Think Like a High Earner

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Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Her writing is dedicated to helping job seekers understand and take charge of the hiring process and how they view their workplace.  One of her recent columns was about how an interview for a six-figure job should differ from interviews earlier in your career.

Ryan says you should understand that companies expect someone earning that salary to understand his/her own worth.Companies don’t throw around those sums lightly. They need someone who knows what they can bring to the company, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by going to the interviewer with an eager-beaver “Look how well I can dance and prance for you!” attitude.”

People who earn six-figure salaries usually have highly specialized skills requiring extensive education (think physician, attorney, or pharmacist) or have in-demand skills that are rare in the marketplace (software developer, executive chef, or designer.) In a corporate role, most high-paid executives have a direct and vital influence on the company’s performance. They’re often responsible for company strategy or generating revenue.

Ryan writes that companies who are seeking someone at this level should come in with more than an impressive resume; they should also have a point of view about their function. They understand their unique skill set, and know that they can command top dollar for what they do. “A six-figure job interview is a conversation between equals. If it doesn’t feel that way, don’t take the job.”

It should come as no surprise that mindset is important to earning a high salary. A study published in the Journal of Financial Planning found that locus of control has been linked to income. The authors defined locus of control as “the extent to which someone sees their life outcomes as being determined by their actions. Individuals with an internal locus of control believe that their actions control life outcomes, while individuals with an external locus of control feel that their life outcomes are unrelated to their behaviors, unpredictable, under the control of others, or the result of chance or luck.” Earners with internal locus of control tended to earn more than those who believed that control for their careers lay outside their control.

Barbara Stanny, author of Secrets of Six-Figure Women: Surprising Strategies to Up Your Earnings and Change Your Life, says that under-earners are often vague about money issues, or ambivalent about earning high salaries.  Her under earner’s quiz includes self-evaluation statements such as “I often give away my services (volunteering, working more hours than I’m actually paid)”, “It’s so hard to ask for a raise (or raise fees) that I just don’t do it,” and “Recognition and praise are more important to me than money.”

In fact, she writes in her book that when her agent approached her with the idea for Six Figure Women, she initially rejected the idea. “I pictured those high-earning woman as cold, aloof, tough, hard driving and designer-dressed people I could never relate to, leagues above me.” Then it struck her – “What was I telling myself? Could this be why I never earned much money?  How could I let myself earn big bucks if I held such a disparaging view of those who were doing it?”

Once you admit you have a problem, you can get help. Believe it or not, there’s an organization called Under Earners Anonymous dedicated to helping members work toward its key values: Abundance, Prosperity, Freedom and Serenity. The organization’s website lists the symptoms of under earning, which include working too long and too hard on projects that won’t increase your income, rejecting choices or ideas that will increase your income, continually feeling the need to re-prove your value in the marketplace instead of feeling empowered to command high fees or salary, and compulsively volunteering or giving away your services instead of charging for them.

Under Earners Anonymous holds meetings in New York City, but the site offers online tools for defining a vision and setting goals, evaluating how you send your time, and creating an action plan, with or without an accountability “sponsor.” Find more at

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