How This 35-Year Old Scored Her Six-Figure Salary

In our series My 6-Figure Paycheck, women making more than $100,000 (£75,000) open up about how they got there and what exactly they do. We take a closer look at what it feels like to be a woman making six-figures — when only 5% of American women make that much, according to the U.S. Census with the hope it will give women insight into how to better navigate their own career and salary trajectories.
Today, we chat with a 35-year old Attorney and previous Money Diarist from Birmingham, AL.
Previously, we spoke to a 31-year old Design Strategist in Denver, CO.
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“How did you land that job?” “What was your major in college?” “What has your career trajectory been like?” These are just some of the questions that pop up regularly in the Money Diaries comment sections — especially diaries from women with six-figure salaries. Given the level of curiosity, we’ve decided to take a closer look at the professional lives of women making over $100,000 a year. In speaking with them, we hope to shed some more light on their dreams and goals, educational backgrounds, and salary trajectories. After all, though career success should not be determined only by salary, the story of how others have managed to make six figures — and how they feel now that they do — is something most of us want to hear. Plus, it's a way to empower other women in their own journeys.
Job: Attorney
Age: 35
Location: Birmingham, AL
Degree: Sociology Bachelors, Law School
Starting Salary: $19,000 (£14,500)
Current Salary: $115,000 (£88,000)
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid I heard the word miscellaneous and misunderstood its meaning. There were so many cool jobs out there, that I ran around telling people I wanted to be a "miscellaneous" when I grew up.
What did you study in college?
I was a Sociology major.
You received a scholarship for your education, what sort of scholarship was it and what was the process like to apply for and receive it?
I received a 75% scholarship for undergrad and then lost it. I was incredibly immature and didn't know what I was doing. When I went to law school, I was about to turn 30. So I was very familiar with the effect that debt has on your quality of life. I spent a lot of time researching schools that might offer me scholarships based on my high LSAT/low undergrad GPA/work experience. I applied to 13 or 14 schools and then narrowed down my choices based on scholarships and employment outcomes. I waited months to make a decision about where to attend because I was negotiating scholarships. It was taxing, but so worth it.
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Have you been working at this job since you graduated law school?
I have only been a lawyer for a year. Before I went to law school I worked as a special education teacher.
How much did you get paid at your first job?
I mentioned earlier that I was incredibly immature and lost my undergrad scholarship. I dropped out of school for a while and worked as a special education assistant. I was making around $19,000 (£14,500) a year. It was really tough. It inspired me to finish my degree and become a teacher. After five years as a teacher, I knew it was time for another challenge.
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
I wish I had realized the importance of hard work earlier. I think my career trajectory has made my appreciate where I am now and it helps me relate to the people I work with. My relationship with partners and clients is different than a first year lawyer who is 26 years old. There are pros to my career trajectory, but I definitely wish I had been more mature and gotten my act together earlier.
Is your current job your passion? If not, what is?
I love my current job, but wouldn't call it my "passion." It is fulfilling and challenging and I really enjoy the people I work with, which I think is all you can hope for. I remember getting asked in an interview for a summer associate position what my passion was and I felt like it was a weird question. I am a pretty pragmatic person, so I don't know that there is any job that I would ever call my passion.
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What professional advice would you give your younger self?
Learn to balance fun and hard work. You have so many gifts, don't waste them!
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