Salary Story: I Learned The Hard Way Not To Take Sh*t From Work

Illustration by Vivienne Shao
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 five years and interested in contributing your salary story? Submit your information here. Published stories receive £100.
Age: 32
Location: Brighton
Current industry and job title: Higher education, project manager
Current salary: £35,333
Number of years employed since school or university: Five years post-university but I worked for four years before uni and went as a mature student.
Starting salary: £19,000 in 2010.
Biggest salary jump: £22,000 to £31,500 in 2022.
Biggest salary drop: £27,000 to £0 in 2014 when I became a student.
Biggest negotiation regret: For my first and second job after university, I had no idea you could negotiate your starting salary. I can't believe it has taken me as long as it has to realise that. Even in higher education where you are often hired on a particular grade and pay bracket, I still didn't realise that often you can negotiate where you start within the bracket. It was only once I became a manager myself that I realised a strong candidate holds the power in these discussions, particularly at the moment as we are having trouble recruiting skilled people. As a hiring manager, I am always happy to negotiate salary as I want my staff to feel good in their role, be paid well and want to stay!
Best salary advice: Don't be put off applying to jobs with a higher salary because you don't feel you meet all the 'essential criteria' for a role. You may be really undervaluing your skills! I've often looked at more senior roles and felt that there was no point even putting in an application because I couldn't meet every single criterion, even though I could demonstrate I meet most of them. A previous line manager told me to have more confidence in my abilities, focusing on the skills I do have and what I could offer. This mindset has helped me in interviews, too.