8 steps to a six figure career

I have a job making well over six figures. I am not bragging but I’m not going to be overly humble about it, either, because I put my blood and tears into getting there. I spent 6 years in college obtaining two degrees (and starting a PhD). I spent most of my twenties working like a maniac in the professional accounting sweatshop industry, also known as the Big 4.

I was horrifically underpaid on an hourly basis – I was working 80 hour weeks when I was making $35,000 per year. I roughly estimate my earnings at the time to have been about $12 per hour. That’s not shabby – it’s probably a working wage in many parts of America – but it’s not exactly what you’d hope for if you have an advanced degree in accounting.

There was a payoff, though. The payoff came in three parts. One: I laid the foundation in my first 10 years for my current position. I view it as retirement in small. I worked hard and was “frugal” with my wage to earn a better “retirement” post-Big 4. I only have the “senior expert consulting” tag now because of the effort I put out for the previous 14 years.

Two, I got to see the world on my companies’ tabs. I traveled from 1996 to 2004 to every single corner of the globe. Some employers flew me coach, some business – I stayed in fleabag hotels in third-world countries but I also stayed in opulent palatial hotels and even in country estates and former palaces. I had to work like a maniac (meeting at 9 am in Frankfurt! meeting at 3 pm in Paris! report due by 2 am European time that night!) but I also got to sip martinis at the nicest lounges on four continents without spending any of my own money.

Three, I learned what the real secrets are to success as a corporate cog. Again, no pride in saying this, just observing what floated and what sank as I slowly, slowly floated. So from that, here are my eight tips to set yourself on the road to a six figure career.

  1. Pick a good college major. Don’t major in English, or history, or poli sci. I’m sorry. It’s true. I love history. My dream major was either linguistics or Russian history, specifically early Soviet history (1917-1939). They still are my dream majors, for that matter. I got a major in mathematics, though. I wasn’t great at it, but I wasn’t bad, either. To this day, though, I get goggle-eyed looks from my finance colleagues when I say I don’t have an accounting degree – I have a degree in MATH! Just like that guy from A Beautiful Mind! I even studied exotica like chaos theory. No matter that I couldn’t explain any of it now – people are still impressed, which leads me to…
  2. Don’t get a job using your major. If you are accounting major #76 out of 100 in your new joiners class, you won’t stand out. If you are the only math major, you’ll stand out. Standing out early in your career is critical – if you don’t start to stand out until your 4th or 5th year, it’s too late (although keep point #8 in mind, too)!
  3. Get a graduate degree or certification. I got a master’s degree, but I just as easily could have gotten a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or CFA or CFP or CMA, etc. etc. Again, you need something to distinguish yourself from the Bachelor’s crowd – I think my master’s has opened a lot of doors that would otherwise have remained closed. I can’t emphasize this point enough. I know there are people out there who became officers with only a high school education, or a mail-order college degree. You may even find that with the rise in online colleges, more and more people will get degrees online while they work. But at the end of the day, if you want to get into a six-figure career, it’s going to be significantly easier if you have a master’s or an MBA or a law degree or a certification of some sort.
  4. Take a ‘weird’ job. Early in my career (after about 2 years working) I volunteered to go work in Germany – but there were no openings in my company. I then proceeded to volunteer for a number of other assignments – odd ones around the US, in Europe, strange assignments like doing inspections of grain silos (yes, some clients are willing to pay accountants to verify how full silos are). All of my activity got me noticed, and I found myself winging off to Moscow with less than 3 full years’ work experience under my belt. To this day, it’s the first thing that anyone wants to talk about when they see my resume. Always. People are always full of questions, and I can throw out anecdotes that give me the appearance of being a confident self-starter because of my fearless decision. That one experience probably increased my lifetime earnings significantly, despite being (from my point of view) almost meaningless work-wise.
  5. Move to a big city early in your career. The simple fact is that in the 4 years I moved from a small town in the south to Connecticut to New York my salary increased by 200%. It was simply a cost of living adjustment, but that impressive salary growth creates an expectation in your employers. Big cities have more competition, higher costs of living and “fancier” jobs at corporate headquarters. These jobs may not be better but they usually do pay better.
  6. Shift jobs frequently – but not too frequently. The simple fact is that you’ll hit dead ends all the time. Sometimes they will be external (stuck working for a boss who won’t let you transfer to other departments for new opportunities) and sometimes they will be internal (you just can’t summon any enthusiasm for your current work). Use these as red flags to jump ship! You can get a reenergizing boost to your career, usually for at least a small increase in salary, by taking your expertise to another company that needs it. This also relates to #5 – it’s a lot easier to job hop in New York (hundreds of multinational corporations) than it is in Kansas City (a few). I’m not saying it’s impossible in Kansas City, but the circle of people in your profession will be smaller and eventually you’ll run out of options if you aren’t careful.
  7. Learn to sell yourself. This is an incredibly difficult thing for some people, and it’s hard to understand why. I’ll give you a quick way to get over it. Imagine something you really like: your favorite band, your favorite movie, even the bar around the corner that makes the best martini. Imagine that you’re trying to convince someone who’s indifferent to try listening to that band, or watch that movie, or try that martini. How do you do it? Can you imagine that enthusiasm in your voice, the excitement that you feel? Now take that enthusiasm and sell your favorite person: yourself! Make sure that you aren’t embarrassed to point out your strengths, or even to tell people how you are fixing your weaknesses.
  8. Learn to fly below the radar but do a good job. This advice flies in the face of a lot of career advice. I can state that at the middle management level, going down to staff, one thing and one thing only is valued – serving your master. Your master is your boss. Make your boss look good. If you make yourself look good, by extension you make your boss look bad, because you are stealing his thunder. Learn to perform solidly but quietly. Don’t dash into the CEO’s office with your hot product development idea. This may be the way to earn the CEO’s momentary interest but it will gain you a career-long dislike from your boss. If you want to have cheerleaders in your corner, stay on the sidelines. Have enthusiasm, cheer as loudly as possible, but don’t run out on the field and snatch the ball from the quarterback, your boss.

Think you can’t do it? You can! I have seen incredibly smart, personable, motivated people fail and dull, bitter people succeed. The biggest factor past the 8 steps above has always been a fervent, desperate desire to cling to the corporate bosom and keep getting that paycheck. It is amazing how quickly good people can fail when they realize they would do better following the white rabbit, and how strongly bad people will fight and scratch their way up the ladder to maintain their debt-ridden, consumer-driven lifestyle. I scratched and clawed for years to stay on the corporate treadmill, but finally realized I needed to step off. People constantly ask me what happened as if I’ve failed, but their opinion is unimportant. I took the first step to FREEDOM when I realized a six-figure salary isn’t important if it costs you your life.

 

  • http://www.guinness416.com guinness416

    Hey, outstanding advice Brip Blap. I’m making six figures for the first time this year (woot!) and nodded along to all of your points except number 2, I do work in my degree field although it’s somewhat odd for North America. I don’t get to see the world, but I have seen a huge part of the US on expenses. I actually filled out my annual review form this week, and was thinking about what you mention in your second paragraph there – I’ve worked my arse off and built a nice resume to this point, and I think (hope?!) it will pay off in flexibility available to me in the years to come. Great post.

  • http://plonkee.com/ plonkee

    I think if you go to a good college, you can probably pull off an esoteric major. It’s in the same vein as taking a weird job, it makes you memorable.

    Sounds like you don’t have a lot of respect for those of us living in the corporate world. Probably a fair cop.

  • Matt Wolfe

    This really is a great post. I love you advice. It’s not an easy way to make money or something people even necessarily want to hear but it’s the truth and it’s completely honest.

    On a side note, your 20s sound like what I’m going through now. 60-80 weeks making approx. 35k/year. Not fun. I’m still in school though (at night), I’m in a big city and I’m majoring in Finance (which hopefully will prove to be beneficial).

    Great Post.

  • http://baglady.dreamhosters.com the baglady

    Hi Brip Blap,

    Awesome post. I think with inflation and such eventually everyone will actually need a six figure career. I am working on making over 100k next year and I think most of your advice is spot on. I disagree on the graduate degree part because work experience counts for something, too. In fact, I am making more than a lot of people who just came out of masters programs with the same degree because I worked during the 2 years they went to school.

  • http://www.bripblap.com bripblap

    @Guiness416: congrats on the sixK and thanks! When you want to jump off the salary bandwagon, contract consulting awaits… :)

    @plonkee: I don’t know about the esoteric major. If you want to major in philosophy, fine, but just don’t be prepared for huge success in the finance world. There’s nothing wrong with it – my dad has a philosophy PhD and wouldn’t trade it for anything – but it just simply isn’t the path to corporate success in my opinion (and I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions). You’re right about not having much respect for corporate workers – I certainly have a healthy dose of self-loathing going on. I guess it’s not respect so much as being angry that so many talented people are sold so short. I see so many bright people at my corporate clients who are tortured with meetings and overtime and bureaucracy who could do their jobs in 20 hours per week if there wasn’t this insane addiction to the clock. But I’m probably a bit too hard on corporate employees, but it’s out of frustration more than anything.

    @Matt: Trust me, it will be beneficial – but also trust me, it’s going to be necessary to grit your teeth in the short run. No pain, no gain, unfortunately.

    @baglady (love the nickname, by the way): You’re right, eventually a sixK income will be the norm. I don’t think of my income as particularly impressive by any means – probably half of my neighbors are at that level. And I agree with you that working sometimes accelerates earnings past others who stay in school. I personally think a master’s will be less useful than certification in the future.

    • http://paradigmshifted.org/ deepali

      actually, i think plonkee is right. the major doesn't matter – it's the grades that you get into the cushy consulting gigs. except for accounting. :)

      major in what you want (and are good at) + take some basic skills-type classes (ie, stats) + awesome gpa + good interviewing skills = cushy job.

      i can only think of one person who actually got a “useful” major that ended up in i-banking, consulting, etc. most of my friends have undergrad degrees in “government”, “art history”, “culture and politics”, “english”, etc. but they also had 3.8+ gpas.

      the same applies for some graduate degrees – if you want to go to law school (after which you will start out with 6 figures), your major doesn't matter. they love the phil majors.

      i am not sure the masters degree is so distinguishing anymore. they are a dime a dozen here – a useful way to put off working for another year or so. i think where the masters is useful is the connections you create (ideally).

      and i am 100% in agreement with the “weird job”!

  • http://cashmoneylife.com Patrick

    Great article, Brip Blap. I’m looking into MBA programs now, though I admit, the application process is not coming along very quickly. I may apply for 08 matriculation, or I may have to push it back until 09. We’ll see how the fall/winter goes. I think an MBA from a solid university with my military background should get me pretty close to 6 figures. At least, I hope! :)

  • SavingDiva

    Great post! You’re not the only math major running around here….

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  • http://www.askdong.com dong

    Great post. I agree with every single point. I imagine our career trajectories are pretty similar. I know when we hire, we won’t look anyone who doesn’t have a “hard” major. It might not be fair, but the fact is that most 6 figure jobs are quant in nature.

  • http://millionairemommynextdoor.com/ Millionaire Mommy Next Door

    I just have to step in here and put a plug in for self-employment as a viable option for earning six figures!

    I left college before getting a degree, despite doing well academically, because I wanted (and needed) to make money. I was making 6 figures before all of my friends and family, including those with Masters and Professional degrees, ever did. I didn’t have any student loans to pay off, either.

    But the biggest benefit, really, is that I haven’t had to deal with the big B (boss)!

    Great article. Thanks for the interesting peek into competitive corporate life.

  • ryan

    great post but i would disagree with number one and two. well mostly with the part about english. english isn’t a bad degree to go in with. Just have another one by its side. And yes get your masters or higher! english has many different fields that you can get into and that alone can get you places. I believe i’m going to go for english and communications. yes, i know my grammar is really bad but i plan to fix that with college.

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  • Lesley

    it sounds miserable…

  • Dee

    I just got my bachelor’s in English from a top university. I “followed my heart” and picked English because I love to write.

    I was duped.

    My advice to anyone is minor in anything you want, but major in something useful.

  • http://www.wellheeledblog.com/ Wanda

    Hi Brip Blap,

    I’m in an industry where, in a good market, 22-year-olds fresh out of college can make over six figures. I actually graduated with a liberal arts degree, but I took a fair number of accounting and econ classes and got an internship in finance because I was really scared that I wouldn’t be able to find a job after graduation. So I do agree that your coursework is important, but I think that even if you do a “softer” major like English or Psychology, you can still break into business. It’s just important to have some quant classes – that way you have an option to apply to business positions if you’d like. I would absolutely apply to jobs that specify finance or accounting majors/backgrounds because even though I don’t have that major, I do have that experience.

    One more thing, I’d suggest that recent college grads get a “hard” job in terms of lifestyle to start out with – then you can test for a year or two to see if that’s something you really want. It’s much easier to decide to switch from finance to PR before you have a family/lifestyle that depends on a finance salary.

  • http://www.moneyandsuch.blogspot.com shadox

    Really impressive post. I agree with pretty much all of your advice, and most strongly with “help your boss look good”. As a boss, I know that I really appreciate it when my team members do an outstanding job and make me look like a star. As an employee, I know it’s difficult to not try to make too big of a splash and take credit from your boss. A good boss will give very visible credit to his team for doing a good job.

    I think that at all levels of your career you need to be very visible to management. You shouldn’t do this conspicuously or at all costs, but it is a good idea to attend high profile meetingsm interact socially and generally make sure that you are noticed (in a good way).

  • http://thenewjew.wordpress.com/ Maya Norton

    Dear Bripblap,

    I stumbled here and am glad to have arrived.

    Something I came to realize (although I’ve probably not fully “learned” it yet) is the importance of showing others your hard work or how effective you are. Elizabeth Taylor was known to say, “I am my own commodity,” which has stuck with me since I heard it many years ago. Your post emphasizes how to brand and differentiate yourself so those around you, especially those in charge, learn to appreciate your actions and efforts. The importance of this in terms of your career and your eventual “freedom,” as you say, cannot be overemphasized.

    Thank you for a great post. I’ll be back.

    Maya Norton
    The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy

  • http://www.upsizemypay.com Will

    Good on ya mate, I certainly have no such aspirations though. I’d rather do what I want in life rather than be a wage slave. Life’s to short to run after money we don’t actually need.

    But you have reached your goal so good for you! :-)

  • http://www.bripblap.com bripblap

    @Will – couldn’t agree with you more, actually. I wouldn’t say it was my goal to be a wage slave, though. I used my years as a wage slave to shift over to contract consulting. Now granted, I’m still tied to big corporate clients and I’m not totally free of the 9-to-5 grind, but I do get overtime, I can take off time whenever I want (since if I don’t show up I don’t get paid, so clients are somewhat neutral about time off) and in an average year I’m taking off around 8 weeks.

    So I don’t feel like I’m running after money I don’t need. I don’t work full-time, my wife doesn’t work at all and basically the main reason I’m still accumulating money is because New Jersey is expensive. Once I’ve saved enough (and even after all of this we save about 20-30% of my income) we’ll pack off to a smaller, less expensive town elsewhere and I’ll drop to working 20 weeks a year or so.

    And THAT is really my goal…

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  • Mary

    English isn’t that bad, really. Strong communication skills are always going to be useful, no matter what you’re doing or where you are, because people will always have a need to communicate with one another.

    I wouldn’t automatically dismiss an English degree…though I could be biased because I have one (and soon will have two).

  • http://financefreelancelife.com/ Mrs. Micah

    These look like good steps for a 6-figure career. That said, I don’t particularly want a 6-figure career. If your passion leads you to earn lots of money, that’s great, mine probably won’t (and I’m ok with that).

    Mr. Micah, for example, sees his telos as teaching young people how to recognize their thinking and reasoning patterns—so he’s doing a PhD in philosophy. Right now he’s teaching as he writes his dissertation and loves it. It probably won’t earn him much money (though he hopes to write books for lay philosophers which might) but he finds it extraordinarily fulfilling.

    I majored in English–knowing that it wasn’t a great career-starter. But I love to read, write, and edit. I’ve considered doing a second major or perhaps a double Master’s in Library Science and something else (couple ideas). English shouldn’t be one’s only major even for the library. But going to a liberal arts school taught me much more than I thought it would in such a variety of subjects–and I got to study what I love.

    If your passion can make you big bucks–all the better! But in my book success is being happy with your job and life, whether or not it earns a lot.

  • Ady

    Six figures is good, but how much do you fork over in benefits ? I make about 70K, but pay 70.00 health insurance per month on family plan at 90/10 % covered. 5 weeks vacation, 12 holidays and other benes. Public sector work has been good to me.

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  • http://www.bripblap.com bripblap

    Wow, great comments everyone! I feel like some people feel like I was picking on English as a major. I think majoring in English is a great thing if you enjoy it – the point of my post is just that it’s not a great first step to a six-figure career. Maybe a six-figure career isn’t as important to you as an English major. Fair enough. I’d argue that a double major in English and finance might be worth considering if you want a six-figure job, though. And in all fairness I bet I’ve read much of the same literature as an English major, just on my own. I studied linguistics and Russian for a minor, too, so it’s not like I’m suggesting being a business drone – but the simple fact is you’ll have better luck in corporate America if you majored in chemistry than in English. I’m not saying it’s fair, or right, but based on my own experience it’s true.

    MoneyDummy, the advice would be pretty simple – get an advanced degree in a business subject. You can get an MBA. I went back to school for one year as an unclassified student, collected the pre-reqs for an accounting master’s, and then got one the next year. Not a fun year, for sure, but it made a strong combo with a math undergrad.

    Ady, no doubt – net take home would be critical too. Being in a low tax state would too – 80K in Texas is worth a lot more than 100K in New York, for example. It’s just a round figure for the sake of example! :)

    And thanks to everyone, really, for the comments – great discussion going on here!

  • MoneyDummy

    Good post, but you need one for those of us who ALREADY majored in English, History, or Poli Sci. (which I now tell all of my students not to do).

  • MoneyDummy

    I totally feel ya, brip blap. I LOVED being an English major. I was at the top of my class and had a rep for being the best in the department, and the university paid for both of my degrees, plus a little extra just so I’d go there.

    BUT.

    If I’d known what I know now, I might have chosen to be an average student in the business or finance department, rather than a top student in the English department.

    BE WARNED, YE COLLEGE-AGED READERS! You’re going to college for the money. Save “following your heart” for marriage.

  • Collegekid

    I was worried for your wellbeing until the last paragraph, which talked of freedom. Were you able to step off merely because you had stepped on? To clarify- do you think going for the six figure salary was worth it? I ask because I notice you have trouble with pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

    The more I read about what to do to secure my future, the more I think about my old high school teachers making six figures.

  • http://simple-financial-planning.com Andrew

    Great post there! I especially agree with point 6.

    “Shift jobs frequently – but not too frequently.”

    Having worked for the past two decades, and speaking from both observation and experience, this point holds true especially in today’s economy.

    Life-time loyalty to a single company does not seem work for the average individual anymore. For the simple reason, if the company does not do well, usually the very first thing they do is to restructure. That usually means pay cuts or job cuts. Or they bring in “fresh blood” to rejuvenate the organization. There’s really nothing wrong with all these actions from a business viewpoint.

    Of course, whilst you are at the current job, you owe your obligations to your employer and you are expected to perform to the best of your abilities.

    But the average individual has to understand the reality and make sure that he actively manages his own career.

  • http://www.bripblap.com bripblap

    @Collegekid (#28): that’s actually a great question. I started out in college with the firm intention of being a teacher (secondary or college) and even went briefly to PhD school. I suddenly realized in PhD school that I wasn’t cut out for 5 more years in grad school and shifted gears.

    I don’t regret my choices, exactly. They led me to my life today and since I’m in what most people would consider an envious position (good pay, no travel, minimal responsibilities, great hours, new clients every 6 months, etc. etc.) I don’t think I would change much. However, I do regret some of my choices within that path, and particularly regret some of the blind devotion I had to work while living in Russia. I wish I had spent more time experiencing the country and less buried in meetings.

    But all of that having been said, I don’t think my struggles with Maslow’s hierarchy has much to do with my job. I am not a person who – I think – would find much actualization derived from ANY job. I get more satisfaction from writing, for example. Would I be happier as a teacher? Maybe. I really liked it. Would I still struggle with positivity sometimes? Probably. That’s just my nature.

    Great question!

  • ryan

    Hmm. Unlike yourself I plan to live out my dreams. Congrats to your big salary but it seems like you spent your youth climbing your way to some symbolic big wig job. When in reality thats just not healthy for some people. In fact I feel sorry for you. Hopefully one day youll get to live out your dream. :/ In the meantime I’ll be at art school being truly happy.

  • Brip Blap

    ryan, there’s no need to feel sorry for me. My job now is not a symbolic big-wig job, far from it – in fact, more or less the opposite. Many of my jobs on the way were like that, but now that I’m a full-time consultant it’s NOTHING like a big-wig job. As I’ve said in other responses, I got to travel every corner of the world for 10 years (one of my dreams – I never would have spent 6 weeks in rural Siberia or ridden horses in Romania or walked around in the streets of Surabaya otherwise) and now I have minimal work responsibilities (no boss, just clients, and no staff) with a large salary. I am not rich, but I have a lot more freedom than I would were I not making that salary. It helps that I’m frugal, as well – I don’t live like someone who makes six figures. I have not worked past 6 in 3 years, I take off 8 weeks (or more) a year. My biggest struggles, happiness-wise, probably come from feeling there is something I’m supposed to be doing that I wasn’t, but a lot of that has been lifted by writing.

    There’s tradeoffs for everything. Being happy won’t come from being a poor artist any more OR less than being a corporate fatcat. Both require that you be happy with your choices, happy with your relationships (family and friends), happy with your security (financial and physical), etc. etc. These are things that complement working at something you love, but it’s awful hard to be happy if you don’t have these other things, as well. I do hope you are truly happy, though. Being truly happy is something most people don’t have an easy time with, so if going to art school makes you truly happy, go for it. Don’t feel sorry for me, though – I’m OK :)

  • http://www.guinness416.com guinness416

    While corporate life sure ain’t for everyone, and we all need to find our own path, what I think the “I’m sorry for you” people may not get from your post is that a six figure career usually doesn’t just mean cash and nice benefits. You’re buying a whole lot of options by putting your nose to the grindstone for a few years (assuming you’re talented). There is definitely an end in sight if you want it!

    I certainly have and had colleagues who, due to the effort they put in for a decade, can now essentially dictate their terms – working from home, minimal travel, lots of vacation time, etc. That’s priceless to them, a couple of whom are single mothers and all of whom are now family people. Marketable accreditations, big cities and big name firms on your resume are also an insurance policy which can mean that after stepping off the treadmill for a few years you can get back on if changed circumstances require the big paycheque again further down the line.

    I’m not at Brip Blap’s point yet (I think I’m a little younger, and I work in a much different industry) but prime example – when I was moving to Canada, I had three solid job offers with relocation allowances included lined up before even moving. My husband is still trying to get something that isn’t a 6 month contract, and that has benefits, almost two years after leaving NYC. It would have been much harder to move, and reap all the quality of life improvements, without my background at high level working-for-the-man.

    And a few years from now I will be at the “I’m dictating my terms now” stage with some cash in the bank and a house almost paid off. Again, my career path is not a choice everyone would be comfortable making, but to my little family that’s priceless!

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  • John

    Good post, BB, and fairly accurate from what I’ve observed and experienced. Big 8, 6, 4 (depending on how old you are) cred definitely opens doors and gets you good travel stories, but even that’s not necessary. I went to OK (not great) schools, majored in economics (which uniquely qualifies one for nothing), had 2 jobs in my first 2 years out of college, and then started contracting and consulting.

    No pedigree, no Big X cred, and I hit six figs by age 28 – as a billing consultant, not as a salesman. Along the way I’ve had to turn down several job offers from great managers with 10-20 years more experience because I knew I already earned more than they did.

    It was a good feeling to cross that threshold, but now I value the independence and career security (yes, being independent and flexible IS more secure than cog-hood…the distinction is between job security and career security) more than the numbers.

    I think #1 & #2 are the most valuable tips, and they both resonate philosophically with one of my heroes, Seth Godin. Be the Purple Cow. I can’t tell you how many unremarkable Bachelors of Business Administration I have flown by in my career, how many accounting majors I’ve heard gripe about feeling stuck, while I help their boss on a project, wrap it up, and leave for a bigger, better gig. Why?

    Because I’m the Econ major whose longest contract engagement (18 months) surpassed his longest full time job (15 months). I can write an executive summary, turn a 30-slide deck for engineers into a 5-slide deck for CFOs, and I can make people laugh on a conference call spanning Tennessee, Sweden, and Singapore because I do stand-up and improv performance on the side. Think THAT doesn’t win engagements and boost billable hours?

    Props, BB. Way to Be the Cow.

    • Nabloid.com

      I've never wanted to be called a cow more in my life than after reading your comment… LOL!

      I've seen the book, but haven't got around to reading it yet.

  • stefan

    Regarding the ‘weird job’ – I completely agree, from personal experience.

    In my 20′s I had a job as the (only) full-time employee at a small winery. I did everything, from run the press, measure the sugar, push down the must (the red skins that float to the top during fermentation).

    Whenever I went to a job interview someone would always ask about that experience, and usually it would be one of the first questions.

    Lately I’ve left that job off my resume – it was so long ago now that its presence seems more jarring than intriguing – but I’ve considered doing ‘weird’ jobs just so I can add one back in.

    As you said, it’s a valuable addition; when you chat about something interesting to you and others, you get more relaxed and confident and it gives you an aura of expertise and accomplishment. It may have NOTHING to do with the job position, but it still gives you a tremendous boost.

  • http://baslife.wordpress.com/ Bas

    Working 80 hours per week during the best years of my life sounds like a high risk investment to me. Especially given the fact that the more time goes by, the more likely you are to die.

    Nice tips, but I think this can also be achieved without working as much as you did.

    Check out the book ’4 Hour Workweek’.

    Thanks!

    Bas

    • Nabloid.com

      I've read the book and think many people are doing similar things. I know some people that own internet forum's and almost don't have to work and still make six figures. That said, we can't all live the 4 hour work week lifestyle. In fact, if it worked so well and was so simple, my queston would be… why aren't you doing it? And if you are, congrats!

  • Kel

    Hey bripblap,
    There’s still time to teach! I think community colleges or even state funded universities would love to take you on as an adjunct or part-time professor. What’s great about this is that the students get the insight of someone who has been “in the field” and you only need to devote a few hours each week to fulfill a dream… Hey, if you have spare time then you can even utilize less time and give speeches (much like this post) for non-prof organizations who specialize in getting youth or the poor motivated for corporate careers.

    Just a thought.

    Great post!

    • Nabloid.com

      I agree! I went to a local college for my degree in business and entrepreneurship and most of my night classes were taught by businessmen/women that were quit successful (a few multi-millionaires) in the business world! They taught because they loved it, and the fact that it was a paying gig didn't hurt – though many didn't exactly need the money.

      You'd be surprised how fulfilling many of them claimed the experience to be… I guess teaching the next generation and implanting ideas and knowledge is quite rewarding for some. It also gave them a chance to become reinvigorated with that spark of interest and in communicating with the next gen they leaned things too. Learning often isn't a one way street.

      One of my professors owned a private consulting business that was closed to new clientèle (she had enough clients) and she also wrote a textbook on business plans and consulting. SO she had several different creative outlets… while still being a high paid consultant. It's also a neat way to diversify an income… book royalties, teaching job at a college, and consulting practise. I think she was charging somewhere between 250 and 500 an hour, and she had enough clients she didn't need or want more. I think her writing the textbook and teaching at a college also gave her credibility to get those high paying consulting gigs, though she was certainly an expert and was probably worth every penny and more..

  • Pamela

    When I read your post I realized I’d done all the steps except the first one (I have a masters in theater) – and the one that’s most important is unfortunately the putting in of the horrendous hours early in your career. I feel very fortunate that I am in the six figure league AND have a job I love. I am an HR Director specializing in Recruiting and you would be amazed how often the theater background comes in handy! ;o)

    I’d also say that specialization, past a certain point in your career, is a good tool also depending upon the industry. I got where I am because I became very, very good at a single talent which is recruiting, esp. executives, AND it’s a sought after talent. It’s the old supply & demand theory that many times determines what you are paid.

    I definitely agree that if ALL you want is a 6-figure salary once you get there you will ask, “is this all there is?” – because as any child can tell you money doesn’t buy happiness.

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  • David

    I maybe one of the few that disagree with you on the importance of school. Most everything else is reasonably sage advice. Most of my teams, and myself, make 6 figures as a starting salary. Most do not have master degrees and many do not have college degrees. What they do have is real world experience, work ethic, and personal character. But more importantly, most have a passion and love for what they do and it shows. The degrees will help get you in the door and even open some in the early parts of your career. But what you do once inside is the single biggest factor in determining long-term success. And those character attributes are way more important than ANYTHING that school teaches.

    So while I agree with some of your steps, what you did started with the way you thought about yourself and the character to follow through.

  • http://my-wealth-builder.blogspot.com Super Saver

    Brip Brap,

    Great post, especially showing that earning a high salary requires sacrifice and commitment, starting in college, and even if one loves their work. Thanks for your perpective.

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  • johnnyB

    I have an English degree, and I make 6 figs in marketing.

    English degree:

    - Advertising
    - Marketing
    - PR
    - Marcom / Tech Writing

    Tons of money in all of these fields.

    English can also get you into Law school and I know more than a few MBAs with English B.A.s

    Point is, English isn’t the ‘touchy feely’ liberal arts nonsense most people think it is. You can do very well with an English degree in the corporate world.

  • http://www.bripblap.com bripblap

    @johnnyB (#45): I certainly don’t think English is touchy-feely nonsense. I love reading, I love writing, so there’s not much about it I don’t like! My only point was that if you want to increase the odds of getting a six-figure career, English is probably not the best bet. There are, of course, always exceptions that prove the rule and I’m glad in your case you’ve done well.

    And I would still probably argue that as competition increases with the much-larger Generation Y kids hitting the workforce that technical degrees, or even English combined with something more technical as a double major, will probably still carry more weight.

    @David (#42): Similar reply to the one I gave to johnnyB; not having a college degree is certainly better than not having drive and passion for your work. It’s not like Bill Gates has a college degree, after all, and he makes six figures…every 10 minutes. You make some good points!

  • johnnyB

    Point taken. Agreed.

  • johnnyB

    Oh, by the way – great post.

  • FiboZen

    Hello bripblap, I thank you for your honesty and you have all the right to semi-brag about your accomplishments.

    I would like to add a comment about my situation. I’m a college drop-out, and I did that for a reason. Nowadays you can easily make a living from online activities (such as this blog).
    I made a deal with my parents that they would support me throughout my “theoretical college” time. In this period I’m working my ass off 80-hrs /week in my home office, making money through online activities and learning how to Invest money and be a Trader on the Financial markets.
    Right now I’m a little more then 2 years into my “career” and things really start to shape up now. With the way things look now, I’ll be able to retire at the age of 25.
    Of course I would like to earn a 6-figure “salary” as well, and therefor I will continue beyond the age of 25 till I have enough money in my Investing/Trading accounts that I will make my desired salary.

    But the difference in my career and a regular Corporate career is that I’m free in whatever I want to do. I also take trips every now and then to discovery the beautifull world we life in; I can take days off whenever I want (like today :D).. and when I reach a certain amount of capital I don’t have to work anymore at all…

    anways enough rambling/semi-bragging. The point I want to make is. A job is a job and its not freedom. If you want total freedom and a big amount of yearly salary, you should focus on Investing your money wisely.
    It really doesnt matter what your salary is… If you make $2000/month and are able to set $300 aside every month (add $100 for every extra year you work) and during that time you work your ass of to learn how to invest your money @ 20% / yr (which is obviously VERY hard to do, but by any means not impossible for a private investor).
    If you do this for 10 years, after the 10th yr you will make at least $30k/yr on your investing capital. In another 10 years of investing like this you will have made your first million, and you can retire for good and living of risk-free interest only if you’d want.

    So really if you want to have a nice future salary, and the freedom to work whenever, wherever, however you wish….. one should focus on learning how to Invest your money wisely (be it in the Stock Market, Real-Estate, Future’s Automated Day-Trading, Private businesses, whatever) and not so much on increasing your salary.

    Thank you.

  • Brip Blap

    @FiboZen: Good comment; I can’t argue with your reasoning in regards to financial freedom. I would probably argue that it all depends on your comfort with – for example – investing activities. 20% savings on a six-figure salary are going to get you much faster to a large amount of savings if you can do it early in your career and – this is important – don’t increase your cost of living to a “six-figure lifestyle.” I could, for example, retire today and never work again IF I was willing to live in a much less expensive area (say, move from New York to rural Tennessee). I choose to keep working partially for the ability to live in the New York area.

    I guess all I’m getting at is that what you suggest is completely doable if you have the risk tolerance, no concerns about children (schools, etc.) and a relatively cheap lifestyle. I think your path and mine will probably have the approximate same end destination. I personally would hate day trading for a living, so it wouldn’t be a path for me – but if it works for you, go for it, keep me updated and good luck! I think it’s great to hear about people who “take the road less travelled” and are happy doing it!

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  • http://www.lazymanandmoney.com Lazy Man

    Don’t be hating on us with linguistics degrees. It just helps to add a computer science degree on top of it. :D

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  • telly

    Very interesting post (the # of comments are proof!) and I really appreciate the insight from a 6-figure perspective. Congrats…your hard work has indeed paid off and I’m glad to see you’re reaping the fruits of your labour. ;)

    I’d love to be in the 6 figure club myself but I’m settling for being close (maybe in a couple years) and never having worked more than 40 hrs a week since I graduated from engineering 8 years ago. I think that might be why I’m still in the high 5′s. :)

    I think you’re right though, had I put in more effort, moved companies at least once, etc., I’d likley be earning a lot more but I’ve taken the lazy route so I really can’t complain.

    Keep enjoying your ‘new’ career!

  • Rich

    Horrible,
    My major is History and it took me 1 year (not 14) to earn 100k, have health insurance and travel on the company’s money. The people who have to slave for 14 years to make this money are the ones who don’t take risks and get a safe corporate job. Never settle like this guy.

  • http://www.bripblap.com Steve

    Rich – feel free to share your story, it sounds impressive. I’m sure there are always exceptions to the rule. Many people would be interested to know how you turned a history degree into 100k, so feel free to share the secret. I wouldn’t say I’ve settled – I was making six figures after 6 years, not 1, so you have me beat there, but in general it turned out pretty well for me.

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  • http://fwdservice.com/?dmn=knowtheledge.org&folio=212511050 Know The Ledge

    This is very good career advice, and I enjoyed matching up what’s in your list to what I’ve been able to do in my own career. I moved frequently once my stay had been long enough, and it has always ended up being a positive (and profitable) move. I also went back to get an advanced degree and certifications and they opened up a lot of doors for me.

    But out of all of them I think the ability to sell yourself is the most important. I never started to achieve any of the success I have in my career until I learned how to present myself in a desirable way to potential employers.

  • JD

    What is the big deal about six figures any more? I graduated college 5 years ago and I’d say about 70% of my college friends as well as myself were making six figures our first year out of school. The other 30% probably started making 6 figures by the next year or they are in jobs that they aren’t really doing for money (like something in the arts or public service). This is in NY. But seriously, I’m pretty sure that even our receptionist makes over $100K. Its not a lot of money at all. The new “six figure income” is $500K, and the new “million dollar net worth” is now $5 million.

  • http://www.dividendgrowthinvestor.com/ Dividend growth investor

    I totally agree with your points. I disagree about number 2 though. I have tried this and I did stand out.. I was informed that because I didn’t have the required major I was not eligible even for an interview.
    But you could still stand out in an interview. If you did something out of the ordinary. However the most important thing to do is establish a good relationship with the interviewer from the start. Find a common ground and you will most likely succeed.. And last but not least – networking is important. Build a list of contacts and try to make them help you in your job search.

  • JA

    Umm….you don’t make “well over” 6 figures unless you make millions or billions or trillions, etc. a year. (7 figures equals 1 million.)

  • Jerrold

    I would add another step to the list: don’t get depressed.
    I was depressed, anxious, and/or suicidal throughout college and could barely hold myself together enough to graduate with a worthless English degree just go get a piece of paper. Luckily I can survive on a low income because I am never planning on getting married or having children. I am surprised the suicide rate is not higher.

  • http://mbacollegesinindia.blogspot.com Manish Kapoor

    Although success is not a guarantee, it is useful to have a plan of action to help you achieve your career goals.

  • http://street-streetmachine.blogspot.com/ AlexM

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  • Mcbabyx11

    Hi!
    I am a high school sophomore in ga
    Gifted certified taking ap classes and excell in math and language arts
    I am also a socialite ans love people
    My goal is to make 6 figures within 5 years of graduating college.
    What do you think is a good field of work to be in to accomplish those goals without a thousand years of college?

    • bripblap

      I think accounting doesn't require an excessive amount of education, mcbabyx11. I'd probably recommend accounting or finance. Other professions that would have a high likelihood of paying off well, but would require more education would be pharmacy, medicine, law, engineering. But remember that it's probably going to be more about other choices than about your major. If you get an accounting degree with a 2.0 average and stay in a small town, your earning will be less than a 4.0 in a big city, for example.

    • Mcbabyx11

      Okay thanks. So basically the money is in the big cities. I also found human resource management to pay well when I researched it but I still don't know. Thanks so much for your advice

  • Jackjumper

    Hmm well what i found out is that it appears to be not what you know so much as who you know. While yes you still need a bachelors degree in finance, acounting or business its the connections you make. Which is why a masters is beneficial because of the people you meet, thats why you have to choose a school with a well respected reputation and large alumini program.

    • shawn

      I think your advice sounds solid for someone who wishes to be in a corporate type job, however there are plenty of jobs that are capable of six figures that may fall into someones dream job. My wife is a great example of that. She is a registered nurse, with 3 years on the job. She will finish this year over 90k a year. Granted that is with overtime but that is also only a two year degree. She is going back to school now for her bachelors and masters, which when she is done will bring over 100k with no overtime. As I said now she is making her money with overtime, but only 48-56 hours a week, and with their schedule that is only 4-5 days a week. I guess everyone has different ways to achieve that goal….

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  • Glasgow Dental Implants

    Getting six figure is really a great achievement. But needs really hard work for it.

  • Abhishek

    Making 6 figure Income sounds good..but achieving that requires a lot of discipline and patience. Nice post.

    Regards,
    Abhishek

  • Rishikesh

    Really a Great Post…

  • ericwentworth

    This is some of the best common-sense advice I've read on this subject. It's easy to see why you have been successful yourself.

    Most people “drift” into their life. They choose a career just to make money or because their dad did well in the same profession or because someone offered them a job.

    They marry for sex or companionship or because of an unplanned pregnancy. They date few people (the average is just 12 “serious” dates before marriage out of millions of prospects).
    They have kids because (oops!) their wife or girlfriend “happened” to get pregnant.

    They live where they were born or where a job took them—not in a place that is in tune with their personality or future plans.

    It's no wonder that 47% of workers hate their job or that half of marriages end in divorce.

    Through ignorance, laziness, inertia, or lack of planning most lives are directionless—and not fully realized.

    Love your posts!

    • http://www.bripblap.com Steve @ bripblap

      @ericwentworth: Thanks so much! Those are some great points, and I guess the common thread throughout them is that people let events happen to them, rather than making events happen FOR them. I wouldn't say I'm perfect – certainly I've let events steer me more often than I'd like – but I certainly think I have done my best to take control of the events I can control, and that feeling of being in control makes me (and everyone, I think) happier.

    • ericwentworth

      Hi Steve,

      Well, I also believe that a part of life planning is responding and taking
      action on the serendipidous chance occurences in life if they present
      opportunity. Despite all the goals and plans we make, sometimes pure luck
      can grab you and push you in a new direction.

      I recall speaking with a woman who made millions simply by taking a
      “temporary” job with a new company called Microsoft. Her original plan in
      life was to become a veterinarian. But the wealth she came by through luck
      enabled her to eventually found several philanthropic
      organizations—incluiding a pet rescue non-profit.

      Iti is an interesting subject of discussion.

      Best regards,

      Eric

    • ericwentworth

      Hi Steve,

      Well, I also believe that a part of life planning is responding and taking
      action on the serendipidous chance occurences in life if they present
      opportunity. Despite all the goals and plans we make, sometimes pure luck
      can grab you and push you in a new direction.

      I recall speaking with a woman who made millions simply by taking a
      “temporary” job with a new company called Microsoft. Her original plan in
      life was to become a veterinarian. But the wealth she came by through luck
      enabled her to eventually found several philanthropic
      organizations—incluiding a pet rescue non-profit.

      Iti is an interesting subject of discussion.

      Best regards,

      Eric

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