When I tell people that I want to “make enough money in my career,” I really mean that I’d like to make enough to comfortably pay off a mortgage, own a car, take yearly trips, and support my 4 dogs.
The key word being “comfortable”—that is, not having to worry or constantly check if I can afford my lifestyle.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, minimum wage jobs just won’t get me to that goal. While I’d like to have a job I love, I also value being able to sustain my lifestyle outside of work—and that requires making a certain amount of money.
When I got closer to graduation, my 2:00 am existential crises mainly focused on my future career. Fortunately, I’ve learned to change the way I think about my future salary by doing research and talking to others.
If you, too, have been wondering about whether or not you’ll make enough money in your career, here are 3 things you can do:
Research, research, and—you guessed it—more research!
The job market is dynamic and specialized job positions are more commonplace. Some salaries are inflating with the market, while others are deflating as jobs become obsolete. All of this means that researching salaries can be overwhelming.
Luckily, there are websites that can help you sort through potential earnings. Here are a few I recommend:
- Glassdoor: A site that allows users to anonymously share salaries. It’ll give you a great sense of how much employees make in different types of positions and at specific companies. A general search of Vancouver can give you info on current salaries for different professions as well as open jobs in the city.
- Payscale: This useful tool not only gives you the average salary for different positions but also what jobs are popular. You can also search for average salaries by cities in Canada and the US, as reported by current and former employees. For example, the average full-time salary in Vancouver is $66,000 (as of this publication date), with the most popular jobs being Software Developer, Software Engineer, and Project Manager.
- Indeed: This is a popular job board that lets you filter through positions by salary. It’s great to also be able to read the job descriptions and get a sense of what kind of positions pay more than others.
Tackle (awkward) salary questions with constructive conversations
You can research salaries online and make an estimate, but perhaps the best way to find out how much people in your desired fields are making is by simply asking them.
Yes, I get it: talking about salaries can be awkward.
It can bring up a lot of insecurity about whether or not one is succeeding in their career—and life. While your lawyer friends are enjoying weekly fancy dinners, your stained white shirt and bowl of Chef Boyardee ravioli might make you feel slightly inferior.
It would be great if we could get a career that pays for the mortgage, bills, a dog, and yearly vacations to the tropics. But sometimes—especially in expensive cities like Vancouver—this isn’t always the case.
Ease into awkward salary conversations by asking open-ended questions that spark meaningful discussions, such as:
- What do you think is a liveable wage?
- What are some steps you took to be financially stable?
- How do you think salary factors into choosing a career?
Reach out to those in fields you’re interested in or professionals you feel comfortable talking to, whether it be a family friend or mentor. Make sure to build a sense of trust by letting them know you’ll keep their answers confidential. Lead with “if you’re comfortable with telling me…”. If they don’t feel comfortable sharing their salary with you, don’t pressure them.
Ultimately you want to understand how professionals in your fields of interest are working to reach a level of financial security that works for their lifestyle—not expose anyone’s financial information in the process.
Look into side hustles and other ways to grow your money
If you’ve done your research and talked to people but don’t like the answers you’ve been hearing—don’t sweat it! Money can come from a ton of different sources and while your full-time job will be your main source of income, there are other ways to make (and grow!) that money as well.
Depending on where your interests lie, you can find yourself work on the side—whether it be through running an online Etsy store, tutoring, or dog walking, for example. Looking into other ways you can make money doesn’t just bring in extra cash, it can also help you develop skills you think you’re missing out on, especially if your first full-time job doesn’t utilize all your talents.
Investing is another way to grow any money that sits in your bank. It can be as simple as putting that money in a savings account that earns you interest or looking into purchasing investment options (like stocks, bonds, or portfolios) every couple of months. I definitely cannot tell you how or what to invest your money in, but I can say that sometimes investing is better than having your funds sit idly in the bank. You could even start investing with $5.
While we can’t always plan out the details of our future, doing research early can certainly help you make more informed decisions.
Noting down financial goals, talking to people in professions you are interested in, and looking into different ways of making money are all ways to give you peace of mind—and hopefully, put those late-night existential crises to bed!