THE BLOG

The Ugly Truth About Your Salary

13/06/2013 14:29 BST | Updated 13/08/2013 10:12 BST

When I was younger, much younger and had just left university I broke all the rules, rebelled and took myself off abroad to work. I'd always been a little rebellious and although had not actively sought out trouble - it certainly seemed to find me! Yet as I rapidly approach 40 my opportunities for mutiny have been greatly diminished and this week I stuck one to the man by rushing off to a dentist appointment and forgetting to brush my teeth first. Rock and roll baby!

But there is one major rebellion I've taken in the last 12 months which can still make people gasp and raise their eyebrows, but I won't need rehab and the police won't be issuing any warrants. So what did I do to garner such horror? Well, I quit my job and I kissed goodbye to the security of working for an international corporation and this makes many friends, acquaintances and ex-colleagues feel distinctly uncomfortable.

I left academia in '99 as a fresh-faced, eager, go get-'em young thing and my starting salary was around 24k (not a grad scheme and not London) which was perfectly normal, nothing to write home about but nice all the same. Compare and contrast to 2013, page 6 from this report by High Fliers where the median salary for graduates in 2013 is 29k and the subsequent paragraph notes that the higher salaries are to be found amongst the usual suspects of law, banking and energy companies - so, essentially London-centric and greatly skewed by just a few jobs within a few industries.

Now unless you're in the C-suite at an investment bank or you're resolutely working your way through your trust fund then it can't have escaped your attention that between globalisation and economic crisis your salary isn't heading up any time soon but your bills and expenses are. Traditional middle-management has for the best part been decimated and roles which do not require an on-site presence are being moved off-shore for cheaper resources (don't get me started on value! Oh yes, "resources" - that's what people are called these days) which leaves you few options in terms of real career (and salary) progression. A new and improved job title doesn't put food on the table.

This article from the New York Times indicates that in real terms, full-time wages for American males have decreased 19% in the years 1970 to 2010. That's quite the hit - and that's before paying back the relatively newly introduced and absolutely extraordinary tuition fees that earned you the degree that won the low-paying job! The same research indicates that whilst women's wages did rise - and I'd put this down to equality labour laws, they have fallen consistently since the year 2000 and this decline shows no indication of ending.

Here I found myself, late-30's, brain and body in relatively good order but the fast-track grad schemes were for people young enough to be my own offspring and the management boat had sailed - I was facing a further 25 years on the job but little in terms of rewards or recognition.

So if you find yourself in the position of increasing expenditure but staring down the barrel of salary reduction in real or even nominal terms also, then you would be wise to cast your gaze further than the rungless career-ladder within your corporation and go to where the money still is; entrepreneurship! This is the one economic group still bucking long-term trends and this Barclays report shows British female entrepreneurs earning a whopping £382,000 a year and trailed by their male counterparts with a paltry £327,000.

Food for thought indeed and I'm not ashamed to say those figures are far above what I earned in my corporate career!

Creating a business is more than just about swapping one 9-5 for another, albeit there's better coffee and probably a nicer chair - care must be taken to realise longevity and stability within your proposed venture - i.e., leverage! These concepts of entrepreneurship can be absolutely terrifying for an employee - particularly if they're at a point of life where irresponsible actions and risk-taking is best avoided (2.4 kids, labrador, Volvo + mortgage, check!). But someone who has been an employee for a decade, or perhaps even two - has an enormous knowledge base and set of professional skills - yet most of the time do not appreciate or understand how valuable these are and so the quest to become an entrepreneur involves a mindset (confidence) change from "will do" to "can do".

For those who want to try - my one word of simple advice is: Start!