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How To Make 6-Figure Career Decisions

I was earning high 6-figures by age 37.

It actually wasn’t my main goal, but rather the result of a desire to maximize my potential, and grow as a professional.

This rapid growth did not happen by mistake, and it wasn’t due to my good luck.

Increasing my earning potential was the result of making strategic career decisions.

Clearly choosing where I wanted to go, created new opportunities instead of waiting to be picked, and thinking outside of the standard career ladder to grow faster.

The result?

A happy, fulfilling, well-paying career that made me a better, bigger, and bolder version of myself.

That’s what I want you to have, too, so today, I’m sharing every decision I made that led to a 6-figures career so you can start thinking strategically about your path and make better decisions.

A Decade Of Strategic Decisions

Step #1: Travel Agency → Marketing Agency

I worked from age 21, so I could put myself through college. I took the first “real” job I could find, and that’s how I found myself working at a travel agency.

But at 27, I burnt out trying to outwork everyone else because I thought working hard was the only way to grow. But I felt lost and exhausted, so clearly, that was not the answer.

This was when I realized that no one was coming to save me.

So I asked myself:

Is this really what you want? Is this your dream career?

Can you see yourself here 7 years from now?

The answer was a resounding “NO”.

It was time for a change. After a bit of soul-searching, I decided to pivot into tech and put my marketing degree to use.

↳ The rationale:

I heard that tech companies pay 30%-50% more for the same skills. I was attracted to the fast pace, young blood, and growth opportunities.

This was a strategic lateral move (same salary) to get a foot in the door.

Step #2: Marketing Agency → Mid Size CPG

Once I got into my marketing role, I started taking action to grow fast. I was the most junior and least experienced, but I would not sit back and wait for instructions.

I strategically solved big problems, even though it wasn't my job. I created processes, came up with initiatives, and did what most people will define as “free work” to prove I’m ready for leadership.

The result was 3 promotions in 4 years, 2x my salary, and becoming an Executive Director.

At that point, I hit a growth ceiling. I was reporting to the CEO and managing a team of 20. There was nowhere else to go.

I was also aware that there aren't many opportunities to learn from others when I’m the most senior person on the team. So I decided to move to a bigger company.

↳ The rationale:

Your skills are worth more when the stakes are higher (hundreds of millions vs. 7 figures). Because every action you take has a much bigger ROI.

Even though it was a bigger company, I didn’t take a step back or make a lateral move. I was able to level up with the move and grew my salary by about 20%.

Step #3: Mid Size CPG → Big Teach

I was on a growth trajectory when I was faced with a management change that turned my workplace into a toxic environment. My instinct was to run, but I held off from rage quitting, to make a strategic move, not a desperate one.

I had just started looking around when a past client from my agency days reached out about a role.

At first, I dismissed the opportunity. The job title didn’t feel senior enough, and I didn’t want to take a step back. But something urged me to at least check what it was all about. After all, this was an opportunity to work for one of the biggest companies in the world.

After further investigation, I realized it wasn’t my dream role, BUT I found my dream manager. Every single person who interviewed me said: Forget about the title, come work for this manager. You won’t regret it.

They were right.

I took the job knowing it was not ideal and then negotiated one hell of a raise to make it worth my while (I shared the full story here).

↳ The rationale:

I wanted to join a F500 company. Big tech teaches you how to do things at scale.

They also pay well… I negotiated a 5 figure raise and eventually got 2 outsized bonuses for high performance.

I also knew with a great leader I could turn a not-ideal role into a dream opportunity. And I did.

Step #4: Big Teach → VP at a Startup

Two and a half years into this role, after stretching every limit and increasing my responsibility, I hit a crossroads.

Do I keep leveling up inside this giant company… or find a different way to grow my career?

My dream was to become the CMO of a Silicon Valley startup. Reaching that level of seniority at a company that has more than 200,000 employees is… a very long journey.

So I asked: how could I get there faster?

It turns out that my experience was enough to negotiate a VP title and compensation at a small startup. I made a strategic move to build my reputation. And accelerate the time horizon for making my dream a reality.

↳ The rationale:

Big companies have longer career ladders. You can shorten those timeframes for growth by working for smaller companies that have more room for growth.

Plus, due to the many layers of middle management in those companies, your title gets diluted. Whatever your level is in big tech, you can go 1-2 levels above at a startup.

I got the title, the responsibility, and a 10% increase in salary.

Step #5: VP at a Startup → Expert Consultant

Remember that dream to become a CMO of a Silicon Valley startup? Well, that required that I move to a different continent. My first VP role came to an end when I had to pack my life and move to California.

I wanted to pick up where I left off, but without a network, it felt like it would be an uphill battle to land another VP role. After quite a few rejections I decided to take a different approach.

Instead of giving up and taking any job, I decided to take a couple of them. My idea was to build my network and reputation by working with several companies as a consultant.

I ended up increasing my yearly income by 50% and building the network that got me my dream role.

↳ The rationale:

Moving to San Francisco was a strategic decision. It is one of the highest-paying cities in the US.

It's more competitive, too. That’s where I got stuck and had to make a decision: Take a step back, or build a path to my dream job.

I asked myself: what can I do while earning a living that will give me time to regroup and set myself up for success? Consulting was perfect for two reasons:

I got to make my schedule and was essentially getting paid to build my reputation while building a network.

Step #6: Expert Consultant → VP at a $400M Startup

A year after taking on consulting, I became VP at a half unicorn. To stand out, I only focused on companies where my unique experience was valuable.

I had a combination of broad marketing experience with a passion for career development. It made me the perfect choice to lead marketing for an HR tech hypergrowth startup.

My second VP role was a level up in terms of scope and responsibility, as it was a larger startup, and I grew my compensation into the high 6-figures.

↳ The rationale:

At this point, it was mainly about not giving up. I was still rejected plenty of times and had rejected one offer myself. I had to remind myself that my dreams are worth fighting for.

This is what a strategic career looks like.

You make moves that pay off in salary or seniority without crushing your soul.

Your Next Steps

Reading this story, do you feel like you have been making strategic decisions?

Do you have a plan for how you’ll continue to grow your career?

Here’s the good news:

You only need 3 things to become more strategic:

  1. Awareness (you just got it!)

  2. Asking the right questions (and following up with a decision)

  3. Taking action

I believe in you and I’m rooting for you.

Maya ❤️


I have used this system to grow my career across two continents for over two decades. If you want to learn how to do the same for your career, schedule a discovery call to start making strategic decisions to grow your career.


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