I Make $113,000 & I've Left Several Jobs That Didn't Pay Enough

In our series My 6-Figure Paycheck, women making more than $100,000 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 28-year old senior social media associate in the aviation industry in Washington D.C. Previously, we spoke to a 30-year old associate director of social media marketing from New York, NY, a 30-year old CG animator from Los Angeles, CA, and a 26-year-old brand finance manager from New York, NY.
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Job: Senior Social Media Associate, Aviation Industry
Age: 28
Location: Washington, D.C.
Degree: Masters Degree, Interpersonal and Organizational Communication
First Salary: $18,000
Current Salary: $113,000
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"I really wanted to be an entomologist. I've always been very into science, technology, engineering, and math, but my easiest subjects have always been writing and communication. It was always clear to me I would pursue the thing that came to me the easiest.
"If you can do your job with your eyes closed, it's easy to come across as an expert in that field, and I know that a STEM career would have been more of a challenge for me. Luckily, in my career, I've been privileged to serve as a communicator on behalf of scientists, engineers, and technologists.
"I was fortunate to get a high school internship with a government agency that gave me high level, executive office experience at age 17. I really credit that with giving me the experience people were looking for early on in my career."
What did you study in college?
"I originally went to school for journalism, but then I realized that journalists don't make any money so I switched my degree to public relations and advertising. I finished my undergraduate degree in three years, since I had taken AP courses, and I went on to do my graduate degree in two more years.
"I was very interested in graduate-level studying because it was a lot more strategy and theory, and a lot less tactical stuff. It gave me a higher level and a broader view of ways to apply my knowledge and experience."
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Did you have to take out student loans?
"I never took out any student loans. I was able to secure scholarships because I made it my full-time job in high school to apply to every one I found. My parents didn't have any money for me, so I knew I had to gather a lot of money to be able to go to college.
"I created scholarship application packets with more than eight different versions of the same essay in varying lengths, and I applied to probably more than a thousand scholarships. I won several dozen scholarships of varying amounts from $200 up to $4,000. I also had great grades in high school, and my father was active-duty military. He used his GI Bill for himself, but his active-duty status qualified me for more scholarships.
"I had friends who didn't take out loans for tuition, but they did take them out for their living expenses while they were in college. My parents made me a deal that they would give me a car if I could finish school without any loans. So for the five years I went to school I worked at least two full-time jobs at a time. I worked nights at a call center, cleaned houses independently, worked as a freelance journalist, coached public speaking, and took on any other odd jobs that I could find.
"When I finished school I had five years of full-time work experience. That put me way ahead of my peers, many of whom finished school without ever holding a full-time job or reporting to a supervisor. It almost doesn't matter what you do as your job because the fact that you had one proves you can show up on time, follow directions, and work well with others."
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Have you been working at this job since you graduated college?
"When I first graduated, I worked for a small IT company with only five employees. That might have been my favorite job ever. But I only made $18,000.
"I applied to go back to the federal agency where I worked at as a high school intern, and it took about three years to get hired. When I did, I made about $55,000 starting, while living in the D.C. area. From there I went on to government contracting and after that it was very easy to negotiate my salary."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"I am very adamant about owning my own lane of work. Because I designed my role to be this way, I spend the majority of my time working directly with clients, rather than go through a middleman or supervisor.
"I don't supervise anyone, but I end up shaping a lot of what my department does, and that's the reason why my boss is willing to pay me so much. I make his job easier because I make sure my colleagues, new hires, and clients are taken care of."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"When I received an offer from an outside company, I told the owner of my current company that I deserved a high salary because of my relationships, my skills, my experience, and my likability among important people at the top of the agency. I got a 30% raise in one phone conversation
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"Nine months later, an old boss asked me to come work with him at a new organization where he had just started. I told him that I would move for a certain salary, and he met my demand. It came with a lot of benefits that I wasn't aware of until I started. I plan to stay here making a good amount for a few years until I need to make more or they stop giving me raises."
Is your current job your passion? If not, what is?
"I'm always happiest when I work for someone who appreciates me and when I work with people who are kind and good. I am a firm believer that you can be happy in any role if the people and the attitudes are right."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"I wish I had found a way to have some supervisory experience. I have found that I'm pretty good at getting people to do what I want, even if they are my boss. I haven't yet had the opportunity to officially be a manager, but I feel that that might be the next step to making a lot more money."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"I left several roles because they were unwilling to pay me what I was worth, and the working environment was extremely unpleasant because of bad supervisors or bad colleagues. If I could go back and talk to myself at my most frustrating moments, I would have told myself to leave sooner. I think I took a lot of bullshit because I didn't feel like I had options.
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"At this point in my career, I don't hesitate to call out bad bosses or bad colleagues. I don't have time to take shit from other people. I'm worth more than that. The ability and confidence to do that is worth more than a high salary, but I think getting paid a lot gives me the confidence to be able to call people out."
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Are you a woman under 35 with a six-figure salary ($100,000+) and want to tell your story? Submit it here.
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