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Get paid for knowledge, not work

Everyone is paid differently even for the same roles. Not all the reasons are justified, but often wage differences are due to differences in knowledge and skills. Here are some of thoughts and observations on how to earn more with your knowledge.

Everyone started off at exactly the same pay at my first job out of college. Differences emerged slowly over time as some people got larger raises than others. Timing of promotions also differed, but what struck me was the way that I advanced ahead of peers. I remember one colleague comment “you jumped ahead of the line.” I didn’t know there was some unspoken line. I was too naive, but I saw an opportunity to join a new group and at the interview, I distinctly remember the hiring manager pique with interest when I showed awareness of my StrengthsFinder assessment, which I learned about through a mentor at the company. One little bit of knowledge and some self awareness made the difference.

At the same company, during the first week’s orientation training, I remember the top manager of the office gave a presentation where he drew a graph explaining how early career we are paid for doing tasks, but as we accumulate knowledge, we eventually jump onto a different curve where we are paid for knowledge. You’ll notice the switch when you’re able to start answering questions quickly based on experience, usually gained through mistakes and training. The more things you try and mistakes you make, the faster the learning.

If you are able to take knowledge from one area and apply it somewhere else, you can command even larger pay differences because the combined skill set is rarer and your unique perspective allows for different and potentially better solutions. It’s usually harder to make these jumps, but by understanding your strengths and seeing the underlying connections between seemingly different fields, your knowledge will differentiate you from peers.

Though these principles may be universal, there are unfortunately other biases which influence who is able to make more mistakes, or get exposure to opportunities to learn. These barriers are harder to overcome, but you can still beat the system by focusing on learning and demonstrating knowledge.

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