Would you guys believe that I actually get fan mail and messages for advice?
Rarely, sure. But it does happen. No hate mail so far. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Recently I received an email asking for career advice. I was going to take the time to email back a long answer, but then I decided that other people might benefit from this exchange and thus decided to post my response as an article instead. In addition, others can weigh in and either back up what I’m saying or offer better/alternative career advice. The reader who sent the email, whose name will be HumbleHunter today, agreed to let me post his email and my response to it.
So to blatantly steal a popular bit from the way more popular Millennial Revolution personal finance blog, we are going to have ourselves today our very first (and maybe only, who knows) FRIDAY READER CASE!!!!!
Career question for you:
3.5 GPA in econ, lazy 2 years after that in grocery customer service supervisor role.
But I’m on fire at my job. Been in banking 1.5 years. First year taking inbound calls. Kicked ass and promoted to helping bankers of 20+ years do their job (unfortunately still in the call center, but a rather prestigious roll at my bank) on top of that, I have a long list of recognition and achievements above and beyond what everybody else in my roles has done, and use that to destroy interviews.
Problem: only 30k per year.
Options: BSA investigator or corporate compliance, also but very unlikely middle management over chat and my team of banker specialists (about 9 people).
I’m trying to get to 35k in any of these roles before I leverage out to a different company (I don’t have the patience to get only a $1k raise a year)
Real problem: I don’t care what I do, I just want to maximize my future earning potential. The would be hard with the BSA role in a way because of have to teach myself the data management skills that aren’t required here, but are elsewhere.
Also, I’m going to be very sad giving up my current role that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE (not a single bad or boring thing about it) for something incredibly boring just to show flexibility and increasing responsibility to future employers. I’d be happy to switch for 35k but I can only really get 2 or 3k. I think the management role would be ideal, but the department head knows me for being too honest rather than subtle (only because manager t wasn’t a priority of mine earlier), and for my aggressive ambition, and doesn’t think I’m a great investment because of my self confidence in the greater job market. I’m trying to change that with dialogue. That’s the only one of these three jobs that I think wouldn’t bore me and would pay me enough to stay for a while. But we’re not talking a lot (my company is NOT aggressive with pay), and I think the Real good move is to apply anywhere I can get my hands on $40k which I think I can do.
If you were me, what would you do? Thanks!
Okay, HumbleHunter, a few things to talk about.
First, you’re asking me for career advice!? Do you not see the stupid s*** that I’ve pulled in the past? I think everybody who reads this blog is just waiting for me to pump out an article entitled “Five Reasons I Burned Down My Workplace And Five Reasons I’m On The Run From The Police”.
Next, the reason I’m calling you HumbleHunter (other than anonymity) is because you are hunting for career advancement, but being very humble in your expected salary compared to what you’re considering doing.
So you’re making $30,000 right now in a job you love. Should you work to get yourself promoted up to a role paying $35,000, leave now for something that could be paying you upwards of $40,000, or stay put at $30,000 but do a job that you supposedly all-caps-love. What to do, what to do.
I’m going to make a few assumptions, one of which being that you are living in a low cost of living area. While every bank is different, most banks place their contact centers outside of the major cities to cut down on costs. So while the salaries that you’re making now and expecting in the future aren’t poverty wages like they are where I’m from, they are still pretty low.
Another assumption I’m going to make is that you’re doing as good as you say you are, you’re “destroying” those interviews as you say, and that you are as hot a commodity as you say you are. Don’t be offended; we’re all guilty of inflating our performance and skill level. Except me. My self-esteem is so poor that I won’t even claim to be “okay” at my job in front of my manager for fear of being called out on it.
In your case, I’m just going to take your self-assessment at face value.
Now, I’m glad to see that you’re on fire over there and earning accolades, but don’t let your ego run amok. Remember that you’ve only been there for a year and a half. You’re a baby compared to many of us. I myself have over ten years in banking. No one’s just going to hand you a middle management position (a level above branch management, as far as things go where I’m from in the branches) just because you’ve earned awards. I have awards on my desk, too, with another one coming likely coming towards me at my next sales meeting. They aren’t promoting me to anything anytime soon, trust me. And as far as BSA Analyst or Corporate Compliance goes, trust me, they aren’t nearly as interested in your contact center experience as you think they are.
Now, as far as all your potential courses of action go:
1) Staying where you are in the job you love
This has to pointed out because you love your job. You actually loving your job is a yet another assumption I’m making, and forgive me for not really feeling it because, well, read my blog (I literally created a blog called “Angry Retail Banker”; what sort of job satisfaction do you think I experience on a day to day basis?).
But if you truly love your job, then staying is something that should be considered. Because, pay aside, a job that you love is one of the rarest commodities in this country. More valuable than all the gold in the world.
Of course, it’s highly unlikely $30,000/year is enough for you to live on. Not unless you’re married to someone making at least a little bit more than you, with no kids, and living frugally. So let’s move on.
2) Getting promoted within the company
Don’t even bother.
I’m sorry, let me weigh the option for a moment. Oh look, it’s so light it’s floating away.
Your plan is to get a promotion that hopefully increases your salary all the way to $35,000/year, after which you’re going to leave for another company (or at least leverage your talents, experience, and higher pay).
Just find these positions with another company.
The fact is that people who switch jobs get paid more because employers need to shell out more in order to attract a new employee, but can get away with promoting you and increasing your salary by peanuts because you’re not expending the energy to move to another company and are just so happy your boss gave you a raise. At least, that’s my theory.
Job hopping is the fastest way to earn more money from your career, and it’s how Alabama resident Ben Baxter increased his salary as an auto parts quality engineer by 31% between 2011 and 2015, as reported in that article.
Loyalty to your employer seems nice, but all you’re doing his handicapping your future earnings potential. If you really do plan now to leave your current role for any of these, look outside your company rather than within.
Remember, you owe your company nothing. You, like everyone else, are selling your time for a paycheck and your chief responsibility is to maximize that paycheck. No one else will look out for your best interests but you.
This is especially true if your superiors are iffy on investing their resources in you because of your self-confidence in the greater job market. I’m assuming you’re as hot as you say you are. If that is true, don’t try to minimize your potential and value. Maximize it! If you’re that hot a commodity, then leave your company and increase your paycheck!
My Final Answer
Okay, HumbleHunter, I think the choice here becomes obvious. At least to me.
Don’t stay in your current role and don’t look for a promotion within the company. Leave your company for a better position.
The real question is: Which role should you take? You’ve mentioned that you want to go into BSA/AML, Compliance, or become the manager of a call center, right? So which role would be the best for you?
Well, that all depends. You said you love your role. What do you love about it? Do you like interacting with customers and bankers and providing assistance? Do you just love the fact that you are so good at a role that you can essentially tell others what to do?
What about your current role are you very good at? Are you able to look at a statement and figure out things right away that the customers and bankers can’t? Are you good at analyzing transaction histories and determining if something doesn’t make sense? Or are you good in advising bankers on how to maintain compliance with policy and procedure?
And what about your current role do you enjoy? What would you like to be doing in the future? Does the work matter more than the money, or vice versa?
As far as money goes:
- The average salary of a BSA investigator is $52,618, according to Glassdoor. Actually, that’s for an “AML investigator”, but we’re in the same ballpark here. I won’t go over BSA and AML as that’s not relevant here. But the fact that you’re going to have to teach yourself some skills that you wouldn’t otherwise learn on the job isn’t something to fear, but rather to embrace. It’s also unavoidable. If you’re considering a career in Anti-Money Laundering, know that the median salary for someone with the CAMS designation (Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist) is $85,000/year, compared to $60,000 for someone who doesn’t have CAMS. Of course, that’s not one specific position but rather everyone who works in the AML field, but it gives you more of an idea of what your earnings potential is. You’re trying to earn $35,000/year as an investigator. These jobs pay more than that. And that’s why I call you “HumbleHunter”, HumbleHunter.
- Corporate compliance is another career path that’s going to make you more than $35,000. Going with Glassdoor again, the average salary for a Compliance Officer is $78,203. Now that doesn’t specify banking compliance and I’m sure some industries pay more than others, but Compliance is Compliance is Compliance. According to Payscale (sorry, Glassdoor. I like to play the field), the average and median salaries of bank compliance officers specifically are $57,456 and $62,285. Like with the BSA/AML position, you will have to have a proven track record of Compliance experience. This is a position that I’d say staying with your current bank might not be as bad an idea as I indicated earlier, as your knowledge of your bank’s systems and procedures may well help you land the job. Yes, you’ll still make more money going to another bank, but you also need to land the job in the first place.
- As for a contact center management position, go to another bank! With the other two options, I would say that finding a way to transition into those different areas of finance within your bank might not be too terrible an idea, but not so for the management position. You should absolutely leave. If management or a supervisory role is the next step up (like a Branch Supervisor or Assistant Branch Manager position are technically the next step up on my own in-branch career trajectory), then you will make way more money if you go to another bank than if you stay where you are. It’s just how things work. And this is not counting the fact that your superiors have decided that they will not invest in you, which I take to mean that a promotion to these roles is not something they will ever consider you for. Better for you to go somewhere else and make more money to do the same job. Oh, and Glassdoor reports the national average salary for a call center manager to be $59,429.
So what should you do?
You indicate that you’d probably be most happy in the management role. If that’s the case, definitely go for that one. But leave your bank and go somewhere else where they will pay you more. Especially if, as you’ve said before, your superiors aren’t willing to invest in your career.
But you need to either have or learn people management skills if you want to go down the managerial path. You need to be a leader, psychologist, disciplinarian, mediator, and all the things that come with keeping a team of employees working together towards a common goal and getting the results you need. I personally don’t have that and would never want to be in a management position anywhere, but we’re not talking about me here.
I can’t tell you what to do. I can only lay out your options. It’s on you to decide what you want to do. BSA Investigator, Corporate Compliance, or contact center management; only you can decide which exact route to go.
But I can give you some broader advice that you will find relevant and helpful (I hope):
- Do not stay with your current employer trying to build up to a certain salary before leaving. Leave now and get your earnings boost now. That’s how you maximize your earning potential.
- Invest in yourself. Learn new skills, earn new certifications, take courses related to your field, attend networking events. You said your job isn’t teaching you certain skills for some of the positions you want to go into. Then it’s up to you to acquire those skills elsewhere.
- Be honest with yourself when it comes to your abilities and what you like to do. This will help determine what career path you should take. If you hate dealing with customers like I do, for example
One final thing: When you get your boost in salary, don’t match it with a boost in lifestyle expenses. Doubling your salary shouldn’t lead to doubling your expenses via doubling the size of your house, car, and TV. No, instead of spending your money, invest your money in a portfolio that pays you dividends to own it. Do this long enough, and your passive income will be higher than your expenses, allowing you to retire early.
I give you this advice because you say right now that you absolutely love your job and can’t think of a single negative thing about it, but that will change soon. You only have a year and a half in banking. Look at me. Read this blog. Talk to people you know work in a bank branch. I can count on one hand the number of bankers, managers, and tellers who enjoy what they do, and that is not in any way an exaggeration. Jobs change. We change. You may get bored of what you do, or you may get a new boss who has it out for you, or your bank may change what your role is responsible for and double your workload, or you may get fired or laid off.
That’s why it’s important that you start right now learning to live a frugal lifestyle and investing as much money as you can into assets that pay you to own them (such as dividend paying stocks or investment real estate).
But for your original question, I can’t tell you what to do other to invest in yourself and your career, and to leave your employer for a new one in order to get that boost in pay.
Readers–What do YOU think! Should HumbleHunter take my advice and leave his employer sooner rather than later? Or should he ignore me and work his way up in his current company? Which career path should he aim for? Do you have any alternate retail banking career advice for him? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Being the opportunist that I am, that last link about investing is an affiliate link. It leads to Ally Invest. Clicking on it and opening/funding an account earns me a small commission at no cost to you. But it’s definitely worth checking out, as they have free trade and cash back promotions (you can earn things like 90 days of free trades or $200 cash) as you begin your investment journey. Regardless of what promotions are or are not being offered, I would get started now in investing so that your money has more time to grow.