Want to Earn 6 Figures? Learn These 11 Skills

skills you need to earn 6 figures


Dec. 29 2015, Published 2:30 a.m. ET

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$100k seems like some sort of a magical number, doesn’t it? It sounds like so much more than $90k or $95k. And it’s as if breaking that 6-figure mark carries psychological weight—it’s kind of like saying, “I’ve made it! I’m successful by objective standards!”

Now, I don’t think you need a 6-figure salary to be successful, but it’s still a huge accomplishment, and you’ve got to admit that adding an extra zero to the end of your paycheck has a certain appeal.

And if you’re chomping at the bit to start making at least $100k per year, a guide like this Roadmap to Your Dream Career can show you what steps to take to get there.

But when you’re making $30k, $50k, or even $75k, cracking 6-figures can seem like a long way off. How on earth do you get to the point where you’re making $100k? You know, preferably beforeinflation makes it the equivalent of $50k?

There are a bunch of different ways to earn $100k. You can move up over time by gaining experience (yawn). Or you could do work that companies consider to be extremely valuable. And that second one puts you on the fast-track to the top!

Of course, some of that extremely valuable work takes years of experience and tens (or hundreds!) of thousands of dollars in student debt to break into. You know, like medical or law school.

But going back to school for a new degree isn’t necessary in a lot of jobs. Even ones that pay very, very well, like those in tech! Rather than spending years working your way up or learning an entirely new career, you can spend a few months learning awesome tech skills—way more effective, fun, and efficient than a new degree in something like law.

In the tech industry, there are certain skills that will make you automatically worth more money than your peers without those skills. They are the keys to building a successful career in tech—one that is both rewarding and high-paying.

Some of these are hard skills, like coding and website design. Others are soft skills that you can learn in or out of the tech industry, and apply to almost any job.

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Once you’ve learned some or all of these skills, you’ll make yourself a much more valuable asset to any company, whether you’re looking for a promotion or raise or to embark on an entirely new career path.

If you want to start earning $100k per year sooner rather than later tech skills like these are your ticket to the fast lane:

1. How to Write Basic Code:

Basic coding—using HTML and CSS—is a really important skill that you can use in a ton of different kinds of jobs. It’s a necessary job skill if you want to be a designer or developer, but it can also be a really useful toolkit to have in your back pocket if you want to work in content marketing, customer support, or many other tech-related fields.

Being able to code using basic HTML and CSS can help you write blog posts and emails as a content marketer. (In fact, here are 5 HTML Tags Every Content Marketer Should Know plus Must-Know CSS Tricks for Making Blog Posts Look Pretty.)

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And working in customer support at a lot of tech companies practically requires you to know some basic coding, since you’ll be helping customers work through issues with the company’s product. Even if you can’t write it from scratch, you should be able to understand it.

Basic HTML and CSS aren’t difficult to learn. There are tons of basic tutorials online. Or if you want to get more in-depth knowledge so you can write it from scratch (cha-ching), check out Skillcrush’s Web Designer Blueprint or our Web Developer Blueprint.

And if you want a free primer to get started, check out these brief introductions to HTML and CSS, or sign up for Skillcrush’s FREE 10-Day Bootcamp and write your first lines of code.

2. How to Write More Advanced Coding Languages:

The basics of writing HTML and CSS are key to a lot of tech jobs. But some of the best paying jobs in tech are developer jobs. For those roles, you need some more advanced knowledge of coding.

While the “it” coding language changes all the time, often based on what platforms and content management systems (CMSs) are most popular, the skills you learn when you dive into one programming language can often be applied to working with the others (even if the particular syntax changes, the logic is often very similar).

A few “hot” languages to consider learning: Ruby on Rails, PHP and WordPress (the most popular CMS out there), JavaScript, or Python.

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If you have no IDEA where to start, read up on JavaScript, find out why developers love Ruby on Rails, learn more about Python, and find out why Skillcrush founder Adda Birnir thinks learning WordPress will supercharge your career.

3. How to Manage Projects and People:

Managers and senior staff in virtually every industry make more than those just starting out, and that’s also true in tech. Project management experience is key to becoming a lead on a design or development team. Being able to manage people is valuable regardless of whether you want a career in design, development, marketing, or some other tech-adjacent field.

You can pick up some of these skills through experience, but it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the most popular apps used in the tech industry. For project management, check out Atlassian’s JIRABasecamp, and Asana. You don’t have to be an expert, but if you at least know what they are if they’re brought up in an interview, you’ll be ahead of a lot of your competition.

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Beyond the technical aspects of management, taking leadership seminars, reading management books, and working in volunteer positions where you can manage teams or projects are all great ways to boost your skills and earning power.

4. How to Design a Website:

Basic coding skills are a great way to increase your earning potential. But being able to write code does not make you a designer. Before writing one line of code, the best web designers and developers walk through a step-by-step user experience design process to make sure that the website will be perfect for its users.

Even if you don’t want to build websites from scratch, knowing what actually makes a good design is a really valuable skill to have. It lets you work better with the design team, which is important if you want to work in marketing or development (among other jobs).

Senior designers, on the other hand, can often make over $100k. And if you specialize in something like mobile user experience, you can make two or three times that (or more!).

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There are tons of great books out there about web design, user interface design, and user experience design. And if you want to go more in-depth, you can take our Web Designer Blueprint or dive into our advanced Mobile Web Design Blueprint.

5. How to Understand Full-Stack Development:

Full-stack is the big new thing in design and development. “Full-stack” basically means that you understand everything that goes into creating a finished product, from the very beginning to the final phases (all the way up “the stack”). As a full-stack developer, you can work on websites, web apps, mobile apps, and more.

Knowing how to actually create an app or website from the ground up will make you an incredibly valuable asset at any company. If you want a career in web design or development, learning the process from start to finish is one of the most reliable ways to boost your earning power.

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And luckily, you don’t need to spend years training before you can start earning. The great thing about tech is that you can start making money off your new skills as a beginner, and earn more as you learn more over time.

6. How to Build Trust and a Sense of Responsibility:

Trust and reliability are key traits that any successful employee has. Being known as someone who can be relied on works in your favor when looking for a promotion or a raise.

Building trust isn’t something that’s done overnight. One key to developing this kind of reputation is to make sure that you always deliver on the things you promise.

Taking on responsibilities that go above and beyond your job description is another way to create a reputation for being responsible (and earn you raises and promotions!). Just be sure that you don’t promise more than you can actually accomplish.

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7. How to Manage Your Time Effectively:

Time management is a key skill if you want to get ahead, regardless of your industry. The tricky thing about time management is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to figure out what solution (or combination of solutions) work for you.

Personally, I use a combination of a paper planner and Todoist for my daily tasks. The paper planner lets me do long-range planning and keep track of what I have coming up, while Todoist makes it easy to keep track of smaller daily tasks as they come in. It integrates with Gmail, and lets me add emails as tasks, which comes in super handy when tasks are assigned to me in our project management software.

You may find that prioritizing your tasks each day and then tackling them one-by-one works for you. Or you might want to plan out the exact times you’ll work on various tasks for the week. There’s no right or wrong way, just whatever works for you and lets you stay on top of what needs to be done.

Good time management allows you to get your work done efficiently and take on more work without stressing yourself out. Bosses notice when their employees are efficient and get their work done on time, and that means you’re more likely to get a raise, a promotion, or get hired at a better job.

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8. How to Work Harder and Smarter:

The people who make more in tech, by and large, have one thing in common: they work their butts off. But they also learn to work smarter. They figure out ways to streamline and automate the repetitive tasks they need to accomplish so that they can focus on the more important, big picture things.

Figure out ways that you can simplify tasks, automate them, or otherwise streamline your workflow so that you can spend more time on the important growth tasks in your job.

9. How to Adapt to a Changing Job Role:

Adaptability is a huge plus if you want a high-paying tech job. A lot of tech jobs are at startups. Getting in early at a startup can be a great way to grow with a new company, and potentially earn a lot of money down the road.

But the thing about startups is that job roles are often kind of fluid. You might get hired to do one thing, and then end up doing four other things as well (or instead).

Even in more traditional “corporate” jobs, adaptability is a great asset. Being able to take on new roles and responsibility as necessary, as the scope of your position changes, is something that managers take notice of. And it looks great on a resume.

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10. How to Assert Yourself Effectively:

There are going to be times when you need to assert yourself at work. This can be tricky, because you can alienate your colleagues if you aren’t diplomatic in how you assert yourself.

Being able to speak up in a meeting when you have an idea or suggestion shows you have initiative. Being able to defend those ideas in a way that convinces others is another great asset.

Another time that being assertive is key is when you want to ask for a raise or a promotion. Being able to assert why you’re worth more money, and having the confidence to know you’re worth more, goes a long way toward proving it to others, too.

11. How to Self-Motivate:

Taking initiative and motivating yourself to take on new projects shows commitment to your company and that you’re passionate about your work. If your boss always has to remind you to do things, or that a project is due, or if your team members are constantly having to wait for you to finish your work in order for them to complete theirs, you’re going to have a very hard time moving ahead or finding a better job that cracks the 6-figure mark.

Being able to stay on top of your work and complete it on schedule makes you a stellar employee. It also makes it easier to manage a side hustle or a side business, where you can earn more and bring your salary into the “extra zeroes” range.

Ambition Delivered.

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