From waitress to wealth

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Why Millennials Are Struggling to Make Money

The story of a college-dropout waitress who, in six months, worked her way into the top 1 percent of Millennials.

Lauren Holliday was working more than 40 hours a week as a waitress in Pompano Beach, Florida. She had no college degree, no network, and very little professional experience. "I had just dropped out of college because I couldn't support myself," says Lauren, "and was forced to move in with my dad. Talk about a [bad] situation."

She decided that she needed to move out of her parents' house and that she would do it by becoming a full-stack marketer. "Full-stack derives from web developers, who can do a project from start to finish without assistance because they know front-end and back-end programming languages," explains Lauren. "Full-stack developers are purple unicorns, meaning they are extremely difficult to find. Similarly, this is the case with marketers--especially for marketers whose clients are small businesses and startups. If you're a full-stack marketer, you can complete everything your client needs from start to finish. This means more money, because the majority of marketers specialize in things like social media and SEO."

Lauren learned marketing skills by registering for online classes,and gained real-world experience by offering to do free work for her family and friends. This was her plan:

  1. Get just one project that would add a quality piece to her portfolio, and then get just one more project that would expand her skill set.
  2. Design solutions packages, and document her procedure for them. She would start charging clients for her services immediately upon completion of step 1 and would focus on one paid project at a time.
  3. Finally, she would design her digital footprint, and then she would start marketing herself.
Here are 13 things that all successful people do:
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13 things successful people do between jobs
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From waitress to wealth

Minimize the stress of your first week in a new job by taking time to organize your personal life.

"Any projects around the house that have been nagging at the back of your mind? Now's the time to get them done," says Ryan Kahn, the founder of The Hired Group and creator of the best-selling How To Get Hired online course.

Miriam Salpeter, job search coach, owner of Keppie Careers, and author of "Social Networking for Career Success" and "100 Conversations for Career Success," says your break between jobs is the perfect time to schedule doctor appointments and deliveries that require you to be home, and to run any errands that may be difficult to get done once you start your new job.

"Take advantage of not having to be reachable during the day, and stop checking your email or looking at Facebook for an afternoon or two," says Sutton Fell. "This gives you a chance to reset your brain."

Instead of staring at a screen for hours on end — which you'll probably have to do as soon as you start your new job — pick up a book you've been dying to read, or go take an exercise class you've been wanting to try.

"Before starting a new job, take the time to ensure that you are maintaining the relationships you had formed at your previous job," Kahn says.

Make sure you have contact information for the people that you worked with in the past, and plan on checking in with them on a regular basis once you're in your new role.

We know we said earlier you should take a break from technology — but it's okay (and advised!) to take an hour to two during your time off to update your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook profiles with your new company and job title.
You might not have a chance to do afternoon lunches with people for the first few months of your new job, so your break is a great time to do these, says Sutton Fell.

Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert and best-selling author, suggests using this break to spend time with family.

"When you start any new job you should expect to work longer hours — at least the first several months," she says. "Utilize this time to make the most of being at home."

Whether you can get away for a night or a week, take a trip somewhere to recharge, see new sights, and take full advantage of your time off, Sutton Fell says.

In today's competitive job market, the more senior the position, the more you will be scrutinized in those first few months, Kahn says.

"You'll be expected to hit the ground running versus spending time learning the ropes. Get a head start by researching the industry and the company, and learning as much as you can about the position and the team you will be working with," he suggests. 

Give some thought to what you want to do differently from the start in this new job, Williams Yost says.

"Are you going to try to wake up earlier and get to the gym a couple of days a week? Are you going to try to schedule a networking lunch outside of the office once a month?" Use this time to establish a plan. 

During this rare lull between jobs, think about where you are headed. Where do you want to be in five years? In 10 years? How will this job help you get there? Coming in knowing where you're going will help you stay on the right path from day one, Kahn says.

If your work schedule is shifting at all, it's important to organize things like childcare, household responsibilities, and your personal routine, Sutton Fell says.

Salpeter says if you altered your sleep schedule at all during your time off, you should try to get into a "work-oriented sleep routine" a few days before starting your new job.

Don't forget to spend some time on yourself. Take time to relax, get plenty of rest, and indulge in some pampering. 

"Congratulate yourself on a job well done," Williams Yost says. "Treat yourself to a massage, new power outfit, or a nice dinner. You landed a job in a dim market; you should take the time to be proud of yourself."

Worried that it may be difficult to get back into the swing of things if you’re too relaxed during your time off? "Work is like riding a bike; once you start that first day, you'll click right back in," Williams Yost explains. "So don't worry about being too relaxed during your break. Drink it all in. Enjoy every minute of it. Then dive into your new gig with a new outfit, fresh outlook, and happy heart."

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Lauren created a simple WordPress site for her father's dry cleaning business and got her first paid client when the business next door saw the website. Lauren dedicated one to two hours each day to cold-calling local businesses that didn't have any social media presence and persuading them to hire her--this was on top of her full-time waitressing.

All that hard work paid off: Six months later, she had negotiated a $72,000 salaried marketing director position with $3,000 in relocation assistance, which moved her to Boston. "Since then, I've gone out on my own, and I'm now in the top 1 percent of Millennials," Lauren says. "I'm bootstrapping a startup called Freelanship, which my co-founder, Jonathan Schummer, and I started to help the 19 million students who can't afford to intern every year gain experience through flexible, remote freelance projects."

As a woman who isn't an alum of a prestigious university, or the graduate of a famous accelerator program, Lauren doesn't resemble most startup founders, but she thinks that doesn't matter. "When it comes down to succeeding in life, it's all about GSD," she says simply, "I think everyone makes their own luck. I'm not smarter or more talented than anyone else. I just work harder than a lot of people. Doing what I did wasn't easy. It was really hard."

"My boyfriend dumped me because I work too much," says Lauren. "I don't see my friends as often as I like. And I work on holidays and weekends, when my friends are out meeting people. Some people choose to work, and some people choose to have a work-life balance. I choose to work, and I give up a lot for that choice. Some days it sucks, and it's lonely as hell. But, for me, the pros outweigh the cons."

RELATED: Millennial salaries across the US

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Millennial Salary Across US
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From waitress to wealth

Median personal income for all employees: $31,100

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $44,000

Median income for millennials: $27,500

Median personal income for all employees: $33,000

Median income for millennials: $20,800

Median personal income for all employees: $30,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $35,000

Median income for millennials: $21,900

Median personal income for all employees: $38,000

Median income for millennials: $24,000

Median personal income for all employees: $44,000

Median income for millennials: $23,300

Median personal income for all employees: $38,000

Median income for millennials: $25,000

Median personal income for all employees: $55,000

Median income for millennials: $43,000

Median personal income for all employees: $30,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $33,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $37,000

Median income for millennials: $25,900

Median personal income for all employees: $30,000

Median income for millennials: $19,000

Median personal income for all employees: $37,500

Median income for millennials: $23,000

Median personal income for all employees: $33,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $35,000

Median income for millennials: $23,000

Median personal income for all employees: $35,000

Median income for millennials: $21,000

Median personal income for all employees: $31,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $33,000

Median income for millennials: $22,000

Median personal income for all employees: $33,400

Median income for millennials: $19,200

Median personal income for all employees: $45,000

Median income for millennials: $26,000

Median personal income for all employees: $44,000

Median income for millennials: $25,000

Median personal income for all employees: $33,700

Median income for millennials: $19,300

Median personal income for all employees: $39,000

Median income for millennials: $24,000

Median personal income for all employees: $30,000

Median income for millennials: $19,400

Median personal income for all employees: $32,900

Median income for millennials: $20,000

            

Median personal income for all employees: $30,000

Median income for millennials: $18,000

Median personal income for all employees: $34,400

Median income for millennials: $23,000

Median personal income for all employees: $33,000

Median income for millennials: $24,000

Median personal income for all employees: $40,000

Median income for millennials: $21,000

Median personal income for all employees: $44,000

Median income for millennials: $25,000

Median personal income for all employees: $30,000

Median income for millennials: $19,200

Median personal income for all employees: $40,000

Median income for millennials: $25,000

Median personal income for all employees: $31,900

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $36,000

Median income for millennials: $25,000

Median personal income for all employees: $35,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $32,000

Median income for millennials: $22,000

Median personal income for all employees: $32,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $36,000

Median income for millennials: $23,400

Median personal income for all employees: $37,200

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $30,000

Median income for millennials: $19,700

Median personal income for all employees: $32,200

Median income for millennials: $21,000

Median personal income for all employees: $31,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $34,000

Median income for millennials: $22,000

Median personal income for all employees: $31,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $35,500

Median income for millennials: $24,000

Median personal income for all employees: $40,000

Median income for millennials: $25,000

Median personal income for all employees: $40,000

Median income for millennials: $24,000

Median personal income for all employees: $31,000

Median income for millennials: $19,000

Median personal income for all employees: $35,000

Median income for millennials: $20,000

Median personal income for all employees: $37,000

Median income for millennials: $24,400

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