How To Go From $22k Per Year To Six Figures. A Real Guide (No Ivy League. Not Quick. Not Easy.)

There’s a lot of stories out there about people who make six figures, but not much on how exactly to do it.

Or you can find plenty of “get rich quick & easy” advice, encouraging you to take big risks for a big payoff. That’s great, but they neglect to mention all the people who did that and failed. They’re also short on specifics. “Come up with a million dollar business idea!” sounds great, but, um, how.

I’m going to change that. Today I have CMO’s complete guide to going from a low-paying job into a lucrative career. This is all either what I did to go from someone going to community college and earning $22,000 per year to an MBA earning six figures.

These are the eight things that are directly responsible for my career success – and can be responsible for yours.

Generic Advice – Not So Helpful

Believe in yourself. Be determined. Don’t give up. Start from the bottom and work your way up.

All true. But none of it is very helpful.

The same is true of some stories of successful people. You’ll learn that they were struggling, started in the mail room, or were a single mom, and then found success. That’s great – but how?

I myself went from making $22,000 per year and community college to a six figure earning MBA.

In my first full time job making $22,000 per year, and later in my first post-college job making $35,000 (not a typo) (and in 2003, not in the 70’s or 80’s), I used to try and figure out the secrets of financial success.

I would read stories of successful people and often they either didn’t apply to me, or they were so generic they were unhelpful. Remember, I was in my 20’s. So stories about men (they were almost always men) who started in the mailroom in 1950 and were now CEO’s didn’t really help me. Not only were our ages and time in history significantly different, but the stories often glossed over exactly how they made the leap.

Or it was full of lucky breaks. How could I improve my career, depending on luck? That didn’t make sense.

Same with stories of people who started with nothing and had successful businesses, had or who had graduated from an ivy-league school, or worked like crazy with no kids.

I had gone to community college, and then my state college, graduating with high honors with a B.S. in Accounting. I worked full time and went to school full time. Also, I had a baby at the age of 23, literally two months after I finished college.

I couldn’t see myself in many of those stories.

But even then I was laying the foundation for a high earning career.

Work For A Large Company

My first full time job as an adult was working in a call center, answering phone calls from angry people for $22,000 per year. I had that job for three and a half long, painful years.

The saving grace was that this was a call center with a very large company. It wasn’t the one I work for now, but it was in the Fortune 200 at the time.

What’s the advantage of working for a large company, even in a low-paying job?

There are many:

  • Benefits. Large companies typically have very generous benefits. Upon starting my job, I had access to health insurance, a 401k with a match, and most of all… an education reimbursement benefit. THAT is what I used to get my undergraduate degree.


  • Access to lots of different types of jobs. Working for a large company, they will typically have every job under the sun. There will be an IT department, an Accounting department, Marketing, Service/Support, and likely others (varies by industry). I was able to learn a lot about the different types of jobs that existed, and what kind of career path they had, simply by talking with people and looking at the internal job boards in between calls.


  • Learn corporate life. There will typically be a lot of information at large companies about the various skills you’ll need to be successful. Many of these will be skills you don’t learn specifically in college – like public speaking, presentation, professional writing, and so on. You’ll be able to access this information, and then either take courses on the skills or research them yourself


  • Networking. Connected with the “access to lots of different types of jobs”, you’ll have access to people in all different industries. When I was wrapping up college, I went out and spoke with people in all different departments, to get a better idea of what I would like to do. I joined several organizations/initiatives/clubs (not sure what you’d call them) where I got to meet people from all over the company. Those connections have come in handy over the years in ways I never anticipated.
    • I’m not much of a “networker”, to be honest, because I’m rather shy. I prefer natural networking, where I get to know people in different contexts.

There isn’t a large company near you? This may be true for rural parts of the country, but most suburban and urban parts have large companies (or branches of them) nearby. I know the company I work for has offices in probably 20 states.  And also, many companies offer remote positions for call center work.

These companies aren’t necessarily “glamorous” or “cool”. Just take a look at the Fortune 500 list sometime, and you’ll see all kinds of different companies. Everyone thinks it would be cool to work somewhere like Amazon or Google (and sure, it would be) but there are tons of other successful companies that need good workers.

Work Harder – And Smarter – Than Anyone Else

I warned you in the title this wouldn’t be easy.

I worked full time in a terrible call center job where people yelled at me all day, and went to school full time, FOR FOUR YEARS. The last semester, while pregnant. That got me an undergrad degree with high honors.

To get my MBA, I worked full time and went to school while a mother of two. Not easy.

If you work in low paying jobs, you’ll notice there are a lot of people who have been in similar jobs forever and have no desire to change. They do the bare minimum to not get fired. And you’ll get to know a lot of people who do get fired for stuff like calling out every Friday when they have no days off, and stuffing their work in a desk drawer instead of doing it (that’s real).

They also typically don’t want you to succeed. They don’t understand what you’re doing, or why. Sometimes they actively make fun of you. Other times, you just don’t fit in.

It can be hard working against the grain, and working harder than all the people around you. It can also be lonely.

If you’re going to dig yourself out of a low paying job and into a high paying one, you not only need to work hard, but also smart. There are plenty of people who work very hard and don’t earn a high income.

Working Hard Isn’t Enough – Work Hard Strategically

You need to work hard in things that will bring you a high income, if that’s what you’re looking to achieve.

That means working hard towards a career that has a high earning potential. Financial Samurai has a good list here. I saw some people work hard to get degrees in fields where they thought they would be more successful, but would actually have to get a PHd or take a pay cut to work in the field. Which can be fine, if you’re prepared, but many of them didn’t expect it.

In addition to picking a lucrative career, you also need to be smart at what you work hard at. This is often called “working smarter” in corporate speak, which sounds like one of those dumb phrases that doesn’t really mean anything.

It does mean something, though. It means being strategic at what you work hard at, and knock out of the park, rather than where you just do the basics. No one’s ever been promoted for doing a great job on their timesheets. You also won’t get promoted for working 12 hours a day and accomplishing less than someone else who works eight hours. Same applies for planning the best party for the office. Sometimes, even being good at your job won’t get you promoted.

You need to be great at your job, and great at the skills you need for the next job.

So don’t become the best party planner ever if you want to be a manager – work on managerial skills. Don’t be known as the person who can answer all the questions about a certain system, unless you want to work on that system forever. And don’t become the go-to for always writing specifications if you want to be an architect.

You’ll want to work hard at improving the skills that will bring you long term success, rather than on things that won’t.

Insatiable Thirst To Learn – Learn All The Things

Learn everything. Not just about your job, or current role.

Learn about your company, your industry, the project, strategy, and soft skills you need. Learn about other companies and other industries. Interested in a different job? Learn about that.

Read up on how to dress for success – even if your industry is casual, dressing smartly never hurts. Find blogs that help you with work, like my personal favorite work blog Ask a Manager. Read the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, and The Harvard Business Review.

When you meet someone new, ask them about their career. Find out what their department does, and why.

Learn which jobs in your field pay highly, and what background you need to get them. In almost every field, there are low- and high-paying jobs. If you want to up your income, you’re going to want to target those positions. Research salaries on Glassdoor, find out about the jobs from the internet, talk to people who are currently in those positions.

Note – You also might find you don’t want certain highly paid jobs. The higher I go in organizations, the more often I see positions (and departments) that I wouldn’t want no matter how much they pay. However, there are almost always other positions and departments that pay well and have other benefits. Target them instead.

Why are you learning all of this?

Focusing on the big picture helps get you into positions where it’s your job to consider the big picture. Higher level people don’t just need to know what box to check on a form, or how to fill out paperwork. They need to be able to consider the industry, their role, the strategy, and a companies current/future position to be a success.

Create Your Own Luck – Volunteer for EVERYTHING

Volunteering for everything is directly responsible for (1) me getting a job in IT in the first place, and (2) having the opportunity to speak to my 30,000+ colleagues around the world at our companies town hall.

How, exactly? And what do I mean about creating your own luck?

There’s an old saying that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. An insatiable thirst to learn will increase the “preparation” side of that equation. You can increase the “opportunity” side by volunteering for things outside your day-to-day job.

Here’s how my preparations met opportunity through volunteering.

Volunteering and My First IT Job

If you’ve been paying attention so far, you noticed I majored in Accounting. So how have I ended up building a career in IT for the past 16 years?

When I was in the call center, I used to volunteer for any activity that would get me off the phones for any period of time.  A break from being yelled at was greatly appreciated.

One of the initiatives I volunteered for was redesigning a current paper process to make it look and function better. Through that effort, I met lots of people working on the project. I was going to be finishing college in about a year, and talked with some of them about finding another job.

Lo and behold, they had an opening. I interviewed, and they hired me. The last ten months of college, I worked full time in IT while going to school full time. I never went into accounting or finance, choosing instead to continue in IT. I discovered there were a number of high paying jobs in the industry that didn’t require being able to code, or actually assemble/fix a computer.

Later I went on to concentrate in Technology and International Business in my MBA, so eventually I did get education in the field. I had been working in IT for ten years at that point.

Volunteering and Public Speaking

Despite being five years ago now, and it being five minutes long, people still remember the speech I gave to my company.

How did I get that opportunity? A year ahead of it, I had volunteered to be part of an initiative where I had an opportunity to give a speech to a small group of ten during a breakout session. I talked about my husbands illness, and drew parallels to how all the people in the group played roles in helping people like him.

The person running the initiative happened to be listening in, and asked me to give the same speech to the entire group of a hundred or so people. So I did.

A year later, when an opportunity came up for the initiative to present in front of the company, guess who got to do it?

The same phenomenon is how I got to be such a good speaker in the first place. I’m a very powerful, impactful, and generally excellent public speaker. How did I get to be that way, though, especially when so many are terrified of speaking in public?

Part of it was that insatiable thirst to learn – when in my undergrad, I took an entire course on public speaking. In that course, I gave a speech on compound interest and investing (of all things – yes, I was an odd 22 year old). My speaking teacher told me to never again give that speech for free.

The other part is volunteering – our organization had a Toastmasters group that met every week, and I joined up. Not only did I get to practice public speaking, but I also got to meet people from throughout the company.

Volunteering – The Lesson

I actually have many more examples, but I don’t want to bore you. Suffice it to say, when you volunteer to do things outside your day-to-day, you’re part of creating your own luck.

So join clubs. Look for new initiatives, and put your hand up. See something that needs improving? Offer to tackle it.

Just don’t volunteer to organize the office potluck, or a going away party. More than likely, that’s not going to lead to opportunities other than the opportunity to organize more parties.

Get Educated

Getting a bachelors degree, and an MBA, are a big part of my personal success. For many low earners, an education is the best way to increase their income.

Just check out the facts on average salary by education level.

You can secure company reimbursement for college through a number of employers, including Starbucks, UPS, and Dunkin Donuts. Almost all large companies offer tuition reimbursement as well. Use this to your advantage to keep costs down.

Also, don’t dismiss the community college to state college path. After you graduate and get a job, people don’t care where you went to college or what grades you got. This path is cheap and keeps cost low. Combine it with the tax credits and company reimbursement, and you can go to school for pretty much free.

There are colleges that offer childcare – my community college did. There are also a lot more legitimate online options through real colleges than there ever were before. I used to go to school nights and weekends, so you can flex your classes around whatever work schedule you have if you’re determined.

Don’t make the mistake of getting too much education just because you’re not sure what to do, or because you’re having trouble finding work in your field. Having too much education can actually hurt your job prospects, and frankly it’s expensive.

I’d like you to also realize there are many, many people who work in fields unrelated to their degree. The degree opened a door, which opened another, which led to their current job. The important part is to secure that degree, and get that door to open.

There are also resources you can use to complement formal education, like MIT Open Courseware and Harvards Open Learning. Use these resources to complement a formal degree, so you can learn more while still getting into the career field you want.

…But Don’t Get Ripped Off

Just because an education is likely to increase your earnings, doesn’t mean you should go out and get any old degree. You also don’t want to permanently damage your financial situation by taking out massive loans to secure a low-paying job.

Nor does it mean you should get an online degree. Those are essentially worthless and are peddled by people trying to make money off of you. I frankly HATE seeing how they prey on people who are low earners, in jobs they hate, with kids, and so on.

Don’t get a degree in any old thing and hope/pray it will increase your income. Decide on your general field before you get that degree, and make sure it will pay off. You don’t need to target a specific job, but you should have an idea of how that specific degree will help you. And know what career options it will give you.

Also, don’t get a degree in something you hate for the money. You’re dedicating four years of your life to improving yourself and your career prospects, and you have your entire life in front of you. This isn’t the same as “go for your passions”, but at least make sure you like the field.

Know Your Worth

This falls into the “wish I knew” category. When I got my first IT job, I was so excited to get a 16% raise! I was out of the call center! Coffee was mine whenever I wanted,  without getting in trouble! I was on top of the world.

I was also massively underpaid, making only $35,000 per year in a job where starting pay should have been more in the $50-$60k range.

At the time, I didn’t know anything about IT. I hadn’t done my salary homework like I know to now.

A big part of the issue was my frame of reference. Remember, I had started out making $22k per year. To me, $35k for more freedom and a better job was great. And my first boss was happy to take advantage of that, because he knew my salary in the call center.

Luckily, to my boss after my first one, it was appalling. He gave me a HUGE (to me at the time) bonus and raise to over $50k my first year. I can still remember nearly fainting, and calling my husband excitedly at the news. I’ll be forever grateful to that boss for not continuing to take advantage of me – which he could have – but instead working to pay me what I was worth.

So don’t be like me. Know your worth, even if you’re currently underpaid. And don’t be afraid to ask for it. I wouldn’t be afraid now, but I know it was a hard thing for my 22 year old self to do.

Learn about negotiation, BATNA and ZOPA. I took an entire course on negotiation as part of my MBA program, specifically so I could get better at it (there’s that thirst for learning again)

Embrace Change

One of the keys to 5x or 10x from a low income is to “lean in” to the change. Embrace it, and seek it out. Not only will you grow, but if you position yourself on the cutting edge of major changes, you’ll stand out.

Too many people like things they way they are. They’re content with their job, company, role, and process. They hate change, and resist it at all costs. I’ve met many of these people in my career.

Resisting change is a good way to get yourself laid off, frankly, with few job prospects.

Change can mean changing jobs, industries, projects, or departments. I’ve mentioned on the site that I recently took a role over in our companies international technology division, something I’ve wanted to do for some time. It would have been easier to stay where I was, and safer, but it’s not what I want.

Switching companies is a common, and successful, tactic to increase your income quickly. This is true particularly early in your career. Even as you continue to advance in your field, you may find yourself stuck and needing to make a change. It could be your company or industry isn’t doing well, or perhaps there just isn’t a need for someone with your skills at a higher level. Make sure you don’t get stuck.

If you see a major change coming at your company, don’t fear and resist it. Embrace it. Learn all you can about it. Become an expert in it, and teach/coach others. This is actually how I got the opportunity to switch roles – they needed someone with my skills who was an expert in the way we’re changing how we do work.

Guess who’s been experimenting with the change since before the rest of the company, and is a go-to expert? CMO, of course. I saw the writing on the wall four years ago, volunteered (see!) in a group about the change, learned (see!) all about this new way of working, and bingo – I created my own luck.

Be Patient

I’m not peddling a “get rich quick and easy”, or “10x your income in a year” program here. You need to be patient.

Career success is similar to compound interest. You put a little investment in at a time, and at first you don’t see much results. If you stop investing, you’ll never see results. But if you keep going, a bit at a time, even when it doesn’t seem to be working, you’re laying the foundation for exponential growth down the line.

Most uber-successful people are older. They’re in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s. The choices they’ve made in their careers have compounded over time. Everything they’ve learned has built up slowly. Their connections and friendships have led to opportunities, which led to other opportunities.

Being patient doesn’t mean waiting forever, though. Nor does it mean doing nothing while you wait. You should keep investing in yourself, keep talking with people, and continue to learn. If you’re looking to switch jobs, industries, companies, or careers, and what you’re doing isn’t working, look at whether you need to change your approach.

You need to continue to invest in yourself and your career, and be patient, in order to see exponential results,

A Few Wrap Up Notes

I thought I would address a few objections I frequently see related to this topic in advance of publication.

Is it the only way to make six figures? No. You could become a doctor, or a lawyer. You could work in a well paying Wall Street job, or go to an Ivy League school. You can start a business that makes a ton of money.

I don’t know how to do those things, so I really can’t write advice on them. If that’s the path you’d like to take, I’ve linked above to people I know who have done those things. I suggest you pop to their sites and learn from them.

Does everyone need to earn six figures to be financially successful? No. You can be financially successful at any income. Even when I earned $22,000 and $35,000 per year, I saved and invested for the future. I can obviously save more now than back then, but those savings in my late teens and early 20’s set the financial foundation for exponential growth when the stock market took off after the Great Recession. You won’t be able to save as much as someone with a higher income, but it’s typically the proportion of your income that matters. Not the absolute dollar amount. So keep saving and investing.

Do you look down on people who don’t have six figure jobs/do you think everyone should have one? No. My husband has never made over $40k per year. There are a lot of careers that don’t pay a high income that are great, fulfilling, and valuable.  Heck, doctors with Doctors Without Borders make less than $20k per year and I don’t know anyone who would say their work isn’t valuable.

I don’t look down on anyone, frankly, and I have no patience for those who do. We need people in all roles in our society. Where would we be as a society if there was no one who wanted to be a teacher? Or a social worker? Work in a museum? Be a librarian?

Not everyone wants to work in a high income field, and that’s fine. I simply want to give some tips for those that do.

But I don’t want to work so hard! Isn’t there an easier way? Faster? As my friend ESI Money says, “If you want what I have, you need to do what I’ve done.”

Or if you want my REAL GET RICH QUICK SECRETS THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW, send $1,000 to CMO, P.O. Box 1234, Ripoff, CT 01011.

What Did I Miss? Other Advice? Let Me Know In The Comments!

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34 thoughts on “How To Go From $22k Per Year To Six Figures. A Real Guide (No Ivy League. Not Quick. Not Easy.)”

  1. I love this! I’ve always felt that a six figure salary was out of my reach. I don’t have the right major, the rich school, or the right connections. Plus, I have the worst luck ha! But this post was so inspiring!! Thanks for actionable steps on how to grow your career!!!

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I’m glad I could help! Luck is the hard component-you can’t control it. All you can do is set yourself up to be more likely to fall into a situation where you’ll get lucky with an opportunity.

  2. A lot of great advice here! I think the advice of embracing change is probably the most important these days. Even if someone’s job itself is not highly technical or involved with creating technology, technology will keep affecting whatever they do. So you have to embrace change in your career more and more these days to stay ahead.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      It’s so true! I’ve seen too many people not adapt to (or actively resist) change, and it sometimes results in them getting laid off/demoted. Or at the least, in not being able to take advantage of the change to improve their career prospects.

  3. “Embrace change”
    If only more people would subscribe to just this step alone! In my profession (pharmacy) there have been a lot of changes in recent years from immunizations to increased services offered, but many of my colleagues don’t understand that not embracing them is the reason they are losing their positions or no longer competitive :/

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Yes! It’s so key, in every field – not just the corporate world. Technology alone is changing pretty much every field, and if you don’t keep up, you’re going to be left behind. Let alone the pace of research changes, new research, recommendations…the list goes on.

  4. This.

    The quick-riches schemes get under my skin. I get SO incredibly frustrated with the world of Pinterest sleezes and click-bait bloggers who boast at every turn that you can “easily go from $30,000 to $100,000 per month by ______” (writing a book, starting a blog, freelance writing, insert career here). Seriously?! Write a book?! EASY?!? Please.

    As a full-time writer during the day and part-time blogger in the in-between hours, it’s so invalidating to see headlines like this. It only cheapens what we do and fills the internet with noise.

    Thanks for doing your part to put out highly valuable content, and encouraging us all to never shy away from the work it takes to achieve our goals — whatever they look like.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Oh those get-rich-quick schemes get me too! I rant about them often on the site. If something is easy, it’s rarely lucrative, because the barrier to entry is low. For example – starting a blog is easy. Starting a successful blog is decidedly NOT easy. If writing a book is easy, it’s probably not a good book. And so on.

  5. Cooper @ Two Corporate Millennials

    Oh I was waiting to read this article this morning and loved EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. Great job CMO.

    I love your point about working harder and smarter than everyone else. When I transitioned to corporate america from the military, I was most surprised by employees who have been in their current positions for 5+ years. I understand if it is a niche role, but in an operations field it really surprised. There was little motivation to improve or be promoted. People just get comfortable and don’t want to do the slightly extra amount of work to increase their skill set and improve their careers.

    Sometimes I think those of us that are pursuing FI get into a mindset up being content with what I have, so no need to keep working on my career. I absolutely understand being content! But if I have basically brought my expenses down as much as I can, then I may as well start working on my income. Plus, all the skills you will learn in leadership, presenting, organization, etc. will continue to bear fruit in all other areas of your life! Anyway, I don’t mean to ramble but this section really resonated with me and of course ESI Money does too.

    Thanks again Liz.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      So glad to hear you enjoyed the article, Cooper! I’ve definitely seen a mix of some people that have made a deliberate choice to not advance, but most folks just stay put by default. The people who’ve made a deliberate choice usually, in my experience anyway, still seek out change and growth opportunities. And you’re so right that after optimizing expenses, the only way you can accelerate financial freedom is increasing income. ESI is a great source of career advice!

  6. This is a great post Liz, thanks for publishing it. I agree that there aren’t enough accounts of how people got themselves into high income positions and it’s such a vital part of finances. For most people income is the biggest factor when it comes to how much money you can save and invest. Cutting expenses helps, but not at the same level as increasing income.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I agree – the way I see it, is there’s a floor to decreasing expenses. But there’s no ceiling on income. Once you’ve optimized your expenses, the only way to get more money is to increase that ceiling. I only hope more folks who have gone from a lower income to a higher one will write details on their stories. I personally love reading them!

  7. What a helpful guide. I am someone who got a graduate degree without being fully informed of the implications both pay-wise, and career-wise, and ended up with a degree in a low-paying field with a high rate of burnout and a HIGH student loan balance. As I actively consider pursuing other, more lucrative roles, this post is just what I needed to read right now.

    I’m glad to see “learn all the things” on here because that is what I try to do in every aspect of my life, I just know I need to tailor this down to something that will be helpful in my career life.

    Be patient is also something I often need to remind myself. Thanks for writing this; it really was exactly what I need right now.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I’m so happy to hear it was helpful, Emilie! And learning all the things will be such a helpful habit to you. You’ll just want to focus it on those items that will help you reach your goals. Plus still plenty of learning for fun, of course!

  8. I sent a letter to your address to learn how to get rich quick but it was returned saying “No such address.” What a waste of 50 cents. Thanks a lot.

    Seriously though, it’s fun to see yet another path to a six figure income. It’s amazing how many there are.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I’m very sad to hear I missed out on your $1,000 check.

      It is amazing how many different paths there are. That’s why I enjoy reading specific case studies of all different careers – you can glean different lessons from all of them.

  9. Great read. You are a baller!!!

    This post is basically how to get rich slowly while working you a** off. I love it!

  10. This is a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing and for cutting out all the nonsense I detest all those ‘get rich quick’ things.

    This is a great set of advice. If I was to add my own it would be a corollary of your ‘volunteer’ and ’embrace change’ points. It is: find out a problem your boss has an take it off their plate. If it’s a problem try and help fix it. If it’s a change that needs to be made, lead the change. It will make your boss’ life easier, with a positive knock-on effect for you. We like to fix other people’s problems, but less our own.

  11. Great post! I agree with so much here. I remember nearly 10 years ago volunteering for every opportunity I could to the point where I got over my head and had to step away from several responsibilities the year after. Regardless, by volunteering I developed great relationships and had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership abilities. You hit on this as well, but being an effective communicator is so important. Not just public speaking, but email communication, presence in meetings, and in 1-1 conversations.

    Besides the core job skills, the ability to communicate effectively and build strong relationships is usually the difference maker when looking to advance in a large company.

  12. You are living proof of what it takes to get ahead. This post is full of all the little secrets. It can be summarized as become a servant leader. Don’t ask for a raise. Get noticed for being selfless and helping others. The promotions will follow. You are on track to becoming a CEO unless you retire first.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I probably could, but don’t know how. I can take a look over the weekend and try to figure it out.

  13. My first job post college was also in a call center for a pharmaceutical IT Help Desk. When I first started, I was afraid to get on the phone, but after, it became so easy so during that time I built up my phone skills but also build up a great resume of IT skills and problem solving skills.

    Great, great advice and I second tuition reimbursement. I had the opportunity to use this benefit which allowed me to get my master’s for free. My husband worked for a smaller company, but asked anyways to see if they could cover tuition costs for his master’s and they did. Sometimes, it never hurts to asks.

    I would also add that skills are transferable so if one point you don’t like where you are, don’t forget that you have the skills to do something else.

  14. Thank you for the great advice. I graduated from college during the recession and often at times felt stuck. In theory, I know there are more opportunities at a larger company but they were practically on a hiring freeze during that time, so since then I have always gravitated towards smaller companies (with a false sense of security). I think it is time I rip that security blanket off.

  15. Great article, it’s full of really valuable information! I had a similar path, where I had my first child at 20 and it was my second semester in college. I made the Deans list that year. It’s all about how much effort you’re willing to put in as well. I love the section about creating your own luck by volunteering. I just recently started doing this a year ago and it has made such a big difference, not only in the way people perceived me and my abilities, but it also gave me confidence in networking and stepping out of my comfort zone.

  16. A lot of great advice here. Did you switch to IT because you felt it was easier to make a 6-figure income? I could not say enough about being patient as one of the keys to be in the 100k range. Though it’s not easy to be patient especially if your student loan was following you wherever you go but with hard work, strategizing, patience and persistence it will happen.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Good question-no, I didn’t. It was originally a switch so I could do work that didn’t involve being on the phones at the call center while I wrapped up my degree. I planned to go into accounting or finance when my degree was done. But I couldn’t find a job in those fields, and I was already in IT and enjoying it. So I stayed, and I’m still here over fifteen years later

  17. Great list. I’d add make friends with similar ambitions and similar to ‘learn everything’ if you’re not in school after hours then start a side business. Find a way to build a better you.

  18. There are some good actionable tips here. I love that ended with the fact that you can still be financially successful with a lower income.

    I’ve shared my testimony hundreds of times. Additionally, I was a teacher for several years. Doing something over and over gives one the opportunity to hone in their skills, learn to play off the audience, and deliver an entertaining and educational speech. I still get nervous every time I speak to a crowd but as Terry Crews says, “if you care, you’re going to be nervous.”

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