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
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.