Once upon a time, I was 23 years old and miserable only 18 months into my public relations job.
The work was interesting and I liked my boss, but I was young and resentful about my $28,000 salary.
I’d tell myself that I was just starting out, that it was part of paying my dues. At least I had a job! With the economy the way it was, I should have been happy with anything I could get, right?
I wanted life’s little luxuries, like getting my hair cut without guilt and replacing my hand-me-down furniture. I also had big dreams for the upcoming years: I wanted to get married to my boyfriend, travel and buy a house.
And I knew there wasn’t much potential for advancement where I was: One of the biggest red flags was that my boss told me that he was grooming me to be a director in the company … and then put out a job posting to hire someone above me! I knew I had to get out before I wasted more time there being overlooked for promotions.
It became very clear to me that this job wouldn’t allow me to live the life I wanted, but I didn’t have the time or money to pursue further degrees or certifications. Instead of scrapping my dreams, I leveraged my existing skills to make more money in the following three ways.
1. I Used My Skills in a New Field
What I loved most about my PR job was that I got to use my writing and research skills. I’ve always loved the challenges of research and writing, from science papers in high school to corporate white papers, and I figured that those skills could apply to hundreds of careers—not just PR.
Keeping that in mind, I researched all types of fields and career paths that had never remotely interested me. I investigated getting a Ph.D. and pursuing academia. I thought about starting a tutoring business. I sent resumes out for entry-level jobs in business consulting and market research.
After about six months of job searching, I was able to land a job in investor relations at a financial firm, instantly doubling my salary and life satisfaction. Was the job directly related to PR? No. Did it involve writing? Yes. And, if you read on, there are reasons that it worked for me—and that the firm was willing to take a chance on me.
How You Can Do It: The thing about switching jobs is that there tends to be a lot more wiggle room for salary negotiation. At your existing job, the company knows not only your current salary but the amount of every raise and bonus, while a new company will pay you based on what they think you’re worth, not what you’ve been paid in the past. And no field is out of reach: I believed at one point that a jump from PR to IR was impossible because I didn’t have the financial background—but I proved myself wrong.
I was selling my skills, not my experience. Had I tried to talk about all of my public relations successes, the hiring manager wouldn’t have been able to relate and would never have considered me. Instead, I told him how I am an organized researcher, an efficient writer and quick to pick up new ideas. I would take their scattered reporting process and make it better. Of course he hired me!