How We Did It: 4 Inspiring Stories of Huge Income Increases
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Michael HeiligensteinThe Calculated Risk Taker

Michael Heiligenstein, 26, New York, N.Y.

When he finished college with degrees in English and History in 2013, Michael Heiligenstein says he didn’t have much of a plan for the future. “I moved home, unsuccessfully applied for work for a few months, before finally settling in at my former summer job at a local publishing company,” he says. “It wasn’t bad work, and I was still able to save money by living at home for several months.”

The only problem? He was making $15 an hour—and knew he could do better.

Making a Change: In early 2015, Heiligenstein took a leap of faith and moved to New York City in search of a better-paying gig. “I knew that, with the number of jobs in marketing and publishing in the city, there was a strong chance I’d find a fit for my skill set,” he says. “And within a month, I landed a job, handling marketing for a new, rapidly growing website about small businesses.”

Exponential Results: Heiligenstein’s new position paid $45,000 a year, significantly more than his previous job. Even better, within eight months, he earned a 33 percent, or $15,000, raise. He also graduated from an entry-level employee to managing a small team of his own.

How’d he get there? Heiligenstein says he identified his employer’s expectations for the position and worked hard to exceed them. “Not every single project was a success, but learning to handle criticism and identify issues is a useful skill,” he says. “I also sought out new responsibilities, which isn’t hard to do at a smaller company where nearly everyone is a multi-tasker.”

His Advice for Others: Much of Heiligenstein’s success boils down to taking (calculated) leaps of faith. “Startup jobs can be risky, but also offer a huge opportunity for advancement if things go well. [Moving] also helped me, as it’s unlikely I would have found similar work in Indianapolis,” he says. “The downside is the high cost of living, but the pay boost more than makes up for it. If you’re serious about career advancement, thriving cities are often the best place for it.”

July 6, 2016

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