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5 Ways to Boost Your Salary and Career from an MBA Career Expert

Oct 1, 2021
Career Management Center Director Emily Anderson on elevating your earnings potential

By Arial Starks

For business professionals, “career growth” can take on several forms, but a common one involves salary. MBA candidates often return to school with salary bumps in mind – future compensation is an important factor in their calculations of return on investment. MBA programs like the Vanderbilt MBA offer fantastic opportunities for candidates to advance professionally and financially, but the skills required to advance shouldn’t be practiced in school alone. We spoke with Emily Anderson, Career Management Center Senior Director at Vanderbilt Business, who shared 5 tips on how to boost your salary and career. 

1.  Research your desired industry 

Take the time to understand the industry in which you want to enter or grow, and which roles within it pay in your aspirational range. Anderson notes that, most of the time, client-facing positions tend to compensate more than internal-facing ones. 

“There’s usually an expectation to be client-ready on top of just being sufficient in a particular business function or set of skills you are learning. You also need to be client-ready because you are the revenue for the firm; the firm is selling you, so generally compensation follows that,” Anderson said. 

Emily Anderson

Emily Anderson

At Vanderbilt, MBA students explore different industries not just through classwork, but company information sessions, industry symposiums, visits to corporate campuses, internships, consulting projects, and more. 

2. Tailor your resume to your desired industry 

You have to land the right job before you earn the right salary. One of the best ways to showcase your transferable skill sets and the value you will bring is by tailoring your resume to the role you are seeking. Anderson encourages students and professionals to not only focus on hard skills they possess in their resume, but to highlight experiences where the outcome of a project you led were the direct result of soft skills such as leadership, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.

“Highlight any type of work where you have managed projects, managed people, if you have any technical coding or engineering experience, if you’ve run multivariate models, or you’ve had significant experience with budgeting. You always want to highlight what you’ve done before and translate it into something a bit broader…from a purely technical background into something more managerial,” said Anderson. 

The Vanderbilt Career Management Center begins working with students on their resumes before they even arrive on campus, helping them tell their stories in compelling and relevant ways that will translate to success during the application and interview process.

3. Take on more responsibility 

One of the best ways to be promoted and make more money is by taking on more responsibility in the workplace to build the skills you need for the job you want. With higher paying roles comes more responsibility, so it is key to gain that sense of responsibility and leadership before trying to transition to a new position. Anderson advises business professionals to take on more responsibility in the office as well as in the community with non-profits and professional organizations. 

“Put yourself out there to get those types of experiences where you’re very integral and direct the outcome of a project or a team,” she said. 

MBA programs offer a multitude of opportunities to build leadership skills and take on skill-building assignments in a risk-free environment. At Vanderbilt, students run clubs, serve on nonprofit boards, and launch new businesses, among other things.

4. Work with a mentor 

One of the ways we learn as people is by watching and taking direction from others. When looking to advance in your career, it is important to find a mentor who has or is working in the same industry you desire to work in. 

“Find somebody that you admire or that you feel like has had a trajectory of high performance, leadership, and strong communication skills and put yourself in contact with them as much as possible because that will greatly help you,” says Anderson. 

Vanderbilt’s Leadership Development Program helps MBA students identify their strengths and weaknesses, through individual and group coaching, to build a foundation for relationships with mentors outside of the program. 

5. Make wise career moves

Though your goal may be to make more money, it is never advised to take a job strictly for the compensation. Taking on a role that does not help you in your career will do more harm than good for someone who is looking to advance in their career. Anderson says sometimes you will have to take a lower paying position doing what you love to further your career in the long-run. 

“Your performance will probably increase if you’re really enjoying what you’re doing in a work environment that you feel like you can thrive in. While you may take a slight step back, your chances of accelerating, your compensation, your responsibilities, and your exposure to the type of job you want to get will go up because you’re making a more informed decision on your next career move,” she said. 

Through in-classroom and out-of-classroom experiences, work with career coaches and leadership development professionals, and more, Vanderbilt MBA students build a strong understanding of their desired career paths and the steps they need to take to achieve the goals. Year after year, Vanderbilt MBAs post exceptional employment outcomes, and as alumni, they continue to grow into global leaders that make an exceptional impact. 

Click here to learn more about earning an MBA at Vanderbilt Business. 


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