Salary Variances

We see a great many resumes and work with thousands of job seekers every year. Many of those clients have very similar backgrounds and experience. Many have similar job titles and work in the same industry. I find it interesting to see how similar candidates with similar levels of experience within the same industries can have such wildly varying salary expectations.


For example, I was recently chatting with a Senior Vice President of a Fortune 500 company whose main function was sales and marketing management. He had a base salary expectation of $200,000 and a total compensation expectation of around $275,000. The SAME day, I talked with another Senior VP of a different Fortune 500 company who was also in sales and marketing. His base salary expectation was $125,000 with a total compensation goal of around $180,000. Both clients had 23 years experience; both had MBAs; and both lived in high cost of living areas. What was the difference?


One difference was the industry. The client with the higher compensation expectations was in a high-growth industry that has good outlook for the future in terms of continuing growth and revenue production. The other client was in an industry that was moderating after experiencing a boom time and was starting to show signs of weakening in the marketplace.


Another difference was track record. The client who was looking at the higher salary had spent the last fifteen years of his career maximizing his efforts to generate revenues for his employers. He had done a great job and had enjoyed a good promotion record along with generous bonuses. Success builds on success. The other client had had a slow start to his career and had an average record of success in his career. He wasn’t a bad worker but he hadn’t been a rainmaker for his employers either.


A third difference was attitude. The client with the lower salary expectations had just that – lower expectations. People generally rise to the expectations that are placed before them, whether those expectations are set by others or by themselves. This client had not had high confidence in himself over the years and considered himself a “dependable” employee rather than a skyrocket. The other client was just the opposite – he never stopped challenging himself or attempting to best his own records. Their attitudes showed for both of them in their work performance and in the ways their careers had progressed.


Of these three factors – industry, track record, and attitude – attitude is probably the most important. It has a direct effect on track record. Industry is a choice. At any point, the second client could have chosen to transfer his skills to a different industry that showed more promise but he chose to stay where he was and keep being “dependable”.


We are fortunate here in the US to not be limited by outside factors in terms of how far we can go with our success. If a person here wants to work hard, sacrifice, and stick with something, he/she can go as high as he wishes in terms of success. Sure, people face different challenges but there is not a single highly successful person who can say they never faced significant, often daunting challenges. Challenges can serve to defeat those who are weak-minded or invigorate those who are determined to overcome. We are the ones who choose to which group we wish to belong.

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