7 Controversial Ways to Boost Your Salary


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What do short, baby-faced, and honest people have in common? They all might have a harder time getting ahead at work.

Following traditional career advice like “be a team player” or “get an advanced degree” can help your career. But there are plenty of factors that can impact your earning power. Some are out of your hands, while others are in your control – and in some cases, may even push ethical limits.

In a perfect world, none of the following factors would matter to your career prospects. But in this one, they might.

Let’s start with some physical characteristics and habits that may lead to an income boost. ..

1. Hit the gym and slim down

Jealous of slim co-workers who love hitting the gym every day? You might envy their increased earning power too.

study from New York University found “a one percent increase in a woman’s body mass results in a 0.6 percentage point decrease in her family income.” While that might be shocking, the difference between “normal” and “obese” body mass is typically at least 5 percentage points and can go into double-digits.

Even just getting to the gym could be enough to get a bump in salary. Results from a Journal of Labor Research study reported a 9 percent higher pay on average for those who exercise regularly versus those who don’t. Of course, that’s no evidence of cause and effect – it could be that people who work out are also better workers and thus earn higher pay.

While there are no guarantees you’ll find better fiscal shape with better physical shape, hitting the gym could be a win-win.

2. Think tall

Being tall isn’t just advantageous for dating or standing out in a crowd. Several studies suggest being taller correlates with higher salary.

From a study titled “The Effect of Physical Height on Workplace Success and Income,” research showed men standing 6 feet tall can expect earnings averaging $5,525 more per year than those only reaching 5’5″ in height. The study suggests there may be a link between our height and how we view ourselves and are viewed by others, which in turn leads to better workplace performance and increased career success.

While the height effect was more pronounced in men than women, it did apply to both sexes.

3. Be happier

Feeling down? This won’t help: Those who are happier and possess higher self-esteem routinely earn more.

A study from Illinois Wesleyan University concluded that happiness and high self-esteem at a young age lead to greater income later in life. The authors found that positivity was a crucial factor – positive and happy workers are often more productive.

If you find these results depressing, turn your outlook around and embrace the positive parts of your life.

4. Look competent

Just having a competent look is evidently a plus for your career, even if you aren’t actually capable.

In a Duke University study, CEOs who seemed most competent based solely on appearance earned 7.5 percent more than CEOs who didn’t score as well. But based on company performance, there was no relationship between looking competent and actually being competent.

So what does it take to appear competent? The researchers concluded that those with more “mature” facial features fared better than their “baby-faced” counterparts. Maybe eternal youth isn’t so valuable after all, at least not when it comes to career earnings.

If none of the above physical characteristics help your case, let’s continue with some less-than-ethical moves that can lead to a salary jolt. While we’re not endorsing these, they are proven ways that individuals have moved up the ladder and pay scale.

5. Lie about your previous salary

Some job applicants lie about their previous salary either on applications or in interviews. The argument: Why not, if it helps with salary negotiation? Getting a boost on starting salary means accelerated earnings with each future raise too.

The downside: If prospective employers find out your current or past salary, getting caught in a lie can mean losing out on a job.

6. Go after your boss’s job

It’s no surprise that bosses earn more than the employees they oversee. But in America’s biggest companies, they earn a lot more. On average for 2011, CEOs at Fortune 50 companies earned 379 times what the average worker at their company did. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, topped the list with total compensation of $378 million: a whopping 6,258 times more than his average employee.

So aiming for the top could pay handsomely. But if your plan is to use politics and dirty tricks to get your boss fired, beware: This knife cuts both ways.

7. Embellish your resume

Have you thought about giving your position a sexy job title like “Print Production Manager” when you were really just an intern responsible for manning the office copy machine? The temptation is always there to dress up your resume, and doing so could make you eligible for better work opportunities and a higher salary.

It’s not uncommon: 31 percent of respondents in one survey admitting to lying on a resume.

Of course, distorting the truth is always high-risk. According to Career Builder survey results, more than half of hiring managers they surveyed caught applicants lying on their resume. Needless to say, those individuals didn’t get the job.

Stacy Johnson

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