Dreaming about a boost in your salary and career as an Engineer? Discover how to start and advance your engineering career without moving away from the work you love.

Source: Medium – You will find hundreds of articles across Medium on how to increase your salary. But most of them seem to end with “become a manager, and you increase your salary”. Yes, that’s the classic path, but for engineers passionate about tech, where should we go to increase our salary?

This article is about how I started and advanced my engineering career without moving away from the work I love. Hopefully, I can share some insights for engineers or students on how I chose to start my career and why.

To increase your salary, I would strongly recommend you to first understand what a salary actually is.

For many, the salary is putting a value on your skills. For me, salary is a percentage of the value you bring to the company you’ve chosen to spend your time with. There is an important difference. In the knowledge-based concept, you assume that more knowledge will automatically give you a bigger paycheck at the end of the month. The value-based concept, the one I strongly would suggest you invest your time in, forces you to ask yourself how much value you actually bring to the company and how you can increase that value.

Often, the two paths intersect — the more knowledge you obtain the more value you bring to the company and the larger salary you get. But it’s important that the knowledge you accumulate is the right type of knowledge: valuable to the company and applied in a valuable way.

By thinking about how you can bring more value to the company the things you need to do, and the knowledge you need to obtain become clear. Now you can increase the value you add to the company — only then can you argue for a larger salary tomorrow than you got today.

Early on in my career, I argued for salaries based on the way I believed I had changed and what new things I had learned. This never brought any results. But by switching tactics and starting to deliver more value to the company, I could suddenly argue about my salary in a different way. And it got results quickly.

It sounds crazy, but I would suggest you start your career being as close to useless as possible. The core is to find a place that pays you little but invests in you as a person and your knowledge. One great example is a trainee program, which most often pays badly (guess what, you’re actually not bringing a lot of value to the company yet!)

Choosing the right trainee program is another article in itself, but make sure that the pay cut actually is compensated with knowledge sharing. What courses do they provide? Will you work with senior engineers that will help you expand your knowledge? Can you try new technical solutions and fail? By entering a trainee program, you allow yourself to fail. Be sure to use that opportunity and fail hard and often. But also make sure the program is time-limited. 6–12 months should do, then it’s time to get out into the real world.

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