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My Work History, and How Much I Made at Each Job

One of my favorite blog post that J Money wrote is his work history article – where he shares how much he’s earned at each of his 40+ jobs. Although I’m not quite to the 40 job mark, I’m well on my way – so I thought I would go ahead and share all of my work history, with how much I earned in each role.

In the US, we like to keep our wages hush-hush. Which I actually think is a mistake. Why?

When publicly traded companies were first required to make CEO compensation public knowledge, the average CEO pay shot up (a reverse of the desired effect). Why? Because once the CEO of Intel knew what the CEO of HP was making, he could ask for a raise!

I think the same thing could happen with “average” employees. I believe that wage transparency among employees will require companies to come up with logical and fair compensation models (like Buffer’s) – rather than having two people who do the exact same work have a 25% discrepancy in their salaries.

Although this article is intended to be more fun and interesting than political, I still thought the above tidbit would be interesting to share.

So, without further ado, here’s my work history with far more detail than is probably necessary:

Jobs Before College

  1. My work experience before collegeElementary school janitor ($10/hr): My very first paid job started right when I turned 14. During my 8th grade year I cleaned my small elementary school a couple of times a week. My wife might argue with this, but the school principal said that the school had never been cleaner!
  2. Yard work/lawn mowing ($10-$33/hr): Although I only made $0.25 mowing my parent’s lawn, when I’d go and do this for other people I earned much more. While it was usually between $10-15/hr, there were a few large fields that I mowed down pretty quickly – making as much as $33/hr.
  3. Babysitter ($10-25/hr): Although I didn’t make watching kids an ongoing project, I did babysit on occasion, and realized that teenage girls can actually make a lot of money! I really don’t think they should have a monopoly on this type of work.
  4. Shoe department salesman ($6.75/hr): My first job that required a “real” application was working for a now bankrupt California department store – where I spent a summer organizing and selling shoes for the state minimum wage. Little did I realize that I was making much better money in high school than I would in college (thanks to California’s high minimum wage). I also learned how to read feet sizes – an entertaining party trick.
  5. English reader ($6.75/hr – tuition reimbursement): While attending a Christian boarding academy for my junior and senior years of high school, I worked as a reader for the English teacher. The majority of my pay went to help pay for tuition, but it was a fun and educational job none-the-less.
  6. Door-to-door sales ($6.75 + bonuses): For one summer I worked in door-to-door book sales. I was terrible at hard selling! However, I learned a lot from this experience – such as how to keep a positive attitude when others are negative towards you.
  7. Resident Assistant for the men’s dormitory ($6.75/hr – tuition reimbursement): For my senior year of highschool, I was one of the dorm RAs, which meant that I monitored the halls in the evenings, making sure that the guys weren’t doing anything too crazy.

Jobs During College

  1. jobs during collegeOutbound university phone fundraising ($10/hr + bonuses): During the first few months of my college experience, I worked for the university as a phone fundraiser in the evenings – where I called alumni, discussed the current success of the university, and asked for money. Every evening we would have competitions – with us each getting bonuses and gift cards based on reaching milestones.
  2. Satellite TV technician ($5.75/hr): With Michigan minimum wage far lower than California’s, my hourly rate saw a substantial drop for a few years. In this position I provided phone assistance to people struggling to get service with their satellite dishes.
  3. Hospital HR intern ($13/hr + $600/month housing stipend): Back in California for the summer, I worked for a hospital human resources department, where I assisted with recruiting, new employee orientation, and other HR activities. It was a fun job, although the most serious I had up to this point.
  4. College dorm janitor in Australia ($17.50 AUD/hr, about $12.50 USD/hr): Let me tell you, I should have been a janitor all the way through school! It consistently seemed to be my highest earning roles – in both the US and abroad. During a semester of studying in Australia, I picked up a job as a dorm janitor – and made double what I was earning in Michigan!
  5. Inbound sales for Christian books and programming ($5.75/hr): Back in Michigan, my wage returned to the pitiful $5.75/hr. I answered phones, responded to questions, and tracked orders for a Christian book and programming company. Because I was working about 20 hours a week, I ended up banking up a good amount of this cash (since I didn’t have any time to spend it).
  6. Sandwich artisan ($5.75/hr): I made sandwiches at one of the campus cafe’s (essentially a Subway). Surprising, this was one of my most fun jobs because I got to know a large portion of the campus that would come in to grab lunch or dinner here. Learning how to serve peers was a valuable experience.
  7. Volunteer high school teacher in the Republic of the Marshall Islands ($0.75/hr – $200/month stipend + housing): I took one year out of college to work as a volunteer teacher in the Marshall Islands. Although I didn’t make much during this year, it was certainly an awesome experience. I taught high school social studies, Algebra I, and sponsored the newspaper and student association.
  8. Local summer camp director/coordinator ($10/hr): I worked with my local church in Willits to help organize a team of high-school and college aged counselors who then helped put on programming and activities for a group of about 30 kids.
  9. University newspaper business manager (about $10/hr – stipend): For this job I tracked the finances for the Andrews University newspaper – ensuring the writers were paid and any extra expenses were taken care of.
  10. ESL summer program coordinator (about $10/hr – stipend): Working with Grigg’s Academy, I organized housing, meals, activities, and transportation for a group of Chinese and Taiwanese high school students who came to the US for an intensive English language program.
  11. Entrepreneur – take one, ($0.00 – but received college credit): My first “serious” attempt at becoming an entrepreneur involved launching a website that I described as “YouTube meets American Idol”. It was an online music competition portal where musicians uploaded videos of them performing, and viewers voted for the best in a playoff fashion. Although a great idea, working with a team in India resulted in a low-quality product and I eventually shut the project down. Great learning experience – and I discovered what it really takes to launch a successful business (beyond the optimism).
  12. Paid writer – HubPages ($5-10/hr): First discovering HubPages during my senior year of college, this was the first time that I actually got paid to write (based on the number of views each article received). Although I didn’t make a ton from this, I could literally write about anything I wanted and I earned about $50/month. I still make $10-15/month in residual income from HubPages, 5 years later, without publishing anything additional.
  13. Assistant chaplain for a boarding academy ($5.25/hr): After finishing up my undergraduate studies in December, I decided to work as a boarding school chaplain for the spring semester. During this time I helped manage a variety of spiritual activities – including a 2 week mission trip to Belize and speaking on multiple occasions. It’s always fun working with youth and I truly enjoyed this opportunity to do just that.

Jobs During the MBA

  1. Jobs After CollegeFreelance content marketer – take one ($5-15/hr): During my summer MBA courses I started using Fiverr and Upwork for the first time. Although I didn’t make a fortune, I was able to earn as much as I would have at a regular “school” job – all on my own schedule. Which was very enjoyable. A couple of my first jobs included writing for a few leadership consultants in Australia and working on the personal website of the founder of a publically traded company.
  2. Property renovator (free lodging + future rental): My brother and I (along with an investment from dad) found, purchased, and fixed up a $10,000 property near our school in Michigan. Although it took a lot of work to get the place looking good (we re-did just about everything), it was nice spending what would have been rent money to fix up a future rental property.
  3. GMAT prep instructor (about $25/hr – $2000 stipend for the semester): During my MBA program, I taught a test prep course for the GMAT (the graduate admissions test for the MBA). This was another fun opportunity to teach – although the college level was much more intimidating than teaching high school students.
  4. Landlord (about $500/month after expenses, split with brother): The first rental income came when we rented the house out to a few friends over the summer. However, once my brother and I both moved out of the place, we started renting the entire place out. Although this part of town doesn’t provide a lot of income, we do make a couple hundred a month each after covering expenses.

Post MBA Jobs

  1. PhD research assistant (about $25/hr – $8000/semester stipend): After my MBA I went on to postgraduate school, thinking I would enjoy being a business professor. Although I love talking and writing, the academic research wasn’t overly enjoyable to me. My thinking was that a PhD would give me flexibility, but it actually meant that I had to spend 60+ hours a week doing things I didn’t really want to do – not my definition of freedom! However, I value the experience and it was certainly an eye opening year.
  2. Freelance content marketer – take two ($20-50/hr): After deciding to drop out of the PhD program, I needed to scramble to make a living. So I got more serious about freelance copywriting. Thanks to great services like Upwork, I was able to land a few great clients in no time! At this point I wasn’t really thinking about writing full-time, but I was able to cover our expenses while I looked for a job.
  3. Corporate healthcare performance analyst ($22/hr start, $32/hr end): I really enjoyed the 22 months I spent working as a labor analyst for a nonprofit healthcare system. My work associates were amazing, and the opportunity to improve my understanding of analytical tools like Excel and Tableau was incredibly valuable. However, as I like being the one that calls the shots, when I realized that it would be many years before I was able to manage anything, I started playing around with content marketing once more.
  4. Content marketing – take three ($40-65+/hr): Finally, after doing content marketing as a hobby on the side for a while, I decided it was time to jump full-time into writing again. While I make substantially more now than I did as a writer in the past, I’m still only able to be productive for 5-6 hours a day. And, of course, I’m stuck having to spend about 30% of what I make on taxes, insurance, etc. However, it’s great being able to manage my own agenda, work on projects I enjoy, and work from anywhere in the world (including Costa Rica for this summer)!

There you have it! My current job history (excluding a few minor childhood ventures) all in one place.

They say that the average person changes careers 7 times in their lifetime, and I seem to be well on my way to weighing in on the higher end of that stat. But you know, I think it’s much better to continue to grow your dream life into what works best for you, rather than getting stuck in a job or lifestyle you won’t enjoy.

For the comments: If you made a list of your past work experiences, what would it look like? Additionally, what are your thoughts on work/pay transparency: is it a smart idea, or will it cause more harm than good?

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Rob is enthusiastic about everything related to money and investing. A financial analyst and instructor, he enjoys using what he’s learned from 10 years of studying business and money to help others achieve financial stability. He founded Money Nomad in 2014!

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  1. “In the US, we like to keep our wages hush-hush. Which I actually think is a mistake.”

    Agreed. I have long felt the exact same way. It’s my belief that is one of the reasons — along with financial education not being a priority in our school systems and the societal push toward hyper-consumerism — so many families are financially illiterate.

    Interesting to see the changes in wages over your working life.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, and I agree James. If we actually knew people’s wages, then maybe we wouldn’t try to out-compete someone making double our wages. Or perhaps we would see that the wealthiest people actually live well-below their means.

      And it is nice to look back and see a steady increase in wages – even if it isn’t as fast as you would like at times. 🙂

  2. I agree. I think we should all be much more transparent about our wages/salaries because then, employers would have no choice but to be more fair and consistent across the board, especially in this climate where employers think you should drop to your knees and promise them your first born because they allow you the privilege of working for them. Impressive resume, by the way!

    1. I definitely think it’s a balancing game. Many employers have a healthy focus, but I do think transparency can remove a lot of challenges and misunderstandings in every arena – including workforce pay.

  3. I am impressed that you can remember your salary at all those different jobs over the years.

    The reason compensation is kept quiet is exactly for the reason that you mention. But it’s the employers that want to keep it quiet. As a former employer, I can tell you that there was huge variation between what people doing the same job made.

    I have worked at companies that did not allow compensation to be discussed. And in fact, it was grounds for termination if you did discuss your pay with someone else.

    1. It took a lot of reflecting to come up with those numbers!

      And thanks for your insights. I agree. I worked as a labor analyst for a while and certainly saw many discrepancies. Sometimes the differences can be explained due to skill, seniority, etc., other times it can’t(someone’s just a better negotiator or friend). That’s why I really like how Buffer does it – they have a clear formula that calculates pay for everyone – completely removing drama around pay differences on a team.

      I don’t think you should go crazy and set everyone’s pay at $70k (as one CEO did), but I do think having a reasonable and understandable scale makes sense. Then, if you just hire the best, you don’t have to worry about over-paying anyone.

  4. Rob,
    I would have to say that #6 was the watershed of your career search! Everything was a piece of cake after that trying but rewarding summer. Still glad you said yes and was a part of the team. Thanks for your blogging insights posted here. Your best days are still ahead. Really. All 27 jobs your did prior to #28 prepared you in some way for #28. And #28 will prepare you for….?

    1. Haha! Thanks for commenting Steve. Calporting was definitely an awesome experience and one I would never trade. It’s not easy trying to sell people on something, but there were some great connections made – and I grew a lot. I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment!

  5. I often find myself thinking back on old jobs like bartending and waitressing. Yes, they were stressful at times, but they could also be really fun. The best part about that type of work? The timeclock. I fantasize about going back to a job where you clock out at the end of your shift, and you are DONE. No silverware comes home with you to be rolled. If the coolers get empty, they will either get restocked by someone else or you can do it on your next shift. The only issue is that the pay is obviously a lot more for the constantly-demanding professional career.

    1. You’re absolutely right! There’s a beauty in work that you can’t take home with you. It often seems like you either have plenty of time and no money, or you’re making great money but have no time to spend it! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    1. I’d say your fantastic paintings are a great experience. Regardless of whether you work for others or yourself, any attempt at selling and managing a business is a great education. Keep it up!

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