yet, but I would find it as quickly as possible. I found out that people are generally pretty understanding if you don’t know the answer, as long as you are honest and give them a plan for your follow up. Don’t ever try to “wing it” and answer their questions if you aren’t sure, trust me.

April 2017 – Performance Review

I worked as hard as I could from the moment I got hired to earn a promotion or raise (Read First 90 Days). When the time for performance reviews rolled around, I was super excited. My manager had told me countless times that I was a “rockstar with a super bright future.” Well, unfortunately, all of those nice words didn’t correspond with an increase in earning potential. My manager offered me a 1% raise. That’s only $580, and it doesn’t even keep up with the rate of inflation. I realized that I needed to pivot my career or start looking elsewhere to drastically increase my earning potential.

May 2017 – Time to Pivot

A mentor took me under his wing. He mentioned that people in a different part of the company had nearly unlimited potential for growth. Sales. 

Curious to learn more, I set up a call with the manager of the sales development program. I prepared a bunch of questions and asked her all about the role, program, career path, etc. After the conversation, I started preparing to apply for the development program (Development Programs can be a launching pad for your career, check out this post if you haven’t read it yet).

I went through the interview process and was fortunate enough to get an offer letter. However, it required relocation to a new city where I knew no one. I was pretty hesitant about making the move, but the opportunity for growth was too great to pass up.

Jan 2018 – Dec 2018  – Sales

Every year in sales you get a new quota (minimum of deals you need to close). This is usually tied to a compensation letter that outlines the commission structure etc. A rough look of mine is below.

Annual Pay Plan

Base Salary $55,000

Variable Pay $60,000

  • Commission –       $36,000

  • Development –      $15,00

  • Half Year Bonus – $3,000

  • Year End Bonus – $6,000

Total Payout at Plan = $115,000

Now, let’s dissect this a little bit. Salary was the guaranteed money I would receive no matter how I performed (every 2 weeks). The Commission was the total amount that would be paid out if I closed the deals (once a month). Development was a list of specific objectives that I was required to complete in addition to my day job of selling. If I completed the objectives and had a manager approval, I could get this Development payment (quarterly). I could receive a Half Year Bonus if I hit my half year quota mark, and the Year End Bonus if I hit my total quota.

In a nutshell, the compensation letter says that if you hit the goals, you will make $115,000. However, if you exceed the goals, you have the ability to make more.. much, much more. Not listed on the compensation letter is the fact my company also offered higher commission rates after you hit quota. Example, the commission rates are 1.5 – 2x the normal rate after achieving quota.

Also, not listed on the plan are extra areas for increasing your wealth. The company has a flat 401k match up to $3,000. Meaning if you contribute $3,000 to your 401k they will contribute up to $3,000.

Lastly, they offer an ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Plan) this is the ability to buy company stock at a 15% discount of market value with a look back period of two years. This means that if the price right now is $100 per share, but last year it was $70, I would get to buy that $70 share at a discount of 15% ($59.5 per share!). This can be a lucrative perk in its own right!

This may seem far-fetched at first glance, but I assure you there are people in this program who are one year out of school making this type of money. You don’t need a Harvard degree, or even a degree in sales/business, to make this type of money. Keep in mind this is the compensation during the sales development program. Once graduated, the earning potential increases exponentially.  

If I can do this, I assure you that you can too if you’re willing to put in the work. It’s amazing the number of doors that open up if you are honest, show up on time, work hard, ask questions, and are willing to relocate. Most people aren’t willing to do the last one, but it can give you a leg up on everyone else. Best of luck my online friends.

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