If you think that the reason why your salary has not matched or surpassed inflation in South Africa its because of macro-economic principles, such as a very weak rand, drought, a lack of confidence in developing markets blah-blah-blah – stop reading now. If you are still reading, you may start to consider your position from a micro-economic perspective – during the workday you are a commodity – and yes, you are being sold.
Education is excellent and it is great for developing an enquiring mind – but it very seldom prepares you for the skill-set that you will require in the job market. What do you know that you did not learn from college or university? Learn as much as you can in your free time and focus on skill-sets that best match the most highly paid jobs (in your field) that you encounter.
If you have to do work for free, do it! Many companies will consider a Research and Development project if it won’t cost them a cent. Find out what their biggest headache is and offer to solve it at no cost. Ensure that your agreement with the prospective client covers a written reference and point of contact on successful completion of the project. Generally, the bigger the problem, the bigger the paycheck…but, don’t follow the flock.
There exists a very fine line between highly sought skills and common skills. Once the masses have obtained highly sought skills, it will ground towards a common skill, and you will likely fetch an average salary. Focus on bleeding-edge market trends and learn to solve the big problems before others can. The Internet is a goldmine for skills development. Learn to do the next big thing well before anybody else can.
Not all companies have sophisticated enterprise-level problems or a large client base. You may have all the right skills, but your current company may require only a small subset of those skills or simply lack the capital to reward you adequately. This is neither good for you or your company. A junior person can easily do your job and build their own skill-set – and when you move, you can learn, and earn more.
Having a critical skill is not the only requirement. Work on solving problems in half or a quarter of the time that it takes others to perform the same task. This does not mean you should be arrogant and make others feel bad for not completing work as quickly as you can. You will soon-enough build a reputation as a miracle worker in the circles that your superiors frequent. When you are the go-to-guy-or-girl for complicated work that is needed ASAP, your salary negotiations should be positively influenced.
When a hero leaves your company, quickly stress that you can take over their work and that it is not necessary to replace them just yet. Spend nights and weekends figuring out what they were doing and why he or she was considered a hero. If possible, also finish the work the hero never finished. Don’t forget to do your own work too. Congratulations, you are now a super hero. If your company fails to adjust your salary, use the experience you have gained as motivation for a superhero position elsewhere.
A silo mentality will not earn you a five star rating at your company. Never prevent others from learning from you. More specifically, mentor your juniors, as their increased productivity reflects well on you. While keeping projects and knowledge to yourself might make you feel like a hero, others will regard you as an evil villain. Think team player and be known as the creator of heroes!
Become an authority on a topic or method. If you have bright ideas, share it with the world. Do not keep your genius to yourself. People Google YOU because YOU know what is going on with XYZ. The only reason you Google your field of expertise is to make sure that Google still works 😉 Where do you start? Google “Arun Gupta”…