Penelope Trunk is a fellow Careerist who has a wonderful blog entitled Brazen Careerist (I highly recommend you read it!). Penelope recently interviewed Al Lee, the director of quantitative analysis at PayScale, and she made a few interesting discoveries regarding our salary expectations as we age.
#1 GO WHERE THE MEN ARE. A good rule both for professionally and life! But, to be precise, pay tops out at age 38 for women ($61K) and age 45 for men ($95K). But the difference, according to PayScale data, is not due to unequal pay for equal work. Rather, the difference is that women choose lower paying careers, and women are more likely to take time out of the workforce for kids. So the first thing you can do to prevent your salary from flat-lining is choose a career that men dominate. But it’s not just about industry—it is also about influence. Stick to line-management positions rather than support roles. For example, skip human resources and go to supply chain management.
#2 SPECIALIZE. By your mid 30s, if you don’t have a specialty, it’s hard to get your salary into the next bracket. You earn more money if your talents are more scarce. Also, don’t give up hope if you have no idea what you’re doing in your mid-20s. As long as you figure things out by the time you’re 30, you will get a premium for 15 years of experience before your salary stops rising.
#3 BE A LAWYER. (YES!) Though basically everyone, including the American Bar Association, reports that law school is a ripoff, Al says that the only profession where your pay increases after 20 years is in law. Because laws change very slowly, especially procedural law, and so much of being a good lawyer is your on-the-job training.
#4 REWRITE YOUR RESUME. If you’re at the beginning of your career, focus on accomplishments rather than responsibilities. This makes you look like you’re in a higher pay bracket so you will get larger salary increases. (Good resume editing tips here, at Quint Careers.)
#5 BUY A HOUSE ASSUMING YOU WON'T GET A RAISE. EVER. When it comes to houses in the U.S., the average age of a first-time buyer is 33. So people go through their 20s gaining super-high raises, and then people buy a house in their mid-30s with the assumption that the raises will continue. In fact, though, you should buy a house preparing for your real income to remain unchanged until age 55, when it is likely to go down.
#6 RECOGNIZE YOUR LIMITATIONS. People eventually start to realize that they are not going to get to the very top. They see that only one out of 100 web designers is the director, and only one out of 50 directors is a VP. Al calls this the funnel effect, and he says many people recognize this and start to trade time for money; people see that chasing the increasingly smaller raises is not as fulfilling as doing a wide range of other things with their time.
Don't let these tips get you down; now that you know what you are up against, use them to your advantage!
Taken from: Brazen Careerist