First Person: From $8.10 An Hour to $36,000 a Year

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When I graduated from college in 2004, I couldn't find a job in my degree field so I went back through my resume and looked at all the companies I had worked for during college. One of them was Walmart, so I applied at a Walmart store in my area. To my surprise and relief they called me back. They had an open position as an overnight stocker that paid $8.10 an hour. I accepted. I needed the money, and after sending out 50 resumes in 30 days, I was pretty sure this was going to be my only offer.

College Degrees

My college degrees in Aviation and Human Resources Development didn't help me get the third shift stocking job, but they would prove invaluable in my getting promoted quickly.

Department Manager

Luckily, I had worked at a different Walmart store during college, so I already had a year of experience with the company. That, along with my degrees, got me a promotion from overnight stocker to Foods Department Manager in four months. The main reason was because I had scored a 98 percent on their Telxon test (handheld inventory computer). The raise meant that I was then making $9.10 an hour.

Six months after that, I applied for the open Sporting Goods Department Manager position. There were more than 10 in-store applicants, but I managed to stand out because of my degrees, manager relationships and experience. That promotion bumped me to $10 an hour. I could now afford all my bills and a little bit of food, but it still took very careful budgeting.

I needed another promotion, but in order to make more money I knew would have to become an assistant manager. I applied and was turned down.

I waited three months and applied for the assistant manager position again. Again I was turned down. I talked to my store manager who said he would keep me in mind, but I still didn't see any results. I knew that my time at Walmart was drawing to a close. I needed a better paying job or I was going to starve to death. At 5' 9" and 134 pounds, I was running out of weight and time.

Walgreens

It was a call to my brother that changed my path. At the time, he was working for Osco and loved it, so he encouraged me to apply at a drug store. I took his advice and applied at Walgreens. Two weeks after I sent in the application, they called and invited me for an interview with the regional manager. I went. I explained to him my experience, my degrees and my strong desire to be an assistant manager and make a difference.

I'll never forget the call I received about two days after the interview. The woman who called me said that I had the job and asked me if $14.25 per hour was all right. I told her it was. It was a $4.25 raise over what I was making at Walmart. I was ecstatic. I had gone from $8.10 an hour to $14.25 an hour in a little more than a year and a half. I could now pay my bills, but health insurance and afford to eat. Two weeks after I got the job, Walgreens decided to give everyone an across the board raise of .50 cents.

Six months after that I received a cost of living raise of $1 per hour. A year after that, I received my first evaluation and received another raise of .75 cents and another $1 per hour cost of living adjustment. In two and a half years, I managed to go from making $8.10 an hour to $17.50 an hour.

It took a lot of hard work, determination and job changes, but I did it. Between July of 2004 and May of 2008, I had more than doubled my income.

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