I Have A Great Job & Make $90,000 — But Wish I'd Negotiated Earlier In My Career

Hannah Minn
In our series My Salary Story, 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.
Previously, we talked to a 29-year old regional manager in the wine and spirits industry who tripled her salary without changing companies, a 30-year-old technical business analyst who got a raise with the help of a maintenance person, a 33-year-old executive assistant who doubled her salary in less than four years.
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Age: 33
Current Location: Charleston, SC
Current Industry & Title: Technology, Senior Marketing Specialist
Starting Salary: $55,000 base + 10% bonus in 2008
Current Salary: $90,000 base + 6% bonus
Number Of Years Employed: 11
Biggest Salary Jump: $22,500 ($71,000 to $93,500) in 2016.
Biggest Salary Drop: $24,000 ($89,000 to $65,000) in 2011.
Biggest Salary Negotiation Regret: "When I switched from sales to marketing I didn't negotiate at all. Because I thought I was lucky to have the opportunity to get out of sales — and always made sure I could live off my base salary — I didn't take into account that I was making over $90,000 some years during my early 20s. When I transitioned to a non-profit it was a huge wake up call. Seven years later, I'm still not fully recovered from my stupidity."
Best Salary-Related Advice: "Always negotiate. It doesn't hurt to do your research and push back on HR when they negotiate back. I've had some jobs try to strong arm me, but it's like buying a car. Don't be afraid to walk away if they aren't willing to pay what you are worth."
1 of 11
"I graduated in December 2007 and started this job right out of college. It was in the tire industry and sales — exact opposite of what I wanted to do. But I could feel the job landscape changing and decided to take it after my professor introduced me to the hiring manager.

"At the time, I was young and naive; I was just excited to have a job. It was kind of presented to me as: 'This is the offer' and it was a really good training program, so I didn't even think to negotiate. Even so, looking back, it shaped my career in the best way possible."
2 of 11
"I was offered this job following the sales training program I was in. I had already been in the previous position at the company and this position opened up and was offered to me. I ended up accepting the offer without negotiation. This new position had more responsibility and required a move from Charlotte, NC to Washington, D.C.

"The company gave me a $10,000 moving bonus, but they did not account for the change in the cost of living. Instead, they just upped my bonus since this was now a true sales role. In the first year, I made $94,000 and in the second year, $89,000."
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3 of 11
"I never loved sales; it wasn't where I truly wanted to be. Living in a new city in my early twenties, working from home, and constantly traveling was one of the hardest times of my life. I was really lonely and unfulfilled. So, in the second year, I did nothing but apply for jobs.

"I knew I wanted to get back into marketing and an opportunity eventually came up with a nonprofit. The role was a hybrid of sales and marketing, so I decided to make I wanted to make the move.

"I took a massive pay cut at the time — though it was technically about the same as the base as my previous base salary. It was an easy transition but I under estimated how much I relied on my previous roles bonus structure for my quality of life. I think I made the right decision. But I wish I had negotiated this salary offer. At the time, I thought I would get raises and bonuses as I progressed, but the reality was: Once you got into the company at a certain salary, it was hard to get a raise."

"In participating in My Salary Story, I discovered that my actual salary versus what my official offer letter stated had a discrepancy of over $5,000 for this role. Looking back, I wish I paid more attention rather than trusting the company and would have been able to leverage this as they changed my role, gave me more responsibilities, but refused to increase my compensation.

"Personally, I really struggled to make ends meet while living in D.C. in my mid-20s and a few hundred dollars a month would have made a huge difference. The higher salary would have potentially given me a higher salary at my next role, and I would have had the confidence to ask for more. In hindsight, it's disappointing to feel like I was taken advantage of, but I'm really happy with my career path since then."
4 of 11
"During this annual review, my manager told me that I had exceeded expectations, but that there was only a certain amount the company could award me, which was a standard 2% raise."
5 of 11
"During my time in this position, I tried to build my marketing skills and exceeded expectations on all of my reviews. However, my manager continuously said that they only had a certain amount they could award and the best he could do was a 2% raise.

"I later found out from my next manager, that this probably meant that other people in the department were getting higher raises than I was. "
6 of 11
"In 2014, my role was part of a total division reorganization. This was an actual raise, the prior years more cost of living adjustments. I moved departments and got a new manager who was amazing. She went to bat for me to get a raise since my previous reviews had exceeded expectations and I continued to show I wanted to learn and volunteered to take on new projects."
7 of 11
"In January of 2015, I received a 5% 'appreciation' bonus that was distributed by the division director. In 2014 I secretly worked to revamp one of our programs. I had created a data set to prove we needed to fix the offering rather than having product and sales blame marketing for the issue.

"This project inspired a total revamp of a stale product offering and as a result, increased sales. It was nice to have something I worked on so passionately be recognized by a Senior Director. Still, my role changed shortly after this and I was quickly assigned to a new product and felt discouraged again."
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8 of 11
"I eventually started to realize at my previous role that there weren't really any growth opportunities. Though my salary increased about $10,000 during my time at my last job, I knew I was grossly underpaid compared to others in the department with the same experience.

"I knew someone who worked at a tech company and he was able to refer me for a position. During the interview process, the recruiting at this company was really aggressive. This company hires people straight out of college and tends to strong-arm people. I knew a little bit about this and went in with this knowledge. While I wanted a raise, I also knew that this would be a good professional move. Still, I knew I had to make more than what I was making at my previous job.

"During the interview, they asked me flat out what I was making, which I shouldn't have told them, but I did. They knew where I was at the entire time ($69,000) but I told them I wanted to make $75,000. During the negotiation, it came out that the salary I was asking for would put me at a managerial level. Their first offer was $62,000 plus bonuses, which would have put me at $68,000 with bonus potential.

"I went back and forth with them a few times before I was finally able to get them to $72,000 plus 8% in bonus potential. They are well known for taking advantage of young people and I had to sign a contract saying I'd work 45-hour weeks.

"I ended up working 50-hour weeks and never saw a bonus. This position was super stressful; a year and a half felt like five. I had stomach ulcers and was constantly stressed. Looking back at my years of experience at the time, I knew I was severely underpaid."
9 of 11
"After a year and a half in the previous position, I was approached by the CMO of another smaller tech company on LinkedIn. We had a call which led to an interview. The hiring manager asked what I would like to make and I thought, hey, I have nothing to lose and asked for $100,000. And they said that was right around their budget for the position.

"I left the previous job two months before I would have qualified for a review, been able to negotiate for a raise, and been eligible for my 8% bonus. But this company offered over $20,000 more than I had been making before.

"Given my experience, I knew I could be successful in this role and that this was a good next step for my career. Starting this job, I finally felt like I was making a salary that was market-rate for ten years of experience. My confidence soared and I felt so much more empowered."
10 of 11
"The company that enticed me with this amazing new role started having layoffs three months after I started. At first, the layoffs were primarily in sales and customer-facings roles that I supported and the marketing department we went on as usual continuing to launch products and programs. But I knew that once layoffs started in my department that the role would probably be eliminated; I knew it wasn't really critical to the department.

"Even though I was successful in creating customer programming and generating leads, I was finally laid off after ten months. After getting laid off, I started to take on independent work through various websites to get by until I found a new role. At this time, I relocated from Washington, D.C. to Charleston, SC.

"The job market in South Carolina is really tough and I probably could have found a job more quickly in Washington. I ended up working as an independent contractor for about nine months. I went on a lot of interviews but nothing really panned out. Being an independent contractor was tough. I needed to make money, but I didn't really like it. I prefer working on teams, and I felt disconnected."
11 of 11
"Back in May, while independent contracting, I had applied for a job at a tech company where a former colleague worked. I spent the summer working in Europe, and my friend contacted me and told me that the company wanted to talk to me about the role, and that I might be hearing from HR.

"I was worried because I was out of the country, but my friend assured me it would be fine. I was able to do all four of my phone interviews from overseas via teleconference. Originally, the role was going to be headquartered in their Virginia office, but the hiring manager interviewed me and was open to having the position be remote.

"Their first offer was $85,000 with a 5% bonus and I came back with a 10% bonus because I was a little scared of pricing myself out of the role. I really wanted a full time job and though I don't want to say I was desperate, I was a little. They came back with a $90,000 offer with a 7% bonus, so I accepted.

"Professionally, this role was a few steps down from my previous role, but the salary was right where I wanted to be so I didn't care. I was excited to have a job and it was a cool role and still presented a challenge and a learning opportunity, which is always important. It's worth taking a step back for now.

"Now, I'm able to work for a D.C.-based company and work from home in Charleston. I wish that earlier on in my marketing career I'd been a bit more aggressive on the roles I had taken. I think I coasted a little bit too long at the non-profit and wish I had gotten into tech earlier. But I do think that (not to be cheesy) everything happens for a reason.

"I work at a great, solid company doing exciting things for our customers. I'm in a role where I'll continue to grow and making a good salary. So I'm really happy."
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