I Make $110K — & I Dropped Out Of Grad School To Go Into Marketing

In our series Salary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions, and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.

Been in the workforce for at least eight years and interested in contributing your salary story? Submit your information here.

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Previously, we talked to an art director in New York, an illustrator in Austin, and an ad tech director in Chicago,

Age: 30
Current Location: Jersey City, NJ
Current Industry & Title: Internet, Marketing Manager
Starting Salary: $22,880 ($11/hour)
Current Salary: $110,000
Number Of Years Employed: 9
Biggest Salary Jump: $18,000 ($47,000 to $65,000) in 2013
Biggest Salary Drop: None

Biggest Salary Negotiation Regret: “I regret not negotiating more when I transitioned from corporate into the startup world. This startup offered me more money than I had previously been making, so I accepted without a thought. The bump was only about $5,000, and though my boyfriend was adamant that I negotiate, it was one of those moments where I just wanted to get out of what I was doing so badly that I did not want to push back. Looking back, not only would I have asked for more money, I probably wouldn’t have taken the job at all.”

Best Salary-Related Advice: “With every job you are interviewing for, you have to think about not just the salary but the bonuses, the work-from-home flexibility, the number of vacation days, the health benefits, whether or not the company pays for transportation or offers catered lunches. There are so many things that play into making an opportunity worthwhile.

“For instance, there may be costs covered that you may not have considered. For example, my current job, they cover a lot of the costs I was used to having to pay for. They provide breakfast, lunch, coffee, tea, and other beverages every day, and they cover $150 of my transit each month. My healthcare is less than $30 a month, including health, dental, vision, short- and long-term disability — you name it, it’s covered. Basically, it’s important not to just look at the base salary — ask questions about the full package, including stocks and other offerings.”

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“I graduated in 2010 with a degree in psychology, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I ended up signing up for graduate school classes, and part of the program was to work part-time at the school’s career-services center while taking classes at night.

“I assisted the career-services department at a college, which included doing things like writing résumés for students, which counted toward my grad major experience. But pretty early on, my mentor at this job told me that I was so much better at marketing than I was at career counseling. She basically told me to drop this program and just take a job in marketing. So, after some thought, I did.

“I hosted a luncheon for all the employees and students who participated in our internship program. I spoke at this event and also hosted a panel of students and employers who discussed their experiences with the program. At this event, I met this man who was the president of this tech school. He said he was really impressed with me and ended up asking me to come to his office for a meeting.”
“When I went in to meet the man at the tech school — which taught people to code before it became a thing — he told me that they needed help with their marketing department. He felt that I had been doing a great job at the career-services department and that he wanted my help with marketing at his tech-school company. He offered me an entry-level salary of $35,000 and said I had a lot of potential to grow at the company. I accepted, and that’s when I stopped taking grad classes, just over a year after I’d started.

“Venturing into marketing was scary. I was a psych major, and I thought that I would ultimately do something in that field. The company only lasted a year from the time I started. Eventually, it was clear that we were close to closing shop, and it was a mess. But my boss encouraged me to start interviewing for jobs.

“Right before I left for my next job, my boss gave me an extra $10,000 raise out of his own pocket — from $35,000 to $45,000 — so that I could show my next employer that I had salary growth in this role and had earned a bump in salary in this position.”
“I found a new job in NYC at a music school. I drove into the city from New Jersey for the interview, and afterward wrote a really nice, curated thank-you letter reiterating what I’d said in the interview, as well as things that weren’t mentioned.

“Almost immediately, I was offered a position that paid $2,000 more than my ‘total salary’ after my $10,000 salary bump at my last job. I should have negotiated here but wanted to move to NYC and needed a new job badly, so I decided to accept.

“I took about two weeks to transition off of one job to another. I drove into the city every night looking for apartments. The job itself was good; it was a newly developed team, and we had a lot of freedom. They hadn’t had a marketing team before, so we could do what we wanted. I started each day at 10:30 a.m. and never stayed late because my boss was flexible.

“Soon, after starting the job and relocating to New York City, I realized that I was not making enough money to be living in such an expensive city. I was living off of chicken-noodle soup and ramen for months. I went home at Christmas and ended up freezing loaves of bread and bringing them back with me. I sold my car and canceled my car insurance, but I was still struggling.

“After about seven months, I needed to move into a new apartment and save up for a deposit, and I realized I had to find another job that paid me more than I was making. After moving — and borrowing $1,800 from my younger sister — I realized I needed to make a change because I couldn’t even afford to pay her back.

“I was on vacation with my family, and my uncle was talking about analysts in finance making a lot of money. Coincidentally, I found a job posting for an analyst contractor position at a large credit card company in an alumni group. I interviewed for the job while my boss was on vacation."
“After interviewing at the credit card company, I received an offer right away. The role was a contractor position and paid so much more than what I had expected, so I didn’t think to negotiate. I accepted and was asked to start as soon as possible. When I went to my previous boss, he counter-offered for $5,000 more to try to keep me, but it was still nowhere near my other offer. He understood in the long run, since they were offering to pay me nearly $20,000 more.

“After taking the job, I realized that finance paid so much more than higher education (which seems obvious now but wasn’t at the time). This job was technically an analyst job, and I had no math skills, so I was terrified. But when I started, a friend from college was on the same team as me. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, so we started working late to try to figure it out together.

“Our boss was really hard on us, and she would even joke that she 'hated us.' About six months into this role, we both got lucky and ended up being transferred to a much nicer team that dealt with rewards campaigns. From that moment on, we had a nicer boss and team and everything was much better.

“I was a contractor for a year and eight months, at which point I was approached by a VP on our team, whom I really respected, to go for an internal partnership role. I had to interview as if I were an external applicant, since I was a contractor. But I knew the people who were interviewing me and leveraged my relationships. I ended up beating everyone out for this job, and though the role was initially listed at $70,000, they offered me $75,000, since I had previously told them this was the minimum I would take. I accepted the initial offer, since it met my initial salary expectations and was a full-time role.”
“In this role, I had the best boss ever, who I am still friends with to this day. She went on maternity leave six weeks after I started my job, but she prepared me so well. She gave me everything I needed to succeed, including a 30-page transition document, and let me run the partnership while she was on maternity leave for four months. Being able to run the department while she was gone gave me great exposure to leaders and really set me up for success later on down the road.

“My boss was very pro-women in leadership and was great at supporting other women, which I hadn’t experienced before. When she got back, she was so happy with what I had done with the role. We completely revamped the whole partnership we were in charge of. Our ability to succeed in this partnership reflected well on both of us.

“At one point, I got asked to launch another new program, which meant I was basically working two jobs. But I was told that if I did this right, I would get a promotion. I worked until midnight for six months straight and was very stressed out. I was then asked to apply for two roles, one of which I wanted. I hit it off with the woman who interviewed me for the position — she was very friendly. Then I interviewed with the whole team, and they all liked me, and she ended up giving me the job, which was a manager position.”
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“Four months into my new position, our department was reorganized. I didn’t have a boss for a few months, and our roles weren’t very clear. I was just looking for random projects to do and felt like leadership didn’t really care about us or know what to do with us. During this time, we were basically in limbo. It almost felt like I had gotten screwed over by leaving my previous team. I didn’t have the support to be successful in my role.”
“Every February, everyone was given a small raise, between $2,000 and $3,000. I received a raise of $3,000, as well as a promotion and new title.

“Soon after, they found a new boss for our department, and she was a complete nightmare. She had gotten laid off from another team and came onto ours with a chip on her shoulder. She wanted to impress leadership, and her way of doing that was throwing everyone else under the bus.

“She knew that our team had been in limbo, and she would take work that we did and take credit for it to make herself look better. I knew pretty soon that I had to get out of this position, so I started looking for another job. In hindsight, I should have stayed and waited for another promotion, because I knew I could have gotten one. But she left such a bad taste in my mouth that I started looking outside the company.”
“After applying for a bunch of different positions at several places, I found a job posting for a role with a startup on LinkedIn. I was trying to be particular, but at the time my boss was making me miserable, so I just wanted to get out. After interviewing with them, it took them a month to respond and I didn’t think I was going to hear anything back.

“They finally got back to me with an offer and wanted an answer right away. It was stressful because I didn’t really get a chance to talk to my friends and family about it. I acted very quickly and said yes without negotiating. That was a mistake: I should've negotiated higher, but I was in such a weird place that I folded.

“The first two months it was fine — my boss was nice, and they were building out the new team. I realized that they had sold me a job that didn’t really exist; it was a typical startup mentality. I hit all my quarterly goals and did very well in the first three months, but they ended up hiring a 25-year-old as the VP of marketing to run the department because he came with funding money. That was a sign from me that I had made a huge mistake to leave a huge company for a startup that didn’t really know what it was doing.

“This VP was borderline harassing women on the team, and it was a nightmare. Some weeks were just awful. After a while, I started getting stomach ulcers from the stress.”
“While on vacation with my family, I found a job based out of New Jersey that I was really excited about. I applied and received an email the next day. We had a call, and I ended up having an interview while I was still on vacation. I loved everyone I interviewed with and felt it was right up my alley. I was so happy.

“Soon after, I went on another trip to France and Morocco, and they asked me to do a writing assignment, which I did on the plane and on my phone while I was on a train. I had spotty Wi-Fi in Morocco and got an email from the company asking me to get on a call.

“They ended up offering me the job. The hiring manager told me the offer and the stock options, and I accepted on the spot. It was a dream job and was everything I wanted, so I said yes right away. The day I got back from vacation, I walked into my old job and told them I was resigning with less than a week’s notice. At the time, my boyfriend was about to leave for a trip to Europe, so I booked a last-minute flight and went back to Europe with him.

“I started the job when I got back, and it’s been great. I like the work we do and the product we sell. I’d like to stay here for a long time. In hindsight, I should have never done the startup thing, but I think it was a lesson. It took me a long time, but I always tell people: I didn’t know what I was doing when I graduated from college or when I dropped out of grad school to go into marketing. But I think, now that I’ve hit 30, everything kind of clicked.

“I’m finally good with what I’m doing, and I think I’ve made the right decision. This job pays well, and I am finally at the point where I can save money and live a normal life without worrying. I think I’ve finally realized what was important to me and started making more logical decisions — everything has kind of fallen into place. I think I’ll be here for a while.”
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