- Michael Taylor is the cofounder and COO at Ladder.io, a growth technology and services company. As a technical marketer with $US25 million spent across channels, Michael has experienced an adtech exit to Adobe, acquired one million emails at Travelzoo, survived two Google algorithm updates at ShopStyle, and scaled paid ads 30 times at AppSumo.
- Throughout his career, he’s worked at a variety of jobs – finally landing in his dream position of startup founder and COO. To get there, he made himself valuable at past jobs, learning things no one else did – and fought for his good ideas.
- He found valuable experience in every position he held, and made his ambitions consistently clear to his managers.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Here’s something that’s always bothered me: Knowing that many people obsess, like I once did, over the money they make. Some even get so worked up by perceived unfairness that they burn out from their jobs, putting any chance of promotion at risk. It’s counterintuitive -and, by obsessing over salary, you kill your chances at earning more over time.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
At my company, we value transparency, so the solution I found to avoid salary obsessions and burnout was obvious, but difficult: Share my own personal salary diary! If people could see my own nonstandard, haphazard career path toward being a reasonably compensated startup founder, perhaps it would help them find contentment in where they are now.
Of course, I was concerned about sharing something so personal. My team, family, and friends might read it and have a bad reaction. But that’s precisely why it’s valuable to share – salary is such a taboo topic that nobody puts any reliable information out there. Therefore, we all make worse decisions than we would if we had real data to benchmark against.
Here’s my salary diary, starting from the beginning of my career until now:
While my career path may not be traditional (or even relevant) to everybody, the lessons I’ve learned are useful when it comes to growing my compensation and moving closer to my dream job. They allow me to not get hung up on money, no matter the role or industry. Here are five tips to keep in mind as you work toward the salary you want:
1. Look for ways to provide value — especially outside of your role
In my own career, I’ve always tried to provide value, even if it wasn’t necessarily in my role. When I worked with Travelzoo’s marketing team, my main focus was on Google and Facebook ads. Although Google Analytics wasn’t a necessary skill to be versed in for my particular role, others who used it regularly in their roles weren’t always sure how to use it effectively. I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about analytics while still providing value in my own position.
I became so proficient that coworkers were coming to me for help, and, even if I didn’t know an answer at the time, I’d always find it. Eventually, I achieved my Google Analytics certification. Senior leaders noticed. I began fixing tracking issues and working directly with developers. I built my clout so much that I even aided the CEO. Had I not been willing (and eager) to learn, these doors never would have opened.
No task is beneath you if it’s productive for the organisation you’re a part of – it’s about being focused on long-term success, not instant gratification.
2. Be willing to fight for your good ideas
Throughout my career, I found myself in positions where just about everyone in the industry raised eyebrows at my efforts. Upon first launching Ladder, I was told by some of the more seasoned marketers that sharing company secrets via our blog was a bad move because readers would steal our great ideas and use them for their own companies. My argument? Putting ourselves out there and helping people – without the expectation of reward or praise – would propel our growth faster than the potential harm of a competitor copying us.
Fast forward four years later: We’ve produced hundreds of blog posts and gotten 60% of our clients through those alone. Now, many of those same people who told me to protect Ladder’s secrets are asking how they can replicate what we’ve done.
3. Understand that every job — even if it sucks — gets you one step closer
My career has involved plenty of jumping around, from working in a warehouse to running food to hungry tables in the hospitality industry to working at a bar and a cinema during my college days in London.
In retrospect, these jobs bolstered my work ethic, which came in handy as a startup founder. My time as a government intern wasn’t enjoyable – I didn’t like not having control over whether my recommendations were implemented. However, this helped form my future employment goals: I knew finding a role where I wasn’t just doing analysis, but actually putting suggestions into effect, would work best for me.
All of these experiences and jobs have led me to where I am now. While some might have been more immediately relevant to leading a company than others (I don’t carry a lot of plates these days), every job taught me something about myself as a person and a leader.
4. Remember: Finding a golden opportunity takes time
It took applying to more than 100 jobs to finally secure a job that, at the time, was a dream. Then I spent most of my days in that role conducting fruitless cold calls. I didn’t love it and, because of that, raised hell for my higher-ups. But it didn’t matter: I still had to make my numbers for the day. Looking back on the experience, I’m grateful: It forced me to get better and more tenacious at sales, which I ended up ultimately enjoying once I started running my own business.
However, that less-than-perfect position led me to my next role – the first job I really loved – located in London. Despite working 80 hours a week, I was learning from my colleagues, and my paychecks increased with my skill set. Not every job is going to be “the one,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
5. Share your ambitions with your boss
The first time I ever passed the two-year mark was at Travelzoo, where I learned the value of longevity. Admittedly, it wasn’t from patience on my end; rather, it came from being clearer about my ambition as well as my willingness to work hard in a company that offered plenty of growth opportunities.
Becoming more of a senior employee allowed me to delve into the world of Facebook advertising, amass an email list upward of one million, and shift into a supervisory capacity as a product manager who oversaw four developers.
This type of responsibility increase generally only comes with time and a demonstrated willingness to learn. Put in the hours, learn everything you can, and prepare yourself to be a great candidate when the job of your dreams comes along. If your salary journey resembles mine, take comfort: You don’t have to connect all the dots right now. As long as you’re learning and pushing your own boundaries, you’ll eventually make it happen.
If you judged me by the first half of my salary diary alone, you might not call me a success. But by working hard, no matter the role, following my instincts, and being patient, my salary has rapidly and exponentially increased. Use these tips, and your dedication, time, and energy will yield big results.