Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed. How I Increased My Salary By Over 70% in a Year

Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed. How I Increased My Salary By Over 70% in a Year

Warning: Long backstory alert!

Ah, the memories of being a recent college graduate during the Great Recession. If you weren’t sure if the real world was a soul-suckingly cold place, there’s nothing like a financial downturn to let you know you aren’t on the quad anymore.

I remember nearly half of my peers throwing out the "what are you doing after college" card our school handed us before graduation because we had no plans, no future, no nothing.  

Out of ideas and not wanting to go home, I decided to wait out the recession in graduate school and try my luck getting a job while stacking my knowledge.

Long story short, I could not get a job to save my life. 

After rounds and rounds and more rounds of interviews, I still could not land a full-time job. Although there were very few entry-level jobs in my field, there were plenty of INTERNSHIPS, with the promise of leading to a job. After competing in a few hunger game like internships, I still didn’t have a job.

So I needed a new plan. I decided to freelance so I could stop being thought of as an intern. Freelancing got the word intern off of my resume and I was being taken more seriously by hiring managers. My plan worked out pretty well and I quickly landed a full-time job.

Hooray, drinks all around, right? Yes and no. I was severely underpaid, despite having a masters degree and the right internships, my salary was well below the national average. I was happy to have a job in my field, but I was worried about how my low salary would impact my career.

Well out of the blue, a new job fell into my lap. It was with a well-known company in the area and it was exactly what I wanted to do. The problem? They knew my previous salary and gave me a lowball offer. (Lesson - don't let people know your current salary.) Although their offer was much larger than I was making at the time, (and I would probably have accepted it), I knew they didn’t know that.

Fortunately, Sheryl Sandberg’s "Lean In" had just come out, so I decided I was leaning all the way the fuck in. What can I say?  I was tired of being overly educated and not able to afford D.C. living.

Here’s how I received a 70% raise overnight.

  1. I did my research so I knew the salary I deserved. Thanks to Glassdoor, you can actually come to the negotiating table prepared, instead of pulling numbers out of your hoo-ha.

  2. Stay calm and use words like industry standard and market rate when you state your desired salary. People can’t argue with market rate, am I right?

  3. If you’re underpaid, alert them you know it. In my case, I worked for a non-profit that had an amazing cause. The new company was a for-profit and down for the cause of making mo’ money. My current job and my prospective job were apples to oranges, and I let them know for orange work, I need an orange salary. 

  4. Do not fill the silence. After you state your reason and desired salary, shut up. Put the ball in their court and see what happens. Don’t ramble. 

In my experience, this strategy works every time. I may not always get the exact salary I want, but guess what, people always magically find more money. If they don’t have more money, perhaps there are more vacation days at stake or a better title to be had. 

Bottom line, this stuff matters. If you must adult, do it well. If I had accepted the initial offered salary, I never would have caught up to my negotiated number, despite annual raises. 

How do you negotiate your salary?

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