Originally Posted by Rikers
A lot of people I know have been more lucky then skillful (right time, right place that sort of line - on average they didn't plan/prepare etc.)
so, don't be fooled by randomness (find your competitive advantage and milk that cow)
I'm one of those.
I happened to apply for a programming job at one of the larger financial risk management software producers after seeing their adverts looking for developers.
At the time, I didn't even know how big they are, what they are really doing, what I could learn from them. All I knew was that I absolutely had to apply. "Anything with finance" earns a good bit more than just about any other industry after all, unless your field is extremely specialized - and somehow the brightest guys usually fight for the latter spots. Way out of my league.
In my case, I just happened to have had the majority of my post-grad study topics' and developing experience focus on EXACTLY the paradigms and methodologies used by the company in their technical test. I went through it without much sweat and wondered how the second interview would go, expecting a tougher grilling.
That second test never came, I got the job offered, took it and learned a lot. Only a year later I found out I apparently passed with one of the highest scores on that test they had seen to date. And, make no mistake, I am no more than an average developer. Of course, back then when I took the test, even less experienced (read: worse).
Originally Posted by Rikers
If you know how to position yourself to take advantage of that information you'll make a buck...
This comes with experience in my opinion. It's easy to state it like that with a few years of experience in your field but it's very difficult to have a clue of what is needed, where an edge is, or which skills will set you apart from the mob beforehand.
Once I realized I randomly fell into the right hands, I was in the position to figure out what could set me apart from others, how to identify niches, how to focus my skills to fit those, and finally, what potential clients/employers look for in exactly those candidates.
I did that, and it started to pay off after a few years. Again, I am not smarter than the average guy, neither do I work much harder. I just followed the topics that were most interesting to me and not an obvious dead end career- and earnings-potential-wise.
By now, I can comfortably land a contract in the "low 6 figures." But it took me some time... even with the very lucky start, close to 10 years' experience by now, working as a developer in the finance world with highly specialized skills, and some intelligently tailored peripheral skills (or so I hope) to boost my profile.
: Erm, just to clarify the years, not close to 10 in my "field", more like 6. But 10 years of developing overall.
Whoa, this ended in a wall of text. Apologies in advance. Cliff notes follow.
Cliff notes (TL;DR): I am one of the ones getting lucky early. But I believe it takes some experience to be able to see which direction will take you to the higher income levels. Go out there, get started, do what you like, and excel in what you enjoy. Unless it's a dead end direction you'll be just fine.