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Brandon Savin joined the army right after he graduated from high school. Over the next six years stationed in the United States and England, he earned an associate’s degree in healthcare management and a bachelor’s in communications. By the time he left the Air Force in 2021, he was a sergeant with the rank of sergeant, earning $56,000 a year.
Within a year, he was transitioning into civilian life, changing jobs twice and more than twice his salary—without having to negotiate for it.
He says, “I’m over the moon. I’m grateful. Honestly, that’s all I can say.”
Here’s how Savin, 24, now earns $127,000 as an IT project manager as a contractor with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC.
Doubling his salary without negotiating
Savin did a lot of research to prepare for his transition to civilian life. He thought about what kind of work he enjoys most in the military (project management in the medical field), where he wants to live (Washington, D.C.) and what salary he would need to live comfortably there (in the top $60,000).
Then apply to several jobs. He got two offers in the tight job market before long, both in the $70,000 range after a few negotiations. Then came a third show that blew the others out of the water.
“I was very fortunate to get a job that paid $85,000, which I honestly wasn’t expecting,” says Savin. He jumped on it and started a healthcare job in the private sector in November.
“I just wanted to make sure I’m stable,” Safin adds. “That’s a big thing with getting out of the military. I’ve known a lot of people who weren’t as prepared as they wanted to.”
Security aside, Savin realized a few months later that the job itself wasn’t the best. Then, in early 2022, the job he applied for was reached but no response was heard from her. It was an IT project manager job with the Department of Health and Human Services – more in line with the work he was interested in and experienced in.
They told him the salary right away, and it far exceeded his expectations: $127,000. He didn’t feel the need to negotiate and accepted the job in February.
Savin’s two paying jobs may be more than he expected as a result of a brutal pandemic job market, where hiring managers have been boosting their starting salaries in order to increase staffing. The typical job changer got a file A 10% pay bump after changing jobs last year, according to the Pew Research Center.
Savin is also confident that his earning capacity will continue to rise when he completes his master’s degree in information technology from Georgetown University next year, as well as his Project Management Professional certification, or PMP, at which point he believes the $150,000 range isn’t too far away. .
How did he build his professional network?
Even with the market working in his favour, Savin says he’s had to prepare extensively to get into those interview rooms.
First, it does not have similar networks as those of many young professionals. “I wasn’t a typical student going to college with thousands of other students, or anyone in the [civilian] workforce,” he says.
Therefore, he had to build his own network. In 2020, while he was pre-contemplating his transition from the military, he started sending cold messages to people on LinkedIn for career advice.
The response was disappointing at first, until he perfected his elevator line and hit his stride.
The keys must be real and specific. Savin says his winning formula includes saying something like: I saw on your profile that you did XYZ, and I’m trying to do something similar. Would you mind taking a few minutes of your time to tell me how you got to where you are?
“A lot of people have given me powerful information” with this approach, Savin says. He got tips on getting a master’s degree, how to find a job, and even how much to save and invest after leaving the military.
Savin was keen to research how wages differ between private and public sector jobs.
“I honestly wanted to go into the public sector because I found salaries a little bit higher, and for there to be more stability,” Savin says. One drawback, though: Fewer noisy franchises. “I’ve seen some of my friends receive things like wellness packages, relocation pay, unlimited PTO, prizes, gym memberships and many other things that I didn’t get at my current job, and that many in the public sector don’t receive,” he says.
However, he adds that his primary focus in compensation packages tends to be salary anyway, “because the military allowed me to have free health care for life along with paying for most of my school.”
“If I wasn’t receiving these benefits from the military, I would definitely have taken an extra look at the pros and cons of some of the compensation packages that some private sector jobs were offering,” Savin says. “When you add all of that up, the motivation to work there can definitely be increased.”
Savin says being transparent about his career and pushing it can help others make their plans, too.
“When I was getting out of the military, I didn’t really know what to expect,” he says. “I just didn’t really know what I was doing.” Reaching out to people on LinkedIn and even YouTube, he gave him some tailored advice on how to set his own goals.
And while places like TikTok can be a good source of inspiration for changing jobs and pursuing big pay pitfalls, Savin warns job seekers not to put too much stock in social media clips. “It looks very flashy, but it isn’t always,” he says.
Instead, “Try to get some real personal advice from people working in those areas.”
Be honest and ask: What are your goals and objectives? Do you like this field? Are you doing it just for the money? “If that’s the case, it’s okay, I won’t knock it,” he adds.
“Have some intention in each of the decisions, because it’s a lot,” Savin says. “Changing jobs and pivoting different careers may not be all that is expected. So be true to yourself and do a great deal of research so you don’t just make a blind decision.”
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