How would your life change if you made a career switch and tripled your income?

Many of us dream about earning more. Michael Hodges actually did something about it.

Below, he shares how he surpassed his income goal by switching to a digital marketing job.


Michael launched his digital marketing career—and learned how to negotiate his salary—by joining Acadium Plus.

Before the career switch

Career Switch - From events to digital marketing

Michael worked in events before making the career switch to digital marketing.

I was working at events, doing setup for events. I was also managing the floor and everything.

I had had previous marketing experience before then but it was all over the place. I would hit up my friends who own businesses and they say that they know marketing. But then you get in and you start working with them and it’s all over the place.

There was no direction.

With my past employers, I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of a career with them. I didn’t see my career in marketing moving forward.

That’s when I decided to scale things back and get a job that would allow some flexibility on what it was doing, so that I could work on making a career switch.

In search of marketing accelerators

I thought about going into other marketing accelerators. And then I heard about Acadium.

What caught my interest was the branding and the ads I had seen on Facebook and some of the other marketing material that I had seen online.

I thought, “Hey, they understand young people pretty well and they understand our ambitions with our careers.” And they have a way into the program such as having all the free digital marketing classes that are on the web app and on the mobile app.

It really resonated with me that these people are going to have my back in my career. They’re not just looking to push someone through a program and then charge them a lot of money for it. They’re looking to actually help you succeed.

“I can’t imagine anything better than you planning out what kind of career you want and then you being handed that career. What more could you ask for?”

Michael Hodges, Acadium Plus graduate

What a digital marketing apprenticeship was like

The apprenticeship aspect of Acadium was very helpful. It helps you pick like your niche or vertical, the one thing that you’re good at, and you know that you’re going to be working on that.

I definitely had a lot of support from the Acadium team. Working with the mentor though, that was a difficult challenge. There were a good number of communication hurdles, which is a skill that you need to build.

When I went through it, it was definitely challenging. It did get me the experience that I wanted with Facebook ads.

Editor’s Note: Completing an apprenticeship—or several—is a great way to make the career switch to digital marketing. Learn more about becoming an apprentice here.

Journey to Acadium Plus

Getting up to Acadium Plus, I already had some marketing experience. I was building out my freelance clients but I knew that marketing is a very big industry. I needed to work alongside different experts, people that are familiar with the space.

And that’s what I was looking for when I was deciding whether or not to join Acadium Plus. I was looking at other accelerators, different marketing places such as digital marketing classes.

But looking at them, they didn’t have the coaches and the mentors at the level that I would like. They also didn’t offer the one-on-ones and the level of support that was being offered in the Acadium Plus program.

And that’s the reason why ultimately went with the Acadium Plus program. I felt like the people involved with it, especially Erik Harbison, are really big into training the next generation of marketers. Whereas with other programs, I felt like their mentors were more trying to do something on the side, in addition to fill up their career portfolio.

But Erik and the Acadium team, it really impressed me with how involved they are with their students.

Acadium Plus vs. Acadium apprenticeship

Going to Acadium Plus was a big step up. One of the biggest things is accountability. On the free Acadium platform, you’re just tied with your mentor. But in the Acadium Plus program, you have more people involved. There are a lot more people rooting for you. You belong to a cohort, so you’re all in it together.

In Acadium Plus, you also have regular check-ups with your career coach, and you have regular meetings with different vertical experts in marketing. And that pushes you forward and holds you accountable. It makes you want to achieve that next thing, because when you cross that line, then there are people waiting for you and rooting for you along the way.

The biggest difference between the regular Acadium platform and the Acadium Plus program is that you have a bigger community that’s surrounding you in Acadium Plus.

Learn more about Acadium Plus.

Considerations for joining Acadium Plus

There were some considerations before joining Acadium Plus. One was the level of obligation. It’s good that I had already picked a job that was pretty flexible at the time. If I had a regular 9-to-5 office job, it would have been hard to make that commitment.

Some other reasons that I would have turned down Acadium Plus were, if I didn’t have a good guarantee or if I felt like the training wasn’t enough to secure me a job. That would have been another reason.

The Income Sharing Agreement (ISA) definitely influenced my decision. If you didn’t have it, I probably wouldn’t have chosen the program. It would be awful if I owed someone like 20 grand but my income didn’t increase at all. That would have been devastating.

So there are assurances and the ISA program, and the fact that if you don’t get hired, you don’t really owe anything. Those benefits ultimately led me to be able to say I’m confident in going through the program.

The Income Sharing Agreement process

I like the ISA. Signing up for it, the contract was very clear and I know that I’m not going to pay anything unless I meet a certain minimum. I know what I’m going to pay at that level. But then also, at higher levels I can track the job that I get, how much I am going to pay for it. So I already know all of that upfront. And I like the fact that it’s on a sliding scale because if you make more, it’s not that much difficult to pay more, so that’s fine.

The Leaf application makes it very easy to understand. They walk you through the contract so it’s pretty readable. I really enjoyed it.

More companies that are in education should use ISAs.

How life has changed since joining Acadium Plus

Things have changed after joining Acadium Plus. Before in my career, I was in marketing, I knew other people that were in marketing but I didn’t have a network of people that I would regularly talk to that understood the industry like none of my personal friends before Acadium Plus.

They understand marketing in the plainest terms available and a lot of them don’t understand it at all. They think it’s just, “Oh, you’re just trying to make people buy your product.”

But in Acadium Plus, you get to know people. You get to learn more about marketing. You get to have people that you can talk to in your network that understand it. You can even make a couple of friends here and there with your cohorts and other cohorts. It’s always good to have someone in your inner circle that understands what your career is and what you’re doing.

Career switch - Acadium Plus community

Being part of a supportive community is one of the biggest benefits of Acadium Plus. Having a community and network makes a career switch easier.

As for income, coming into it, I was like, “I can double the amount of money I’ve ever made.” But I got my first job out of it, I tripled my income getting out of Acadium Plus. So that was a surprise. I beat my own expectations with that. So that was really good.

I no longer worry that I’m going to be stuck at a minimum wage job anymore. That worry has gone away.

But there’s also being in a network of people and being able to talk with people. You can learn about their struggles in their career as well and how we all have that Imposter Syndrome, where we might have learned an aspect of marketing but we don’t feel like we are experts. We don’t feel like we are offering any value. But then you learn that everyone does that or feels that way.

And you learn how to move through it and how to deal with it and then you have to focus on your successes and everyone has failures. And that’s something that you get to learn and you get to grow from.

What it feels like to 3X your income

I tripled my income, and I am so happy. It’s really good.

It’s very exciting. To put it in a bodily thing, my knees are thanking me. “Thank you for putting in all this work. You don’t have to stand for hours anymore.” That’s a relief.

But then I get to do things now that I wouldn’t have been able to. There’s no way that I would have ever, in a minimum wage job, been able to go to a spa day this weekend. I can’t do that. Making the money now, I could do that twice a week if I wanted to. So that’s very nice.

I can also plan for things like not just taking a day off for a vacation. I can actually plan to go somewhere. If I wanted to, I could plan a trip to Bali six months from now. I can do that if I wanted to, where previously, no, there’s no way I could even plan for that like. I couldn’t do it.

The change in income is very substantial. It makes a huge difference in my life. It allows me to do the things that I want to do.

Getting the job offer and negotiating his salary

First off, I was surprised. I thought they could not be offering me this. I couldn’t believe it.

But then because of the position that it is in and the fact that I’ve had the training from Erik and the rest of the people at Acadium, the position I’m dealing with deals with money and deals with clients and so in this position, you need to negotiate your salary. Because if you’re not going to advocate for yourself then you’re not going to advocate for the company.

I got the call from the recruiter that said they were sending the offer over, while I was on a one-on-one with Erik. So we talked through it.

And we talked about how my interview went and whether or not—because it is a position where I’m making strategic advisement on things like ad spend and stuff like that—so that is a position where you need to negotiate your salary just because the kind of person that would negotiate their salary is a person that would do well with their job.

And Erik and I figured out what their levels would be because they sent over a weird number for the salary. And then I was like, “That’s weird. They are probably doing it on some sort of percentage leveling system.”

What I asked for in my salary wasn’t a lot more than they originally offered. But let’s say, every time that you get promoted or you get a new job, you ask for a 2.5% pay increase. If you do that every single time over the course of your career, then you’re going to be making like 14% more at the end of your career versus all of your colleagues that didn’t do that.

Erik helped me negotiate that. He helped me find out exactly how much more I should ask for and what would be a safe range and whether that was a good idea to do or not.

And so, I was thinking they’re not going to give me a higher offer. They’re not going to do it. They’re not going to accept my counter offer.

And then they accepted my counter offer and I can tell you, I was to the moon. That’s how I felt when I got the email.

I was like, “I’m having a fever dream. That’s what’s going on. I’ve stayed up too late and I’m having a fever dream. This can’t possibly be real.”

But then a week later, I still have the email. I was still looking at it. We were planning dates for my orientation. It feels unimaginable. It still seems dreamy to me that it’s happening.

But I can tell you I have a huge amount of stress off my shoulders. I don’t have to worry [about money]. I mean, I still do have to budget but I don’t have to worry that if I spend too much in Uber Eats, I might miss a car payment or rent. I don’t have to do that anymore. So that’s a huge relief.

I don’t think I’ve had a happier day in my life. I was so happy.

Is Acadium Plus worth the investment?

The program has paid more for itself than college has. I can tell you that. It’s going to be a hell lot easier to pay off, too. So is it worth the money? Yes, it is definitely worth the money.

I can’t imagine anything better than you planning out what kind of career you want and then you being handed that career. Amazing. What more could you ask for?

Michael Hodges is now Audit Marketing Specialist at MuteSix. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.