Beyond Entry-Level

Often, when someone asks if she can meet me for coffee so she can “pick my brain,” part of that brain-picking process is simply listening to me explain how I got my start and what I did to get to where I am now. This person is usually young and already has a year or two of work under her belt, and what she really wants to know is: “What do I need to do to get to the next level in my career?”

Anna Prior, writing in the Sunday Journal, says that at her first job out of college, she worked late many Fridays, spent Christmas Eve at the office, and figured out how to pay her bills on an entry-level salary.

Fast-forward six years. While the hours can still be late — and I’m still not making Mark Zuckerberg-style money — I’m no longer the new kid in the office, and I’ve been able to build on those early experiences.

Prior dishes out some of the usual advice: find mentors, network, and get as many benefits from work as you can. What she doesn’t explicitly say is how long it took for her to get to the next level in her career and move on from being an entry-level employee.

So let’s talk about that here. How long did it take for you to move beyond “entry-level?” For me, that happened when I was 25 — after I had done a stint in grad school and had worked a handful of entry-level jobs. The person who hired me next asked me what my salary requirements were and I told him $10K more than what I earned at my last job without blinking an eye. He accepted, and I moved on to a better job.

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