How I Increased My Salary by $30,000

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Around this time last year, I was offered a promotion at my former job and, although the title was nice, the salary left a bit to be desired. So what's a girl to do?

Well, after much internal deliberation and two therapy sessions, I accepted the promotion (because I'm not going to leave money on the table) and immediately launched a plan to find a new job that would compensate me accordingly.

Eight months, five interviews with two different nonprofits and one job simulation activity later, I accepted a job offer that was $30,000 more than my previous salary. Below are the three steps I took to get there.

Ask Around

When I first received the raise for my promotion, I knew it was way below market rate based on research. For starters, there's websites such as Glassdoor, PayScale and Indeed, which often lists salaries with job descriptions. And Career Contessa's self-reported Salary Project is a great resource as well.But data can only take you so far.

In order to find out what employers are really paying on these streets, I turned to three trusted friends in similar roles across both nonprofit and for-profit sectors and asked them about their salaries. Thank God for their transparency, or else I would still be in the dark. As it turned out, my offer was about $30,000 below their salaries.

My jaw literally dropped. How had I managed to shortchange myself. Yes, I loved my organization's mission, but like anybody else I wanted to get paid, too. It was time to move on.

Hire a Career Coach

You know the old saying if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten? Clearly my old job-searching strategies weren't going to take me to the next level in my career, so I decided to try something new.

After a coffee meeting with a woman who commiserated with me over low nonprofit salaries, I scheduled a consultation with the coach she recommended. Sure, at $100 per session, it was definitely an investment for me at the time, but clearly it paid off in dividends. 

After three sessions, we'd developed a strategic plan regarding the types of roles I'd seek out; a revamped resume worthy of those roles; and a crystal clear visualization about what life would look like once I'd accomplished my goals.

The last part may seem a bit woo-woo to you, but it worked for me. There is power in visualization, y'all. Trust me.

Do the Work

So what did I do with all of this newfound information and confidence? I got to work. In the past, I would apply to jobs out of fear or resentment and sometimes I found myself in not-so-desirable situations. This time around, I was much more deliberate and focused in my search.

If a job description didn't meet eight out of the 10 must-haves I'd listed for my dream role, I didn't apply -- no matter how tempting it seemed. This approach certainly takes a lot longer, but in the end, it was worth it.

When I read the description for my current role, I knew immediately that it was for me. Admittedly, when the hiring manager told me in the first interview that the organization doesn't negotiate salaries, I was a bit nervous.

After all, I'd been lowballed before. But when I received the offer letter and saw the salary in writing -- legit the most money I've ever made in my 10-year career to date -- I was glowing. All of my research, soul-searching and hard work had paid off.

And it felt pretty darn great. 

This isn't to say that money is everything, but money does matter, whether we care to admit it. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to make more of it.

I want my career to be meaningful, yes. But that doesn't mean I need to be a martyr in the process. You can do good in the world and still get paid. 

To learn more about my take on finances, pricing and transparency, check out this episode of the Forth Chicago podcast.

Got salary questions or need overall career advice? Email me, I've got your back!