In the course of my profession in the recruitment industry, I have had the opportunity to collect and gather information and data on the range of salary and compensation for different job levels and industries. Over the years, it becomes clear to me that some professions or specializations are earning higher income than the others.
How high? For an employee your age, is an income which is tripled or quadrupled your current salary high enough?
Technically, you should know that ‘C’ level jobs (the CEOs, CTOs, CFOs, COOs and so on…) are earning the highest income of all. For example, the CEO of OCBC Bank might be earning RM20,000 monthly and the CEO of the Genting Group could easily be earning more than RM40,000 per month. These are not inclusive of other benefits and perks.
But you know, these people are considered experienced, evergreen or even ‘old’ to some extent, whose ages are nearing the retirement threshold. They would have probably been working for 18 years or 25 years. And this is not the kind of positions and professions I am talking about.
I am talking about a much younger generation, where some people with less than 10 years of experience can get a whopping RM10,000 per month. In fact, they may be your age now, but your income is considered peanuts compared to theirs.
I have compiled the information, and I have come to a conclusion where these people can be grouped into seven different categories.
These are the seven specializations:
To some people, this will be obvious, but some others are still oblivious to this fact. Yes, without doubt, sales is one of the highest paid professions not only in this country, but in the world. What kind of products to sell? It could be anything – services, products, insurance, unit trust or other investment tools.
If you like the job, and consequently perform well, then you will be on top of the world. Normally, salesman will be compensated in the form of basic salary and commission schemes. The basic salary may be small, but the commission is proportional to the sale you make. The more products you sell, the more commission you earn.
The more customers you get, the more sales you bring in. Hence you get more income. In other words, as long as you can sell, the sky is the limit. A successful insurance salesman with a client base of about 100 people will earn a handsome income reaching five digits in a month, and will continue receiving the commission for a number of years.
One of the things I realized about this profession is that the longer you stay in the business, the more rewards you get and the easier your job becomes. The most difficult part is always at the beginning.
I have a close friend who is a Sales Accounts Manager for an IT company handling a portfolio of major corporations including IBM, Maxis, Hewlett Packard, DiGi and others. He is now in his early 30s and is having a prosperous career with his monthly commissions (excluding his basic salary) exceeding RM10, 000.
One day, I asked him, “What is your secret?”
“There really is no secret. I started this job with this company 8 years ago as a struggling salesperson. My company was selling all sorts of products and solutions but our products were failures one after another. Nevertheless I kept on trying and I bulldozed through things and we corrected our mistakes along the way. I did not make a single commission until my FOURTH year in the job.
Today, I spend very little time looking for clients, as they will come looking for me. The commission I am receiving today is enough to enable me to reach my goal to retire in 5 years time and open up my own business with the funds I have.”
2. Certified IT Network Engineer.
For those who are in the IT field, this is where you can capitalize. Certification is considered necessary for you to be recognized by the prospective employer on your competency level in your field.
The most common are perhaps the MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer), MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) and CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate). But because there have been too many people enrolled in these certifications, the market for professionals with MCSE, MCP and CCNA certifications are easily available, hence your pay will not differ much.
You will provide yourself with a good foundation to grow with those certifications, but they won’t immediately skyrocket your income. But if you upgrade yourself to a more niche area, and enroll yourself for CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) and CCIE (Cisco Certified Inter-network Expert), then you’re ready for a fast track income.
Not many people in Malaysia are willing to go the extra mile to get these certifications, due to the very specialized and relatively complex nature of the course.
In mid 2004, while working with one recruitment firm, we were assigned to place an IT expert in one of the IT companies listed in the Bursa Malaysia. This IT expert must have a CCIE certification. We managed to talk to six to seven possible candidates.
At the final round of the listing, there were only two suitable candidates left, and in order for the company to get the final short listed person to join them onboard, they had to pay him RM12,000 salary per month, tripled of what the guy was earning that time. And he was only 27 years old. Now can you tell me how long you need to work before you can get such an income?
3. Foreign language speaking executives and professionals.
Malaysia is now well known among the multinational and foreign corporations as an excellent place for setting up Shared Service and outsourcing centers.
“AT Kearney ranked Malaysia as the world’s third most attractive location for Shared Services and Outsourcing (SSO) – behind India and China.”
Shared services or outsourcing center is a place where major processes, including customer service support, payroll, account processing, IT infrastructure related and others are integrated and managed in one place.
For example, companies like SCICOM, VADS, IBM, EDS, VSource, Hewlett Packard and Atos Origin are well known to providing IT and customer service support to their clients. On the other hand, some other major companies like Shell, DELL, DHL and BASF have their own shared services and processing centers.
As a shared or outsourcing centre, the support provided not only cover the operation in Malaysia, but also abroad, including China, Hong Kong, Australia, Japan, Thailand, US, Europe and others. If you can speak Mandarin or Cantonese you may have only a little advantage as there are plenty of people in Malaysia who can do so, but what if you have proficiency in Japanese, Thai or German?
If you can speak the said languages, and you have a background in Accounting, Business or IT, then you have a niche area to zoom into. You could probably be hired to support an Account Payable division supporting the Japanese worldwide users, or maybe handling requests and customer service relating to PC and hardware problems for users in the Thai language.
And because of the scarcity of people who can speak Japanese, Thai or German, companies are willing to pay high salaries for these people to join them.
4. Oil and Gas – exploration and offshore operation.
Exploration and offshore operation jobs have its own risk, and not surprisingly those who are in this area are highly paid. Normally the job is carried out by the contractors for major oil operators e.g. ExxonMobil, Shell, Petronas or others. For example, Schlumberger is one of the established vendors who carry out exploration for Shell, Petronas and other oil operators.
Be advised that you need to be flexible enough in terms of the working location because as the projects vary from place to place, you could end up doing exploration in any part of the world.
This could be in Africa, Emirates, Asia or any others. If you are interested in working in this area (of course, you need to have a basic background in Oil and Gas), you can go to Oilcareer website at www.oilcareer.com to see the availability of high paying jobs.
Another niche area is in IT. SAP is a growingly popular and robust application that provides users with the ability to interact with a common corporate database for a comprehensive range of applications. It manages and supports wide range of functions including financial, asset, cost accounting, production and materials, warehousing, human resource, plants and database archiving.
Major corporations in Malaysia are using SAP as part of their system, including IBM, Microsoft, Accenture, Infosys, Shell, British American Tobacco, Hewlett Packard and others. As a SAP personnel, depending on your area of competency, you could be manning the support function for SAP applications, or be in the hands-on programming.
For instance, competent SAP personnel with 4-5 years of experience can easily be earning RM5,000 to RM6,000 monthly.
Nowadays the demand for telecommunication expertise is increasing. This is mainly due to the hostile competition between the telco players. New technologies and solutions are provided as the years go by. The development of 3Gs and Wimax, for example, has created a niche and high demand of expertise.
Major telco players in Malaysia like Maxis, Celcom, MiTV and DiGi outsource the setting up of radio frequency and telecommunication infrastructure for their vendors. But this is not limited to telco companies in Malaysia only. Other international players are also growing and leveraging the implementation to their vendors and contractors.
These vendors will charge the companies a good deal of money for the contract or projects they carry out. This, in turn enables them to pay the workers huge sums of money, normally in US dollars. You will get an even higher compensation if you work for short term contracts and projects, e.g. 3-6 months.
The jobs may be a bit volatile with EPF contribution and other normally given perks in a full time job unlikely to be covered, but the contracts are renewable, depending on the availability of other projects.
For example, I know at least 5 people who work with a telco vendor completing projects for Nokia all around the world that are getting a DAILY salary of US250. They are working for 3G roll out projects covering the planning, testing, implementation and optimization of radio networks. Now, imagine, if you get paid daily for a 3 months project in Germany. Subtracting weekends, that’s 22 working days per month.
So 22 days x USD250 x 3 = a whopping US16,500, equivalent to (roughly) RM59,400. Isn’t that a lot?
7. Analyst programmer with a software house.
A software house provides and manages IT infrastructure to major institutions e.g. banks and financial services, oil and gas companies and many other major corporations. Now, if you’re attached to any of those software houses which provides services to their clients regionally or worldwide, chances are you will be engaged in overseas projects.
A normal analyst programmer may be getting a basic salary of merely RM3000 to RM3500 per month, but you will get additional allowance (a lot!) if you are posted overseas. Normally, if your projects are abroad, you will be paid a daily allowance on top of your basic salary. Top software houses will pay a staggering amount of US100-200 daily for your overseas assignment.
Now imagine, if the project lasts for two months, how much is your coup there?
Again here, this area needs expertise in specific IT areas and systems e.g. implementation of credit card related applications using languages like COBOL, UNIX, AS400 and others.
The article is an excerpt from the book The Malaysian Job Seekers’ Dilemma.