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I’ve been bashed on several occasions in past for making this statement, when referring to IT salaries in Serbia. Most of the people I talked do not see these numbers as absolutely the same ballpark, which makes me want to explain my viewpoint more carefully. 


Why do you care whether you’ll net $1,700 or $2,600 at the end of the month? To settle’s one’s needs – such as not worry about food or restaurant spending, counting every penny on vacations or driving a decent car, an average Serbian (or regional) IT salary will absolutely suffice.

Here’s the thing – you won’t make a million with a $4k salary just as you won’t make it with $2k salary. You may buy a bigger flat. In 10 years. Or probably book a better hotel on a vacation. If that’s what life is all about.

IT job landscape in Serbia, as I guess probably in most part of Eastern Europe, has totally gone El Dorado in last few years – nothin’ but gold and greed. I’ve encountered numerous IT people who won’t even remotely consider switching to a job with a slightly lower salary – no matter the context.

Coming from poverty (and decades of war and communism) I think we’re all driven by the demon of money, but more importantly it seems to be  a factor of another thing.

People are still afraid.

They won’t let go a good salary for few bucks less with lots of potential for growth. For some reason it boils down to “this is all great, and I love it, but the thing is I’m already working for $XX, I don’t think you can match that.

And I usually hear this coming from the people who don’t have four kids and a mortgage.

Since I don’t think that demand and supply curve will reach equilibrium any time soon, I strongly believe it is paramount for people to steer their mindset away from narrow perspective of salary figure as the pivotal factor in their careers.

Think in ballparks

Seek a position that will get your career on the fast track, help you learn new skills and gain experience, hence unlock the opportunity to meet and work with smart people. Seek an opportunity that will get you to the next ballpark.

For me personally, this has always been the most important factor when evaluating a venture. It’s absolutely irrelevant what I make on my job. Its all about how much I’ll be worth after my term.

How much will you be worth after your term in the company you apply for is a much bigger value than the paycheck you’ll receive there!

Let’s inspect this a bit closer. Here are the pivotal questions:

  • Which new skills will you learn?
  • What kind of experience shall you gain?
  • How deep will your develop your domain knowledge, or will you gain a completely new domain knowledge?
  • How far can you expand your network – create new contacts?

Sadly, I interviewed 100+ people for job in last 8 years, but very few steered the conversation in a way that would give them answers to above questions. Contrary, they usually focused around what kind of responsibilities they need to assume, and how much would they be compensated for that.

They are just trading X hours of their life for Y dollars.

Instead of building a case around understanding in what way will time they spend in a company benefit their careers – people narrowly focus around the compensation part. And that is not only plain wrong, but as a side effect also diminishes the value of what employer in turn gives you – an opportunity to be worth more.

What you make in the venture/position you apply for is the sum of your income during your term, plus your increased value after your term/success there.

It is a two way relationship. You give, but you also receive.

In our ecosystem it is very atypical for a person to say – “hey guys – money doesn’t matter, I really want this opportunity; I want to be the lead for this_new_product you’re building. I want to assume the full responsibility of shipping this out of the door, because if I do – there’s a great chance I’ll be offered CTO role with equity/options plan in my next venture.”

Bam. The next ballpark.

Why do we set our goals high? Because even if we don’t reach them – we’ll probably get much farther than if we had set our goals low.

Then why do most people shape their career in a way they’re happy to get 5% raise after 3-4 years of work? You’re not playing this game for salary. Salary is what you need to pay rent, food and gas/electric bill.

You’re playing for the moment you collect your chips and walk away from the table.