2022's Salary Stories have had range, with take-home earnings spanning £30k to £175k, careers from flood specialist to fundraiser to fashion designer and leaps across the country or into new industries. The long-running series where we publish women's anonymised career journeys – from first job to worst negotiation to best pay bump – always provides us with something we can apply to our own career. And in 2022, every story came not only with interesting insights and windows into industries unknown but also game-changing advice.
Whether it's nuggets of knowledge they wish they'd known first time around or the advice to which they've held fast since starting out, this guidance from R29 readers has meant we really have our heads screwed on when it comes to careers. Ahead, we've compiled the cream of the crop so we can advocate for ourselves, build a better career and perhaps take some risks along the way.
1. Sometimes, contracting can give you more than working full time
Best salary advice: Know your worth and stick to your guns. Don't let people tell you you're not worth a certain amount. If you're getting calls or speaking to recruiters about jobs in a certain pay bracket, then you're worth it. Always strive for more.
Don't be afraid to contract! Contracting helps build a range of skills quickly in different industries and areas, and the money is generally better. I thoroughly believe I am where I am because of the skills I learned while contracting.
2. Negotiating is crucial but has to be done the right way
This Salary Story writer works in the mining and metals industry, and learned quickly the importance of negotiating when starting a new role
Best salary advice: Always negotiate but do so in a considerate and informed way. I really regret not doing it for my first job offer but quickly learned my lesson. Now I'm in a role where I'm hiring people and making job offers and I always expect people to come back to the table and negotiate. I actually think it's a really important skill to have!
3. Similarly, make the most out of your contacts whenever you can
This Salary Story writer found that, working in government, it always helps to sustain a good impression when leaving a role
Best salary advice: You never know when you'll work with people again – or if they'll be responsible for hiring – so always leave an excellent impression and keep the door open for the future. Several of my jobs have been through connections or my wider network.
4. Interview. Even if you don't want the job
This Salary Story writer has found that by interviewing a lot and honing her interview skills, she has leveraged her salary in digital marketing to £60k
Best salary advice: 1) Always interview, even when in a role. I interview regularly (but only for roles that interest me, to keep my skills on form and to keep an eye on what's going on in the industry) so that if THE role comes along it isn't completely overwhelming. My friends all think I'm crazy but I promise it works.
2) Don't be scared to move around as long as it makes sense. I've never spent more than three years in one business and moved round after a year in my first two roles, either for promotions or to move into bigger businesses. Moving on to a new business is a challenge but it's also exciting and it means you're going to grow. And it often comes with a pay rise, which is a bonus!
3) Stick to your guns. When I moved up to £50,000 they asked if I would take less. I said no as my commute costs were more than doubling but at £50,000 my take-home would still be more, and got what I wanted.
5. Share your knowledge with other workers
This Salary Story writer found that the stigma against discussing your salary with your peers and colleagues was only holding her back
6. But keep your cards close to your chest when applying for new roles
While knowledge-sharing is wonderful, this Salary Story writer found it far more fruitful to be a bit withholding with hiring managers
Best salary advice: When applying for jobs, never tell them your actual salary as if you’ve been with your current company a while you’re probably underpaid compared to the market. Tell them what you think you should be earning as your market value, then you’ll be offered a better salary.
7. No matter what, no salary is worth your mental health
Money is important but as this Salary Story writer found, chasing the highest salary means nothing when it ruins your mental wellbeing
Best salary advice: Follow your values, not the number on your payslip. Like many, when I graduated university I was swept up in the notion that I should take the highest paid job I could get and did not spend enough time thinking about whether it was really right for me. In hindsight, I didn't enjoy my summer internships but ignored the red flags because I was focused on a number. Well, let me tell you, these City firms work you to the bone for that number! Fast-forward six months into my training contract and I was suffering from anxiety and depression – no salary is worth your mental health.
8. If a job isn't working, don't worry about leaving 'too soon'
In this Salary Story, the writer pushes against the idea that you have to stay in a role for a certain amount of time before you can leave
Best salary advice: Research what other companies are paying those in a similar role or at a similar level. I wish I'd realised this sooner – I went in low on a few occasions just because it was more than what I was used to surviving on, not because it was the right salary for the hard work I was doing.
Also, don't be afraid to leave a job if you've only been there a short amount of time. I spent too much time worrying about whether it would look bad on my CV if I've only been at a company for nine months. If you're willing to talk in an interview about why you'd like to move and why the previous role wasn't right for you, no one cares!
9. Not all careers grow at the same pace but it doesn't make them less important
And finally, as this Salary Story shows, not every industry is built for huge pay rises but that doesn't mean the work is unrecognised
Best salary advice: Never give your current salary, only what you are expecting. If you won't accept a job under a certain salary then just be honest about that. In my latest job move I was upfront from the start that I wouldn't accept lower than £30,000, which was the top of their range. They appreciated that honesty and offered it to me straight up.
I wanted to share my salary story to show that it's not all huge jumps and fast progression. A lot of sectors are really slow to navigate, don't accept negotiation or offer any raises. It has been a slog and due to life circumstances like moving cities and a toxic job that didn't work out, then taking a job I was overqualified for to escape, I've had to job-hop a lot. Now that I'm in a role that challenges me, pays fairly and offers progression, I hope that my future salary story will be better.