Has its re­wards

With hard work and in­no­va­tion comes the big salary but don’t ex­pect to have a bril­liant work/life bal­ance, Ben Pike writes

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SKY­ROCK­ET­ING salaries in some sec­tors com­bined with Aus­tralia’s strong eco­nomic per­for­mance is mak­ing the mag­i­cal $200,000 salary more at­tain­able for those will­ing to make the nec­es­sary sac­ri­fices.

But while hav­ing top-notch tech­ni­cal abil­ity and for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions helps, em­ploy­ment ex­perts say it is those who chal­lenge their su­pe­ri­ors and work the smartest who will earn the big­gest dol­lars.

Our av­er­age yearly salary has in­creased 56 per cent in the past decade to $55,640, Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics fig­ures show.

Min­ers, pro­fes­sion­als and man­agers are the high­est earn­ers, mak­ing a com­bined av­er­age of $76,214.

Only 5.8 per cent of Aus­tralian work­ers earn more than $100,000 a year, with an es­ti­mated 2 per cent earn­ing twice that amount.

A Ya­hoo Fi­nance study in 2011 found the high­est pay­ing in­dus­tries are law, engi­neer­ing, oil, gas and min­ing, fi­nance and sci­ence.

Hays Re­cruit­ment Ade­laide re­gional di­rec­tor Lisa Mor­ris says be­ing in the right sec­tor is very help­ful but to win a $200,000 pay packet most work­ers need to in­vest in their own de­vel­op­ment.

‘‘ It’s not so much the in­dus­try you are in but more the po­si­tion you are within that in­dus­try,’’ she says.

‘‘ Ev­ery­one is talk­ing about the oil and gas sec­tor – and, yes, there are big salaries to be earned. But there are big salaries in other ar­eas as well.

‘‘ In fi­nance, for in­stance, many gen­eral man­agers, heads of fi­nance and change man­agers (those that bring about change in their com­pa­nies) are all earn­ing this sort of money.

‘‘ What al­most all of these peo­ple have done is in­vest in them­selves over a long pe­riod.

‘‘ They have done well above the bach­e­lor de­gree level by, for ex­am­ple, do­ing a Masters of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion.’’

The pro­por­tion of Aus­tralians with a bach­e­lor de­gree has in­creased from 17 per cent to 24 per cent be­tween 2001 and 2011 and com­pe­ti­tion for the $200,000-a-year jobs is hot­ter than ever.

The eco­nomic trou­ble in Europe and the US also has seen many higher level ex­ec­u­tive jobs in Aus­tralia be­come more com­pet­i­tive as ex-pats re­turn home.

Mor­ris says peo­ple look­ing to climb the lad­der need to look at im­prov­ing their lead­er­ship skills.

‘‘ You’ve got to be in­spi­ra­tional, have a vi­sion and be able to have peo­ple fol­low that vi­sion,’’ she says.

‘‘ Most peo­ple in or­gan­i­sa­tions bring about change not by do­ing it solo but bring­ing along a team of peo­ple with them.

‘‘ The abil­ity to make tough de­ci­sions in tough mar­kets is also key.

‘‘ You can pol­ish these skills by throw­ing your­self into new ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘‘ Peo­ple earn­ing that much are nor­mally up for a chal­lenge and have al­ways been the ones putting their hands up to take an op­por­tu­nity.

‘‘ They will push up­ward and chal­lenge the peo­ple they re­port to.

‘‘ There’s rafts of lead­er­ship cour­ses out there but it’s the hands-on learn­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence that re­ally pays off. Spend­ing time in one in­dus­try is also im­por­tant.’’

Far from the idea of the lazy ex­ec­u­tive snooz­ing in their of­fice, am­bi­tious peo­ple who want to earn $200,000 a year must be pre­pared to work at least 50 hours a week.

Aus­tralian Work­place In­no­va­tion and So­cial Re­search Cen­tre ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor John Spoehr says there is a strong link be­tween hours worked and salary.

Al­though high level jobs can of­fer healthy salaries, it is im­por­tant to re­alise the ac­tual hourly rate may not be as at­trac­tive.

Of all Aus­tralians work­ing more than 49 hours 51.2 per cent of them are earn­ing more than $100,000, Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics fig­ures show.

Prof Spoehr says when you con­sider Aus­tralians now work an av­er­age of 32.9 hours a week, it means those in high­pay­ing jobs make a very big trade off in the work/life bal­ance equa­tion.

‘‘ Work/life bal­ance is im­por­tant to sus­tain­ing a longterm ca­reer at a high level,’’ he says.

‘‘ Early in your ca­reer you can trade off the longer hours for the higher pay but it be­comes ever more dif­fi­cult as you get older and start hav­ing a fam­ily.

‘‘ At some point it is im­por­tant to be aware of that and recog­nise that you may want to step back.’’

Prof Spoehr says there is a high rate of burnout among peo­ple who work more than 50 hours a week.

He says just be­cause you put in more time at work does not mean you will get the best re­sults.

He says once you be­gin work­ing about 60 hours a week you are en­ter­ing the ‘‘ red zone’’, where pro­duc­tiv­ity, cre­ativ­ity, in­no­va­tion, alert­ness and the abil­ity to sus­tain good health start to se­ri­ously de­cline.

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