Tag Archives: salary

November Networth Check-In and Retirement Update

Now that I am “in between incomes,” so to speak, I am re-focusing my objectives for total assets this year, and beginning planning for 2016 based on my potential earnings at my new opportunities.

As a reminder, my goal was to close out 2015 with $400,000 in net worth. That figure was always a stretch, but it isn’t going to happen this year. My new goal is to wrap up the year with at least $350,000 in net worth, which is about a 15% increase in my nest egg – not bad but not great either. My goal is to give birth to my first child in the summer of 2017, when I’m about to turn 34 (yikes.) That means getting pregnant in the fall of 2016 or soon after would be ideal. That means that I still want to aim for $500k in net worth by the time I have my first kid (let’s call that July of 2017.) This is about 19 months to increase my net worth by $150k.

Let’s start with where I am today — according to www.networthIQ.com my current net worth is $380,783. I will subtract my car ($8000) and stock options that will soon be worth nothing from that ($16,000) to what is my “actual” net worth — so about $356k. I’m also losing money now since unemployment doesn’t cover my monthly expenditures, so assuming the stock market does decently this month and I land a new job for December start (which is looking quite likely) I should be able to close out the year about $350k. A reminder, in January of 2009 I had about $5k to my name (see graph below.)

november net worth

In order to hit my goal of saving $150k in 18 months (assuming ending 2015 with $350k), I need to “save” $8333 per month. How is THAT going to happen?

If I (knock on wood)  increase my income levels in my next job to $190k (which is super exciting and feels like too much yet if the market will pay that for my services, I’ll take it!), that is a take-home of about $9400 a month (which is a lot and really starts making this dream possible – this is where it gets exciting!) Even with my average spending of about $3500 a month,  I will have $5900 per month to put away. But this also, theoretically, is two years of 401k investment, which I can max out each year. So that’s $36,000 of the total $150k right there (assuming I can keep my job and do well at it!) Ok, so one opportunity has a 3% match of your salary on that, which is awesome (I’ve NEVER had a 401k match in my entire career!) That means each year I’d make an extra ~$5700 just for putting the money in my 401k (if I’m understanding the match thing correctly.) So that is $11,400 on top of the $36k. Ok, so that takes care of $47,400 of the $150,000, and leaves a slightly more realistic $102.6k left to save over 18 months, or, $5700 per month. Income is reduced a bit with the 401k investment, of course, by $18000 a year – but that’s all pre-tax. But with bonus, etc, it should balance out to still taking home somewhere around $9k a month, or maybe a little less. That’s still a lot for the short-term goal.

Now, let’s assume my stock portfolio / the market increases by an average of 5% each year. It could be less and it could be more, but let’s say 2% – 5%. That is somewhere between $7000 and $17500 for year one, and a max of $20.9k in year two (at 5%), minimum of $8368 (for the entire year, but I’ll count that in these numbers since even if I’m not working my portfolio will continue to gain interest.) Ok, so on the more conservative end with just a 2% year-over-year gain, I’ll have another $15,368 covered by investment interest…

$150,000 goal
$36,000 = 401k investment
$11,400 = 401k match @ 3% of income
$15,368 = portfolio interest at 2% YoY
———————————————
$87,232 to save in 18 months, or,
$4846 per month

This is very doable, as long as I select a job where I can stay a minimum of 18 months. One opportunity does not have 401k match, so I am leaning toward the one that does, since this clearly helps substantially in reaching my long-standing goal of $500k by childbirth.

Once I have kids, I am expecting to work part-time and see my annual savings levels decrease. Of course, I’ll have a husband who is also working, but he doesn’t earn as much as I do or invest his savings beyond a Roth IRA (which he’ll no longer be eligible for once we’re married – yeay marriage.) We’re not really combining incomes when we’re married – just continuing to split major household expenses. We’ll probably start to split a little more… right now we just split rent (I pay more since I make more) and food (we spend way too much on food for two people) — but in the future when we’re married I can see us splitting healthcare expenses, and maybe things like gas/transit. When we have a kid all those expenses will be split too. Luckily I have a penchant for household accounting. What a great hobby!

Seriously, though, if I can get to $500k before I have a kid, this frees me up so much from this looming fear of the future I have. It’s not exactly a nest egg that will make me rich, but it’s a very good start to be at $500k by 34. The goal was by 30 but so what… goals are meant to be hard to reach, but they keep you focused on getting to where you need to be.

With $500k, if I can manage to not touch that money until I’m 65, at an annual return of 5%, that gets me to about $2M in retirement (not counting any future earnings or my husband’s earnings/savings. At a 10% YoY return that’s about $8.7M in retirement. Heck, if that grows at 10% YoY in 20 years once hitting $500k, that will be worth $3.3M – not exactly placing me in the .01%, but certainly providing enough income for early retirement / starting my own business / doing what I want when I’m 55 years old. I know a lot of women in their early 50s and I can see this age being a good time to have that flexibility. You’re still healthy enough to trade and have fun, your kids are old enough to appreciate spending time with you (hopefully) and overall if you’ve been smart about saving over the years, you can take a moment to actually enjoy life.

So when people read this blog and comment about how this $500k goal is so silly, well, it really isn’t.

The MOST important thing right now for all of this is picking a job where I can stay stable at for the next 19 months, at a minimum. That’s a long time and I’m going to take it month by month and focus on being so productive my employer couldn’t even dream of replacing me. 18 months is just 6 quarters, and that will go fast, especially if I’m pregnant for half of them!

I really hope I can do it. I’ve come so far. This seems within reach. Having my first kid at 33/34 is not ideal, I’m going to have to have my second at 36 and if I want a third, well, that’s going to have to be pretty much right away after that. This leaves me little time to keep earning at the same rate, especially in my field, where having kids doesn’t seem to align with the amount of hours required to work. I have to make the money now, so I can leave the options open for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gender Pay Gap from the Top and What to Do About It

Last week, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that the company paid $3 Million dollars to correct gender pay imbalances across its organization. Although this isn’t a huge number for a company of it’s size, it’s still telling that the firm found $3M in imbalances to fix in the first place. This means that when they ran the numbers they believed that women were earning less than men in the organization for roles of a similar level, and they decided to publicly fix this. But why was that the case in the first place?

As I approach my job negotiations for a senior-level position, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with doing so, I remind myself that I have to negotiate because any male in my position would. As one woman, I’m not representative of all women, but I can say I find it incredibly hard to negotiate. As a woman, I may read negotiation advice and bring a request to the table based on research from online websites that give some idea of pay ranges. And, as a woman who doesn’t like to shake the boat, I’d typically pick the average to ask for because it feels uncomfortable to ask for anything more.

But I’m not an average woman, and I try to push myself to ASK. This gets harder and harder as the numbers get bigger. I always like to state that it is a PRIVILEGE to have this problem, but it is an issue nonetheless. According to this Harvard Business Review article, the Gender Pay Gap Widens as Women Get Promoted. Basically, the higher up in the organization a woman is, she is likely earning less than her male counterparts. A female executive earns 6.1% less than a male, compared to only a 2.2% gap in an individual contributor role.

The problem with negotiating as a woman is that you can’t win. There is plenty of research that shows women pay a higher social cost for negotiating. I’ve experienced this first hand. In my last role, I negotiated very well (in my opinion) but the I was reminded pretty much every single day from my boss that I was making “so much money” and this made me insecure and ultimately defeat myself in the role. I would have been more comfortable had I been earning less and not rocked the boat.

But what I come back to is this – my role is one that generates clear revenue for the business (well, if it doesn’t, I don’t get to stay for all that long.) I’m working for a for-profit organization in a revenue-generating role, and I deserve to be paid for it. Even then, I have no way to know if I’m overstepping — a man in a senior role can ask for anything. He may not get it, but it’s accepted that he’ll ask. A woman in a senior role worries she’ll offend someone. That’s just how it works.

The HBR article notes that while it’s not clear why female executives are paid less than men, it appears that women need sponsors in organizations more than they do mentors. My strategy has been to change jobs relatively frequently in order to move up and earn more. I would not feel comfortable negotiating for higher pay once I’m on a successful track within an organization. It’s at least a little easier to negotiate at the start — but the big question is, how often do men negotiate throughout the year when women do not? Do men ask for bigger raises each year, or do they request salary increases at a more regular frequency than women? Are the raises of similar frequency but just more substantial due to executive sponsors? These are questions no one seems to have a good answer for, so we’re all left in the dark.

In order to solve this problem, organizations need to be provided training from the top down and bottom up about negotiating. It’s tough to do this because it’s in the best interest of the organization to pay each employee as little as possible to keep them engaged and working as hard as they can. If one employee will accept less than another, this is good for the business, at least on paper. And if no one knows how much everyone else i making, how much can it hurt? But wouldn’t it be crazy if a business actually taught people how to negotiate and encouraged it, making typical negotiation timelines around promotions (official and non-official) more transparent? I wonder if anyone would do that. What Salesforce did is a good first step – but also a good PR move. How long will it be before those salaries are unequal again? And what can we do to fix that?

To start, I’m always going to ask for more, even when it makes me sick to my stomach, and even when I know that my likability factor is dinged, because in the long run to be successful, if you’re a woman, you can’t be liked. You can only be respected.

 

 

 

The Jobs. The Offers. The Decisions. The Lack There Of.

It used to be getting a job offer was a huge challenge. It’s not exactly easy today, but I find myself in a place where I have three serious offers (well two offers and one offer if I wanted it) and I’m trying to figure out what to do.

Both offers at this point are somewhat equal in terms of compensation. Base salary is identical in the initial offers for both. One has a bit more stock, the other, a bit more bonus / cash earning opportunity. I haven’t accepted any so theoretically there is room for negotiation. I hate negotiation. Last time I negotiated I got the salary I wanted but then I was reminded over and over again by my boss how overpaid I was (btw, I wasn’t, given the offers I’m getting now are even more than what I was paid there, so clearly market rate wise I was fairly comped in my last role.)

The reason I hate negotiation is that I have no one at my level in a comparable role to talk to about it. At this level of compensation and given my relatively frugal lifestyle, even for this area – on one hand, when numbers get this big, I feel just downright silly negotiating for more money. On the other hand, I think – if I were a dude or someone with confidence, I’d negotiate anyway. Ultimately, my role in either firm is one that indirectly generates revenue for the business – it’s pretty cut and dry if I have generated revenue or not (granted, I’m not closing business, but I’m still generating it) and thus I think a bonus compensation structure makes sense, and that structure should be more or less unlimited as a percentage of sales, or at least substantial in a tiered structure where maybe base stays about the same but total compensation is based on how well I do my job. If I do my job well – then I’m “cheap” – if i’m not, then I’m – “gone.” Low risk to the company either way, given they plan to hire me (or anyone else for this role.)

But I hate that awful taste of negotiating for more – and ultimately I want to pick the job where I can do THE BEST job. And I don’t know which that is right now. I’m not at the point in my career where I can get an offer at a company that has its shit together. That means either I get an offer at a new, young company where it’s still figuring things out, and where it needs someone who can deal with the ups and downs of startup life — OR I get an offer at a company where things are probably more systemically dysfunctional due to years of poor management decisions, but one that has managed to sell enough of its product/service to still be alive either private or public, it doesn’t matter as both come with their own challenges.

I seem to be a perfect fit for those environments, maybe thanks to a very turbulent childhood. But I also think a positive, healthy, rather successful work environment would be nice. My challenge is that I’m not so great at maintaining the status quo. I’m someone who comes in and creatively solves problems. I fix things or build things but I certainly don’t inherent the same old and run with it as such to collect a paycheck. I like moving fast and getting in and making a difference. But then, as history has proven, either I do that really well for short bursts or I can’t manage to figure out how to fix things fast enough and I’m out.

My last job was a trainwreck from the start. CEO who sexually harassed (in a joking way, but nonetheless, it was sexual harassment) most of the women in the company and heck, even some of the men if you were to ask a real HR department. I learned a lot in the role but there were just so many things wrong with the company that I felt lost at what to do. Too many things to fix. Too many holes to fill as water would start leaking out another opening I didn’t even see.

If I go to the smaller company, my main priority will be to hire a small handful of really great people really fast. Hiring is hard. People have to want to work with you and the rest of the team. You (me) have to be a leader. A true leader. In my mind I like to think I’m a leader but what I see in leaders I admire I don’t see in myself. They are very strong, determined, and once they pick a route they don’t chance course (and if they do it certainly doesn’t appear they did this because they realized they made a bad decision.) Leaders have a very clear vision and get everyone aligned to common goals. I have a hard time getting myself aligned to a common goal, let alone a team.

The larger company would immediately have me managing a decent-sized team. It’s a huge opportunity in that if I can successfully manage a team and help them become more productive, that’s a metric I can take to the bank for the rest of my life. I can also build a team at the smaller company and have a similar outcome, but at the second company I would’t have to hire immediately. I’d have something to work with. That can be good or bad, depending on the contributions of the team today and what I figure out needs to be done to hit goals. It likely involves being able to come in and, if anyone isn’t holding their weight, being that bad guy and letting people go early on and replacing them. You know – typical management stuff that I don’t like to do because I’m an INFP and I can’t handle hurting people’s feelings, only letting them down.

I still am most excited by the smaller company… if the larger one was a bit more stable, or selling a product that I could get extremely excited about, it would be a different story. But I have some good opportunities here and I just need to finalize what I’m going to do… it’s a good problem to have, for sure. I just am at that point where I really don’t want to make the wrong decision… and I’m not sure there’s a right one to make. Because – when it comes down to it, I’m in the wrong career overall – but it’s a hot market and people keep throwing money at me and it’s hard to say no. It’s easy to say – one more go, let’s see if I can make it happen… I’ll try my absolute best… and in the meantime, keep on putting away $5k a month to attempt to reach my goal of $500k in networth before I give birth to my first child. After that, I feel like I have a bit more flexibility/freedom to maybe switch jobs and earn less, or consult part-time at a higher hourly rate, or… anything other that continuing on this trajectory which can’t be forever.

 

Why Women Shouldn’t Ask for a Raise

Microsoft CEO Satya Nedella this week took heat for making a very un-PC statement at a women’s tech conference (of all places) that women should not ask for raises and instead trust “Karma” to get them the money they deserve.

Uhhhhhh….

Microsoft’s workforce is 71% male, a figure that rises to 83% for both technical and leadership roles. Those figures are roughly in line with the gender breakdown at Google,FacebookYahoo and Apple.

In my own company I’m happy to report the gender balance is much more 50/50, yet on the leadership team until I joined there was only one woman. Now there are two. While we’re not a big company like Microsoft or Apple or Facebook, I’m proud that I work in one of the more diverse (at least gender-wise) companies in tech.

That said, you can bet I played hardball coming into the job in terms of comp because I knew exactly what I was worth and what I was going to give to the organization. Well, basically I rationalized my comp and pushing for it as whoever is in the role actually delivering what the role needs right now deserved that comp, therefore if I did the role justice I deserved the comp and if I didn’t then I’d be gone anyway – I rather negotiate with confidence in myself and what I can bring to the company vs just accept that I deserve whatever is offered below what the role is worth.

Every time I go into a negotiation in my career I get a little bolder, a little braver, a little less worried that I’ll lose the opportunity if I push for what is deserved… and what is deserved is really what the market will bear, within reason. Once you get to a point in your career where you’re a specialist you can ask for a little more if that specialty is relevant to your new role.

However asking for raises has never been a favorite thing of mine to do – that’s one of the reasons I’m getting so ballsy in the first negotiation before I sign a contract. I did well this time around but know what I negotiated is equal to what I’m worth if I can deliver (which I plan to do.)

I can’t believe the CEO of Microsoft made those dumb ass comments. Of course he recanted likely with the help of the PR team kindly asking him “what were you thinking?” But the damage is done.  He basically was trying to say that women have long careers if they just don’t ask for raises so eventually they’ll get rewarded. Maybe. That’s bs. Women need to ask for raises and ensure they are paid what they’re worth. I felt like a total asshole during my recent negotiation but still I got what I wanted and now I can focus on the important stuff – my job – vs worrying about whether or not I’m fairly compensated.

Yes I did it for myself – but every time I negotiate now – I also picture myself as just one woman in technology who will hopefully be a VP one day soon, who will help balance out the gender imbalance just a smidgen, inspiring more women to go into technology companies, making the future of tech a little less – manly.

 

 

Negotiation and the Patience I Do Not Have

I should be thrilled about the prospect here of multiple job offers and the luxury to negotiate a little bit, yet I’m not at all. I’ve been crawling out of my skin with anxiety for the past week especially and I can’t stand the whole playing it cool and waiting for a response. I know today a reference put in a good word for me for one of the potentials, and the other one is in full-on negotiation mode stuck in limbo. Part of me feels like I should just fold – after all who cares about money? Well, I do. But I care more about my sanity. And it’s quickly slipping away.

A lot of people have commented on my blog that I shouldn’t negotiate. I was surprised to see these comments. Granted, the comments are from people who actually have read my blog for a while and know that I’m a bit of a mental trainwreck (yeay bipolar II) so they think I’m better off just taking the job I’m offered without going back and asking for more. I’ve read so much about how women don’t negotiate that I’m now the type of person that I can’t NOT negotiate. I mean, I know what I’m worth if I deliver on my promises. If I deliver on my promises I better be paid what I’m worth. If I don’t the company will get rid of me anyway so they have a much smaller risk to take.

So many of the comments also noted that they’ve had experiences where the offers would be rescinded if they tried to negotiate. That’s crazy. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that pulls that anyway. I mean, in my job I’m going to have to negotiate to save the company money practically every single day so you bet your ass I want to show them that I’m good at negotiation and don’t just take the first offer. Maybe if I were in another field I’d be more likely to accept an offer without negotiating… and maybe I should anyway… but clearly there is some wiggle room or else they wouldn’t still be talking to me.

I know when I’m good I’m really good. I am going to immediately invest in a psychiatrist upon my health insurance kicking in and get whatever antidepressants/ anti-anxiety meds I need to stabilize myself and be functional at my very best. I’d rather be compensated for being my best than for being my worst. If I don’t add value get rid of me, that’s the way I look at it. Maybe that’s too aggressive. But I can’t just be a woman who gets walked over when it comes to salary. I mean, I already have been according to some people – even though compared to most of the world I make “a lot” I still am underpaid for my title and level. Granted, being unemployed means any job/salary is better than nothing, but I can’t let myself be as weak as I actually am.

Waiting on finalizing these offers is making me extremely sick, however. I can’t sleep, I have a cold and cough, I can barely eat anything. I just want to get the paperwork signed and move on, but I do have at least two really attractive offers to negotiate — I am just so scared of losing both of them by being too aggressive. Even today when I spoke with HR at the larger company I had to share my former compensation at the last three companies I worked at. I told the truth. I am worried that telling the truth would make me seem too expensive or too cheap or too whatever for the role. I considered lying – making myself cheaper – or more pricey – just so they would hear what they want and offer me the role at the salary they feel is fair for the position. Meanwhile in the other half of this job seeking town I’m swinging for the fences because the job itself requires a lot more responsibility. Either way, I really do just want a job, I’m no good at this not working thing.

Why I Have a Love-Hate Relationship with Negotiation

You’re sitting across the table from someone – likely a man if you work in tech – who holds the key to your standard of living for the next few years of your life. Whether you’re negotiating a raise at your current job or focused on securing a fair offer for a new one, this happens over and over again in one’s career. And I hate it. I really, truly hate it. And yet, if I end up feeling like I’ve won the negotiation, well, then I love it.

Of course, negotiation teachers would say that in a successful negotiation everyone wins. You get what you want. The other party gets what they want. And everyone is happy. That rarely happens. You have to know how to ask for a reasonable amount, but not too little. You don’t want to come across as crazy. You need wiggle room. You need room to move the price down and end up where you want to be. But you’d also be extremely happy should the starting price not budget. It probably will. Continue reading

What Are You Worth?

Go to Salary.com or Glassdoor.com and type in your job title and zip code, and you’ll get a nice little graph of the average salaries for other people who have roles similar to yours. Those numbers are so vague, though. They can’t take into account the size of the company, or the quality of each person’s experience. If an average director in your function is paid $140k, then what does that mean for someone with 1 year of experience versus 20?

At some point, you stop being worth what the average person is worth, and worth what YOU are worth. That could be more or less than the aforementioned number. When I negotiated my hourly salary at a prior company (a large public one), I was feeling ballsy and went high for myself at the time with a whopping $70 per hour. They couldn’t do that, but they came back with $65 an hour. It turned out that I worked a good 50-60 hours per week for 6 months and made much, much more than I’ve made in any year of my life before or since. The job didn’t renew, it was a 6 month gig, it didn’t have health insurance or a 401k, or time off, but I still made bank. My networth skyrocketed that year.

I know I’m underpaid right now. Something like $20k – $40k underpaid. And if I was really smart and able to position myself into a more senior role, I could probably be making even more. Salary is not what I work for, at all, because if it was I’d chose another profession, but it clearly is somewhat of what I work for, because if it wasn’t at all, I also would choose another profession.

Right now, however, I face a bit of a conundrum. The good news is that I have no serious responsibilities in my life. I have amassed $230k in savings, my monthly rent is $650, I paid for my (new) used car in cash, and I can scale back on everything else if needed. It won’t be this way forever. I’m terrified of having a family where my steady income is a necessity. And it will be that way soon. Not tomorrow. But maybe in the next 5 years. For now, I want to save as much as possible. I CAN save on my current salary. I’m paid well, and many would kill to make my salary. But still, I COULD go off and find a job where I make $20k-$40k more. What if, I found a job that I didn’t absolutely love, but that I could stand for $40k a year more. That’s $2k per month after taxes. Another $12k per year. And, maybe they’d match my 401k, so that would be even more, etc.

But, as I said, I don’t work for money alone. I work for the challenge of making something from nothing. I work for long hours of inspiration, passionate people, camaraderie. Maybe I should, for a little while, start working for the money.

It’s challenging to find time to learn anything in a role where you’re so under resourced. I learn by doing anyway, so I have grown professionally since starting my job three years ago, but where do I go from here? Am I staying because I love what I do? Am I staying because I genuinely believe that my options will be worth more than they were when I bought them and I want to finish vesting? Am I staying because I’m terrified of starting over somewhere new, having to prove myself again, being in a place where people don’t know my quirky personality nor my track record? Has this become an abusive relationship where I’m too afraid to leave because they hold the purse strings?

There is comfort in stability, in knowing what will come next, in understanding how to get what you want, to some extent, at least the freedom to work on projects you want, even if they don’t always turn out as you’d hoped, and I’m scared of losing the freedom. If I go off to another position either I’d be in a leadership role with a lot to prove, or in a role too junior where I’d be bored and frustrated by the lack of freedom. I’m pretty good at what I do right now, so it is safe. I know I can do better. I know someone else can probably do even better than my best. But I’m good. And I like being good. I like the feeling of accomplishment.

I’m just also so tired. Burnt out on hope. All the late nights. The long hours. To prove something. To support the team. To win. Well, it’s all fine and dandy until you no longer feel like you’re winning. You just feel like you’re fighting a battle with no end in sight, or no attractive end. So you want to walk away, but your sword is in hand, and you’re swinging fast and furious enough to hold your ground as the castle walls crumble around you. Do you wait or do you make a mad dash in a direction you’ve never been, maybe with no actual destination confirmed, just, running into the light, hoping to find another battle to fight, one worth winning.

 

 

Should She Stay or Should She Go

I dislike salary negotiation. I don’t mind it when I’m first offered the job, because that seems like a natural time to negotiate, but not later on as I’ve proven my work. I’m pretty sure that I’m the lowest paid at my level in my company, although that may be offset by my stock options, but theoretically my options are a bonus for taking a risk as an early employee. Anyway, part of me feels like I don’t deserve a higher salary at my current company because while I have a good title I’m actually viewed at a lower level. The only way to actually get the respect and the salary that goes with it is to start looking elsewhere.

I wouldn’t look elsewhere for salary alone, although maybe I should. What I’d look for is a job in product management, because that’s what I want to be doing anyway. I’d probably be able to at least meet my current salary at a more junior-level position and then work my way up. I’ve been extremely loyal to my company and I still am, but there comes a time when you have to do what’s right for your career. Eventually I want to found my own company and in order to do this I need to gain experience in a position closer to the product decisions. I should care more about salary, especially as a woman who believes in equal pay, but I don’t want to play that game. If my company believes I add value, they’ll give me a significant raise that’s fair for my supposed level. If they don’t, then I’m right to be thinking about what’s next. Continue reading

The Rocky Road of Life

There are moments in life when I’m not terribly depressed. Those are the moments that go by quickly, when time disappears, and I miss its passing. These are the days, weeks even, when I barely sleep, when I distract myself by watching too much TV, randomly browsing the internet, in my limited free time. But more and more life is just a run-on sentence of mild success and the ever-growing fear of failure.

Yesterday, the 22 year old co-founder of a social network called Diaspora was found dead, a victim of what was rumored to be suicide. The motives for this potential suicide weren’t broadcasted on the news, but plenty of people could guess it was due to a failed endeavor. So much hope for success, so much hype, and such a long way to fall. Continue reading

Without a Raise, How my Salary Increased from $20k to $90k in 5 years.

Some people get annual raises of 3% to keep up with inflation, or more if they’re lucky, and less if it’s in the middle of a recession in a company that can’t afford to offer raises.

I’ve never gotten a raise. Since graduating from college in 2005, I started out making $18 an hour at a non-profit and am now making $90k a year. This was not through raises. In fact, my income trajectory is due to learning to pick myself back up when I lost my job, re-brand myself as something more valuable, and attack the job market with as much belief as disbelief in myself, which allowed me to take a lot of risks as I wandered my career path to where I am today.

Had I remained at my first job for longer than 6 months, I might have received annual raises and be making somewhere north of $25 per hour today. I’d have five years of Admin Assistant at a non-profit on my resume, which, if I were to leave to another position, would move me into yet another admin role, or a very low-level assistant position in another department.

Instead, I got laid off. Well, in that case I was fired. I was in the depths of one of my worst depressions that year (yea, got to love being bipolar) and my boss didn’t exactly understand why depression made it hard for me to drag myself out of bed and get to work on time. So that job ended, and within a week I managed to land my first full-time position as an editorial assistant at an international magazine making $35,000 a year. At the time, I was extremely excited to be making more than $20k.

I stayed in that position for a year and it went well enough, though the career path was not quite right and when the opportunity to jump ship came I jumped. This was the only time I was actively recruited, and thus my salary went up from $35k to $50k. This was a huge jump. Again, had I stayed at my employer where I was working as an editorial assistant, I’d be lucky if I were making $50k today. Instead, I left. And I stayed at my next position for three months, at which time I discovered I was (and still am) a terrible reporter (too socially anxious to be a good reporter and ADHD to pay attention to all the facts) so I left that role, again depressed, thinking I had thrown away all chances I had of a career, and moped around for a few months.

But then another opportunity came up. I found a part time job writing copy for a local startup at a rate of something like $35/hour. My contract there expired monthly, and I managed to re-negotiate a higher hourly rate each time. It got to the point when both my boss and I were tired of negotiating, and he offered me a full time job. I pushed the salary up a bit in our final negotiation to $65k, which I was offered. At the time I felt like I was rich.

Two years later, I’m laid off again. This time because the product I was working on was being shut down. I go for a month without a job and again fall into a deep depression — oh woe is me — oh woe — oh what am I going to do?

I land two jobs in those two months — one full time contract at a large, international tech company where I’m able to negotiate a $65/hour payrate (! — I inquired how much the role paid — $30-$60/hr, told them I wanted $70 an hour, totally thinking I was going to throw away the job by asking for so much, and they came back with $65) and another hourly role at a startup on the side at $40/hr. After a two month hiatus from the work world, I had the most profitable 6 months of my life. But that too had to come to an end.

The contract role at the big tech company was not extended because the product I was working on was being shut down (story of my life) — but I was ok with that. The startup I had been working for over the length of the contract was doing well enough to hire me on full time. And while I could have pursued a full time role in the large company where I had the contract (I had a few leads that might have turned into something) instead I decided to jump to the startup, assuming I’d have a stable salary and health insurance, vs the contract setup.

Mission accomplished. I secured a role with not only a $90k salary, but also a title that (assuming I am successful in this role) sets me up for higher-paid positions to follow. I doubt I’ll get a raise in this job either, but I also assume that within the next 3 years I’ll move on to a new position, and ideally break six figures, because now that I’ve found an industry and role I’m good at, I am sculpting myself into a valuable prospective hire.

Those first few years were really rough, and I’ll undoubtedly have a ton of rough times ahead, but at the very least I am confident that the harder you fall, the more room there is to leap higher than you’ve ever leaped before.