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Snagging Six Figures: From earning $48,500 at $85,000 in 4 years.

The concept  ‘Snagging six figures’ was created after we had readers writing in asking for advice about how to use their degree and current job skills to launch into a different industry or career. We know that no one career story is the same, but telling the stories of others can challenge, inspire and shape your own. We are asking every interview the same five questions: 

  • Why they picked their course 
  • Their course experience
  • Their first job 
  • What they learnt
  • Their next step
  • And their advice

Name: William

Age: 27

From Non for profit into financial planning, back non for profit. 

Salary: From $48,000 at 23 to $85,000 at 27

Why I picked my course:

I studied a Bachelor of Business and Psychology at Macquarie University.

I was interested in psychology, like every high school student that doesn’t really know what psychology is, says.  I thought I might like to be a clinical psychologist, but my Dad wanted me to do business. He said it was more secure. Now that I know how little an undergraduate degree in psychology would have offered me as a stand alone degree; I am thankful for my Dad’s advice.

The course experience:

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t get into Macquarie University lifestyle at all. For someone that regards themselves as being a social person Macquarie just didn’t appeal to me. In retrospect this is a big regret of mine. I honestly – and very naively – felt university was more of an obligation than a privilege and didn’t spend much time on campus.

Macquarie University was renowned as having a very strong psychology; which I think is true. The double degree structure meant that I would do two subjects of business and two of psychology per semester which sometimes proved difficult. I thought that psychology would be a nice break from the ‘theory heavy’ business degree. But it was actually the other way around.


My first job: At a non for profit

I interned at an Indigenous community non for profit. This was my first experience in the corporate world and the experience changed my whole career.  It shifted my entire attitude about work. I realised that I wanted to make a difference in the world, rather than just be successful in my own lane. I suddenly became aware of companies like Thank You Water, Movember and Who Gives A Cr*p.

My first paid job was at a mental health organisation. I was the partnerships coordinator. I worked in the business development team; where they would be building out sponsorship relationships with large corporations and I would facilitate mental health programs with their funds. I was earning $48,000 a year, working 6 days a week, and doing the job of 3 – 4 people.

In my second year my salary jumped to $50,000. The reality of the industry was difficult to swallow.


What I learnt:

I didn’t know what I wanted to do and so I kept asking around for guidance. But I didn’t really want it. I had some sort of superiority complex. I considered myself a completely different person to anyone that worked for a corporate. I had told so many people that “I ‘literally’ could not imagine anything worse than spending my whole life working for a business with a sole commercial purpose because I thought it was a “meaningless existence.” This stigma made it hard for me to consider jobs with an open mind; even when I was struggling to live on the salary my job was offering.

I would ask my Dad what he thought, grabbling for concrete instructions. But everytime he suggested an industry change I’d say, “You don’t understand!” Answering my question made him my worst enemy.

One day he said to me, you don’t want someone to guide you, you want someone to understand your frustration and pay you more. A contradiction.

He said, keep your five year plan. You will come back to the non for profit industry; but, in the meantime,  “use some of your energy on learning to eat some shit and play nicely with others.” They were his exact words.


Where did you go?

I used my two years experience in sponsorships and business development to get a job in financial planning. I used my business degree to open the door.

It was a boutique financial firm that worked with high-net worth individuals who needed help understanding and managing their finances.  Most of my time was spent preparing financial plans for clients, researching investment opportunities for our firm, and pursuing new business opportunities for our company.

The truth is that you can be polite and back down and go with the flow without losing your sense of yourself. I thought I would hate the job; but the client interaction was rewarding, in a different way. My starting salary was $72,000. A $22,000 increase.

I stayed at the firm for two years and my salary increased to $85,000 in that period.


What did you learn in the job?

It’s a happy coincidence that my non for profit experience really helped me succeed in financial planning. I actually  think it is vital to gain some experience in some areas of the industry outside of a financial planning firm prior to becoming a planner. You could start in banking, insurance, or like me – with a customer facing role.

Good Financial Planners are just as good at people skills and communication as they are at financial and technical skills.  It is one of those occupations where you need to be good at people and numbers in order to be able to do the calculations and have the knowledge required but also be able to influence and communicate well with the clients. 

There is no point in having great strategic skills if you can’t actually help the client to understand and implement the changes required.


What was your next job

I stuck to my five year plan and moved back into philanthropy after a two year stint in financial planning. This time though, I was more valuable in the non for profit world. What I realised is that philanthropy isn’t just donations and charity, but strategic giving – whether its time, resources, knowledge or money.  There is a huge market for potential job opportunities in the philanthropic and non for profit sector, you only need to look as far as World Vision, Oxfam, Myer and Fairfax Family Foundations.

I went to an interview as a senior financial manager at large non for profit. Though I was under qualified, my financial planning experience combined with my early non for profit experience got me the job. My starting salary was $85,000.


The lesson:

I decided to write this article because I really think there is value in quitting your job to get a pay rise.  I would take the value of a new experience seriously. It could open a lot of doors.

For me, doing ‘good’ in the world took priority over doing ‘well’ financially. But I still needed to support myself. I think the realisation that you can land your dream job in three years time, rather than right now, is really important.

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