Your Take 

Your Take: Are You Happy At Your Job?

Free LemonadeYahoo HotJobs recently published a list of the top ten happiest jobs and, surprisingly, professional blogger did not make that list. Who did? Clergy took the top spot with a reported 67.2% “very happy,” far exceeding numbers two (firefighters, 57.2%) through ten (airline pilots and navigators, 49.1%). In addition to listing the percent “very happy,” they also listed salary for someone in that role with 5-9 years of experience. The highest paid were #7 science technicians with a median salary of $72,435 and the lowest paid were #3 travel agents with a median hourly rate of $14.23 (or ~$28,000 if you assume a standard work schedule).

There isn’t much you can take away from lists like this, except we can ask ourselves how happy are you? I’d say I’m about 70% very happy. I get to set my own hours, I get to work on my own projects, and I get to reap the fruits of my labor. The 30% unhappy goes to how I have to figure out what projects I’m working on, I suffer the consequences of poor decisions, and I have limited social interaction with other people.

One interesting thing is that my stress is a little different. Before, I’d be stressed out over presentations to clients and whether I’d screwed up. Now, I’m stressed whether I’m making the right strategic decisions; decisions that won’t prove right or wrong for months.

How about you? Are you happy at your job? How many percent and what affects it either way? Would you trade less happiness for more money (or vice versa)?

(Photo: tinfoilraccoon)

 Your Take 

Your Take: How Do You Evaluate Job Offers?

Working Man with a BriefcaseI was reading’s 2008 Employee Job Satisfaction & Retention Survey and saw that, not surprisingly that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because of inadequate compensation (i.e. they’re underpaid). What also interested me were the four other reasons (of the top five) that people left for – lack of career advancement, insufficient recognition, boredom and inadequate development opportunities. So here’s a tip that I have, from when left one company for another, remember to consider all the other factors when making your decision of whether or not to leave.

One factor that isn’t listed is stress. 🙂

Another useful stat, 50% of employers believe an offer of 8-15% is enough to lure away an employee but 38% of employees would only leave for 16-30%… use that to your advantage!

So, how do you evaluate a job offer if money isn’t the only metric?

(Photo: manuelvdw)


Should You Look For A New Job?

Corporate OfficesA friend recently learned that a co-worker, with similar responsibilities and credentials, found a new job for slightly more pay. The difference in salary was, percentage-wise, in the single digits and the move was a lateral one (no significant added responsibilities). She was wondering whether she should start looking for a job too because money’s getting tighter and everyone’s looking for an edge.

There’s no harm in looking.

(Click to continue reading…)


Best Paying Graduate Jobs: Lessons Learned

For the last three years, I’ve watched for and written about the list Yahoo releases every year for the best jobs for graduates. The 2008 best paying job for graduates was in the field of Chemical Engineering. Last year, the 2007 best paying job for graduates was Chemical Engineering. The year before that, the 2006 best paying job for graduates was Chemical Engineering. I think it’s safe to say, Chemical Engineering is here to stay. 🙂

The problem with looking at these types of lists is that if you were equally capable of doing any of the jobs on the list and if money were your primary driver, by the time you graduated, the list could change. When I started college in 1998, I was lucky. All the hot job lists had computer science, computer engineering, information systems and information technology all over the top spots. I wanted to study computer science and so the appearance high on the list for salaries merely cemented the decision. However, when I graduated in December 2001 (for all you math majors, I was done a semester early partly because of AP credits), computer science wasn’t really a hot job in too many places because of the dot-com bust.

Despite that, one thing is clear by looking at these lists year after year. Engineering is hot. While the non-engineering jobs on the list, the doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. are stable, high-pay (eventually), and high-demand, the competition for top engineering talent will always keep salaries for new graduates in those fields very high.

Chemical engineering may not always be the top paying graduate job (though it’s prospects do look good), but chances are #1 will have ‘engineering’ in there somewhere.

 Personal Finance 

Talking About Salary with Friends

This past weekend I was in a New York Times story about young professionals sharing their salaries with their friends. In it, I was quoted about how I knew the salaries of my friends within a $10,000 spread (I had said about $5k either way) and that we openly discussed our salaries, raises, and other financial details. I was glad the article captured the most important point I was trying to make, not focusing on the fact that we were disclosing a taboo number, which was that sharing information helps everyone involved. The point of knowing my friends’ salaries wasn’t so that we could compare bank accounts, it was so that we would be armed with the most and best information possible to make decisions.

There is only one reason why we all would discuss our salaries and it’s the same exactly reason why people turn to We want to know if we’re getting paid a fair sum for the work we are doing. I knew what my engineering friends earned in a year and I knew the differentials for level of education and area of expertise and the point of knowing was so I could be better educated about my potential value in the workforce. When my friends left, they would disclose the raises they’d be getting to go to another firm. I disclosed how much more I was being paid. For me, it was about learning, with real life data points, what was out there and how I could use it to my advantage.

It’s important to note that we were all in the same field, working for the same employer. There wasn’t a situation of high school friends where life decisions led one to a more lucrative profession or another to a less lucrative one. I don’t see the point in a lawyer sharing a salary with an engineer or a financial analyst sharing her salary with an administrative assistant. Since you’re not in the same industry, that’s not information you can use. In fact, I don’t discuss salaries with my high school friends, or friends in other industries, because it provides no added value (and because it never comes up).

“This is a generation that is much more attuned to teamwork, collaboration and sharing information.” – that’s a quote from the article and one that I feel captures what my friends were trying to do. One prime example of this was that every single year, management would tell employees that “raises weren’t going to be good this year.” By sharing information, we could figure out whether management was feeding us a line or if raises were really not good (it was a defense contractor and we’re spending billions upon billions on defense, plus executives are getting ridiculous bonuses… not everyone’s raise is bad!).

Lastly, one surprising thing I learned in reading the article was that it is/was taboo to talk about how much someone paid for their house. I find that surprising because that is a matter of public record (all home sales and tax records are public), I consider it a much bigger affront to surreptitiously research someone on the internet than it is to come out and ask them. I paid $295,000 for my house. I know roughly (it’s not like I write it down so my memory fades) how much my friends have paid for their homes. It’s not a big deal. I suppose we never learned that talking about that was taboo, but then again the spread of information is valuable.

What do you all think? Salary talk is always taboo? Never taboo? Or are you like me, talking salaries isn’t taboo if there is information to be learned but taboo if it provides no such informational value?


How You Should Compare Salaries

You just found out that Bob in the next cube, who does basically the same job function that you do, is making 20% more than you. Bob isn’t that much better at his job and the idea that he makes 20% more really bothers you. Does that sound familiar? If not, how about this scenario?

A friend you used to work with just left to work at another company and is being paid 20% more to do the same job. He isn’t that much better at his new job, is pretty much your equal, but by virtue of leaving he is being compensated 20% more. Does that sound familiar? More importantly, does that bother you?

If it does, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone and what you feel is perfectly natural. However, as you probably recognize, it’s not a healthy feeling nor is it a happy one. The reason you feel jealous of, rather than happy for, your friend is rooted in how you, and I, were raised. As human beings, especially competitive Americans, we have constantly competed against one another throughout our entire lives, starting in school with grades. You wanted to be the best at what you did, have the highest grades or the fastest run. You constantly competed to see who was better at this or that and it was healthy then because it drove you to succeed. It was great then and it pushed you, but now that way of thinking is no longer is accurate. It’s become a very poor motivator because it brings out negative feelings rather than positive ones.

Salary Is Not A Good Measure of “Success”

Money is not a measure of either “success” or happiness. I think any discussion of salaries really needs address that first. Think of all the movie stars or athletes with loads of money and see if they’re actually happy. If you pin your entire life and your happiness on money, what happens if you get it? You lose your drive, you lose your desire to improve, and you end up like lottery winners who now need something to do and turn towards the bad things in life. Money itself is a poor indicator to begin with.

Secondly, since money is not a proxy for success, it’s also wrong to use your salary as a means of comparing success. The best example is that of a women in the workplace. While working, she might be tempted to compare her salary with someone else and use that as a means of measuring success. What happens if she had a child? At the very least, near the end of the pregnancy, she’ll have to stop working and potentially take unpaid leave. Does that make her less “success” than someone who is still drawing a paycheck?I say no and she would likely agree (I think everyone would agree). In reality, being a mother may make her feel more successful than she felt when she was being paid a salary. In that simple example you can see how money isn’t truly an accurate measure of success anymore. There are simply so many other things out there other than money that make us happy.

Another reason salary is an inaccurate measure of success is because there are simply too many variables in the equation now. Back in school, you might have compared test scores or grades with your classmates who took the same tests and received the same education. The differences in grades could be attributed to personal factors such as your intelligence and your preparation. In the real world, you’re competing with folks with different educations, different skillsets, and different career paths. Bob in the next cube could have skills you simply aren’t aware of and that’s why he’s getting paid more, you don’t know and so comparing salaries in bad.

How You Should Compare Salaries

You shouldn’t be comparing yourself to anyone else other than yourself. That’s the secret to being happy and why I don’t really care what other people earn. When I found out a friend of mine was getting a huge pay increase to move to a totally different industry, I was happy for him. I mean this guy’s salary, with bonuses, will likely be double my current salary. Double is a lot. He’s a hard worker, a smart guy, and a great guy to be around; you can’t help but feel happy that he’s made a quick move up in his career. But it’s very easy to see his salary and be jealous or resentful. Why don’t I feel that way? The reason is because I feel successful because I’ve exceeded my own expectations, set a year ago. I’ve achieved the goals I’ve set for myself thus far that’s what drives me. That’s what you should drive you, not money.

Don’t compete with Bob, compete with yourself from a year ago, from five years ago. Are you where planned to be a year ago? If so, excellent! Start setting your sights higher and your goals larger and get going. If not, re-evaluate and start working hard. Comparing yourself to you a year ago is far more accurate than comparing yourself to Bob and you should be comparing not just salary for the other things in the life that make you happy.

Do you golf? What’s better, making another 3% in your salary or actually shaving a few strokes off your game? Do you run a business? Would you rather earn another sale or hear of a story about how your business helped someone do something they had wished to do all their life? Life is so rich, rewarding, and fulfilling that to judge it on the basis of income would be such a waste.


Latest List of High Paying Jobs

A lot of the jobs in the latest list of high paying jobs, provided by MRINetwork and Spherion (headhunting shops), are a case of demand being so much larger than the supply of good talent. In a lot of these industries, they’re looking for folks with experience, not kids coming out of college, so if you’re looking to this list for inspiration then you’re at the wrong place. If you’re already in one of these fields, consider that a change might bring something bigger at the end of the month.

Medical science liaisons – Basically they’re pharmaceutical company employed medical professionals on the education and experience level of doctors that provide “peer-level” interaction with those practicing medicine. The idea is that these folks supplement the sales reps and provide a level of expertise a business person is simply unable to. Expect to start off making $115k-$120k plus 10-20% bonus, after five years expect to see $125k-$135k plus bonus.

Internet sales and marketing Account directors – The internet is back and better than ever, demand for experience Internet sales and marketing folks with 7 – 9 years of online marketing and sales experience can expect to fetch $150k in big markets like New York and $120k-$130k in smaller markets like Atlanta or Cleveland.

General managers of premier resorts and hotels – If you can’t tell we’re in a period of prosperity, look no further than the fact that resorts and hotels really need some solid GMs. For resorts, if the place specializes in something (golf anyone?), then it helps if that GM has some experience with that activity. This is an industry where you have to pay your dues and it takes 12 – 18 years before you’ll make it at a top tier location – when there, expect to pocket between $150k and $250k depending on location.

Designer of athletic and active wear – Again, another product of prosperity is that people want more stuff and they want to do more stuff: look to clothing design. “They might get paid $30,000 to $40,000 right out of school, $50,000 to $60,000 after a year, and $80,000 to $90,000 after three to five years. Beyond that, if they’ve survived and had some successes, they can pull down anywhere between $90,000 and $200,000.” (90k – $200k, that’s a huge range…)

Construction: Estimators and Program Managers – Two of the ten jobs were in construction, no surprise there considering our economy, and both start off making the $55k – $65k range. After five years though, estimators can expect to see $75k whereas program managers can expect a six figure salary.

SQL DB Administrators and .NET/Java developers – And what top paying job list would be complete without at least one programming job, this time it’s SQL DB Admins and .NET/Java developers – the cornerstones of the internet. DBs run the world and we use .NET/Java to talk to them. In a large market, DBAs can see $100k+ and even $75k – $85k in smaller markets. .NET/Java developers can expect the same.

Staff accountants, Financial Analysts – Two words: Sarbanes-Oxley. A staff accountant with two to four years can earn between $50k – $70k in a large market, $40k – $50k in small market. A financial analyst can expect $75k – $100k in a large city, $55k – $75k in a smaller market.

Enjoy the slideshow


Highest Paid College Degrees

Only a few days ago did I write my thoughts on low “return on investment” college degrees did the folks at CNN Money write (or update) an article on the highest paid degree holders coming out of college. The article says basically the same thing last year’s article said: engineers make the big bucks and they keep making it. There are, however, things in this article that they don’t mention that I think are worth thinking about.

The first thing that they should’ve looked into was the number of jobs available for those engineering degrees. Of course, for high-flying computer science majors the jobs are plentiful – but what about those aerospace engineers? I find it difficult to believe the number of aerospace engineering jobs come close to matching the number of mechanical engineering jobs.

Secondly, with inflation estimated at 3% a year (historically), five of the top seven jobs actually took a pay cut over the course of last year. Of the top seven, only aerospace engineers and industrial engineers saw their salaries increase faster than the cost of a soda (in theory).

Finally, take these studies with a grain of salt because when it’s on a national scale, it loses a bit of accuracy when you take into account cost of living differences, quality of educational institution differences, location of institution, and a whole host of other factors that will affect you specifically. It’s like when someone memorizes the probabilities in Roulette and soon learns that they work “in the long run” after dropping some money at the tables “in the short run.”

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