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Salary Story: I Nearly Doubled My Salary After Leaving Nonprofits

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 people more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.
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Age: 28
Location: Denver, CO
Current industry and job title: Consulting, Senior Corporate Sustainability Consultant
Current salary: $130,000
Number of years employed since school or university: 7
Starting salary: $17,000
Biggest salary jump: I nearly doubled my last salary coming from my nonprofit job to my job in consulting in late 2022. My level of accountability is pretty much the same, the only discernible reason is exiting the nonprofit world. I also work the same hours, which should tell you something about nonprofits.
Biggest salary drop: After I graduated I became underemployed and went from making about $30,000 waiting tables and bartending during the school year to $17,000. I left a pretty lucrative and busy restaurant — that was also toxic and draining — for a restaurant group that promised a better work environment. They were dishonest about how many hours they could actually staff me for.
Biggest negotiation regret: When I applied for my current job, I put $120,000 in the field that forced me to put a number. It was so much higher than my $75,000 salary at the time and felt right based on the research I had done. They offered me $130,000 right out of the gate and I didn’t counter. I am actually really happy with $130,000 and think it’s competitive for the role. I don’t think you should always negotiate if the offer is fair. My regret is putting $120,000 in the application and not pressing harder on a range, since throughout our conversations they just assured me I was aligned. I assume they gave me a fair offer since they offered over asking but I will always wonder how much I could have been offered above $130,000.
Best salary advice: You don’t have to wait for your annual review to ask for a raise. I’ve received two increases mid-year in my career because I made a strong case for why I deserved an adjustment. The worst that can happen is they say no and you have a good conversation about why and what it would take for you to get where you want to be.

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