The 7 Skills You Need to Earn a Six-Figure Salary

The Skills You Need to Make a $100,000+ Salary
by Georgene Huang
February 07, 2017
Georgene Huang is the co-founder of Fairygodboss, a site just for women to give and read honest reviews about their experiences at companies across the United States.
There are all sorts of people out there bringing home six figures or more each year. Sure, whatever—but how do you get to be one of them?
So you want to earn a six-figure salary? Making $100,000 is a milestone that many people want to achieve, but what are the things you need to do in order to make this goal a reality? You may be surprised to learn that this income level is more achievable than you think—and that making some tactical decisions and doing some research and planning will help you along your way.

1. RESEARCH (TO EARN 6 FIGURES, YOU NEED TO PICK A PROFESSION THAT PAYS 6 FIGURES)

If you think that this income level is reserved for CEOs and the famous bedhead-sporting entrepreneurs you read about in Fast Company, you may be surprised to learn that six-figure salaries exist in many less obvious professions. Depending on where you live and what company you work at, Career Contessa’s Salary Project found you can make $100,000+ a year as a sales rep, brand manager, legal consultant, director of finance, or even a construction manager.
In short, if you want to earn a six-figure salary, be aware that you may need to focus on where the money is. Sort through salary databases, such as Fairygodboss’ compensation database, to see what women earn in your field (or any field you're interested in). Being thorough about your research will help you realize that there may be more jobs than you think where your interests and money goals align.

2. PERSEVERANCE (IT MAY NOT HAPPEN RIGHT AWAY)

Sometimes your professional interests and financial needs are a match for that target 6-fig position, but for one reason or another, it takes a while to get there. Some job positions require that you work a set number of years in that industry to qualify for a specific salary tier. Think about doctors. Sure, they can earn quite a lot in private practice, but it takes years of education (read: student loans) and low pay in a residency program before they hit the financial jackpot. Only you can decide whether the trade-off is worth the money—but if your heart is set on both a high income and working in a profession you love, staying the course will feel worthwhile.

3. NEGOTIATION (DON’T COUNT ON BENEVOLENCE)

Whether you’re getting your first job or your fifth, the salary offer you receive is often unlikely to be the absolute bottom line. Negotiation is one way to make sure that you are earning the maximum amount you deserve. If you’ve done your research and you’re not earning your market worth, your pay may become anchored to a lower number for longer than you think. Every subsequent raise, promotion, or even future job negotiation, may lead your manager or prospective employer to consider what you were previously making. So start off on the right foot by asking for more. What’s the worst that can happen? If the answer is no, at least you've tried and you won't regret asking in a few months—even if it feels awkward at the time. 

4. CONFIDENCE (ACT LIKE YOU ALREADY EARN SIX FIGURES)

If you're feeling shy about whether you deserve to make six figures, get over it! Nobody will pay you a six-figure salary if you act like you don’t deserve it. Own up to your professional worth. While simply believing you're worth $100,000 a year isn’t the only thing that will get you there, nobody is going to drop that much cash in your lap if you can’t at least believe in yourself and what you can offer.
If you're shy or uncertain whether you deserve to make six figures, get over it! 

5. PLANNING (WHEN YOU CAN'T COUNT ON LUCK)

Sometimes there simply aren’t shortcuts, and you have to work your way up to the confidence and experience that a six-figure role requires. If you start off in a job that pays less than you want, don’t despair. You can work hard, keep looking for related positions in the same or different company, and apply for a promotion or new position when you’ve gained more of the skills and experience you need to earn a higher salary. 
Managers make more than entry-level workers for a reason—they know more and have more responsibility. While you shouldn’t assume that the passing of years alone will guarantee you reach that salary goal, active career planning will help you get there sooner than you may think.

6. RISK-TAKING (SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH)

It sounds counter-intuitive but sometimes the surest way to land a six-figure salary is to listen to your gut and take a job that doesn’t offer that salary level. Making some sacrifices and embracing uncertainty will often propel you to something that will become financially lucrative. 
For example, you may have the opportunity to intern unpaid for an industry leader, which could set you up for some unusual future opportunities. Or you may really believe that a start-up (that can’t afford to pay you a lot right now) is going to become the next big thing. Waiting it out makes those stock options a lot more valuable than they look now on that offer letter. The point is: there’s a reason for the adage, “No risk, no reward.”

7. NETWORKING (NO WOMAN IS AN ISLAND) 

Nobody can achieve maximum career success—which is at least partially measured by money—on their own. Whether you’re a social animal or an introvert, making a concerted effort to build relationships with other people is absolutely essential to reaching your financial goals. Your connections at work and in your industry can help you land a new position, learn more about how to change industries, or simply support your chances of being promoted. So network, network, network. Here are some good ideas about where to start building networks that can support your financial goals.

What did you differently that landed you a six figure salary? Or do you think it's just luck?