Table of content    
  1. How he doubled his earnings
  2. Salary discussions are like ‘talking about the weather’
  3. His salary goals

26-year-old guy doubled his income by switching his career and negotiating

Life is never a straight line. This 26-year-old software engineer is the perfect example for anyone who’s still struggling in choosing a career path.

Martin Yanev has always been concerned about space. He received a bachelor's and master's degree in aerospace engineering, and began his career as an aerospace system engineer.

But he soon realized that he spent a lot of time writing software at get off work, and even took coding courses after work to get better. In the end, he decided that he really liked his job in computer science, so he went back to school to study for a second master's degree.

He sees this shift as an investment in his future career: "There are many engineers from other disciplines who find that they need software engineering skills to do their jobs better," Yanev told CNBC Make It. The second Master of Computer Science "will help me complete any type of project I want to do in the future."

Source: martin.yanev

After changing majors, returning to school, and moving to a new country, Yanev's income nearly doubled, and now works as a software engineer in Louisville, Kentucky, with an income of $70,000.

How he doubled his earnings

After his bachelor's degree, Yanev moved from his home country to Bulgaria and worked for nearly three years as an aerospace systems engineer in Southampton, UK, where he earned $ 40,000 a year.

In early 2021, Yanev moved from the UK to Massachusetts to enroll in graduate school. When he decided to apply for a software developer job a few months later, he browsed the wide web and found Indeed's post about his current job, which listed the salary range for the position.

Yanev says his usual salary negotiation strategy is to take the maximum pay being advertised and add a little on top. “Usually, if a job posting doesn’t include salary ranges, I’ll look up average pay for that job in the state and negotiate for the maximum,” he says.

In this case, when Yanev received the offer and needed to state his salary requirements, he gave the highest range of $70,000, and then added another $5,000 to see how high they could rise. Back and forth, HR experts said that the maximum salary of $70,000 was their absolute upper limit, so Yanev accepted. He moved to Louisville and started his new job in the spring of 2021.

Yanev also teaches programming courses online for an annual salary of approximately US$10,000, which brings his annual salary to approximately US$80,000.

Going from $40,000 a year in Southampton to $80,000 in Louisville “is a huge jump,” Yanev says. “I’m happy about it.”

Source: Getty Images

Living in a low cost of living area like Louisville had a huge impact on his quality of life and affordability. For example, although he can make more money in a competitive market like San Francisco or New York, he must pay nearly $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. In Louisville, he said he could find two-bedroom apartments starting at about $800.

Salary discussions are like ‘talking about the weather’

Yanev and his team are open when it comes to discussing their salaries. “We all know more or less what everybody makes, and how it compares to the average for our city,” he says. “It’s like talking about the weather. It’s not a big deal.”

While he believes in the value of transparent pay, his openness depends on how his company and colleagues deal with the issue.

“If a company has a structure of, this is how much we pay this role for this many years of experience, I don’t see any problem with them wanting to share that information,” Yanev says. “But if a company is paying people in the same position differently, then it comes down to how they expect people to negotiate; in those cases, it’s not beneficial for the company if people talk about their pay with coworkers.”

Source: MK

Salary discussions are like talking about the weather. It’s not a big deal

Overall, Yanev says it’s good for people to talk about how much they make and how they negotiated for their pay: “The way I see it, everyone should share this information because it’s helpful for employees. Pay information can also be found on a lot of websites, but it’s not always correct or up to date or localized. I think a lot of people just want to hear from somebody in a similar situation, like the same years of experience or going into a similar workplace.”

Yanev's best bargaining tips for young professionals, especially international students like him, are to use the university's career center to practice interviews and learn how to navigate the recruiting and bargaining process.

His salary goals

Yanev says his salary isn’t necessarily high, but it’s not low, either: “It’s fair. It’s exactly what I should get based on my experience in this area.”

He’s learned how to adjust his expectations depending on where he lives and works: “The difference from being in Bulgaria to the U.K. to the U.S. in terms of salary and standard of living is huge.”

Ultimately, he feels “comfortable” living on $80,000 in Kentucky.

“I can save enough money to achieve my goals and do everything I want to do in the next five years,” he says. In the next few years, “my goal is to some point make more than $100,000 a year. I’d feel successful if I managed to do that.”


Share this article