Since graduating with my degree, I’ve managed to double my pay. Most of that growth has happened in the past couple of years, thanks to two strategic job moves. Here’s the process I went through.
I realised it was time for a change
It’s a long running truism that you don’t go into journalism for the pay. Young, energetic and idealistic, we rushed into the trenches with shining eyes and grand notions.
It’s thankless in those trenches. The work never ends. You’re constantly being forced to do more with less. Media organisations keep cutting back; the whole industry is struggling to find a sustainable model.
I loved my job, but it was tough. When I took a six-month sabbatical, the person covering for me quit after just a few weeks. For what it’s worth, I’d always worked at that pace and this was a bit of an awakening. It really did get me wondering what a normal workload outside of publishing might feel like.
When I started thinking about my next move, I looked around and saw no opportunities in journalism that excited me. Forget advertised positions; even just considering what roles existed and were currently filled, there was nothing that spiked my interest. Nothing I wanted to aspire towards.
And just as importantly, I saw little opportunity to increase my income. I was getting by fine, but in order to get ahead, or to afford a family or a halfway decent place to call home, I had to make a change.
I assessed my transferable skills
I took the skills I had and started applying to jobs outside of publishing. The decline of journalism has led to lots of new opportunities in all kinds of companies – as content marketing grows, editorial talent is in demand on the brand side. (The typical trajectory for ex-journalists is to head into PR or communications, but you could not pay me enough to do media relations.) They need people who can write, understand their audience, and manage digital channels.
I researched salaries as best as I could
I talked to people. I looked at salary surveys. I spent time on TradeMe and Seek just playing around with the filters and seeing how the results changed when I altered the salary band in my search parameters. (This works for real estate listings, too. In both cases you typically won’t see a number listed outright but you can use the filters to see when listings disappear from the results and make an assumption about the range based on that.)
I sucked it up and negotiated
Full disclosure: it took me until my fourth job to actually negotiate for the first time.
In Job 1 I was on union pay rates. My hourly rate wasn’t very high. But a few months into the job I accepted a change in duties that had me working weekend shifts. As a result, I actually took home something like 40% more than that every pay day unless I had a weekend off.
In Job 2 I was willing to effectively take a small pay cut for better hours, (though technically my actual base rate was higher).
In Job 3 – my first outside of journalism – I had every intention of negotiating. But the application form asked for a salary range and I was afraid to leave it blank. They offered me more than the figure I wrote down, and more than I would have even dared to expect, to the tune of a 25% effective increase. And so, I didn’t negotiate further. But this was a real eye opener. There was money to be made! My skills were valuable in the marketing world!
In Job 4 I negotiated and received the exact salary I wanted – a 25% increase again. Boom.
Life after journalism is sweet. I’ve been picky about the organisations I apply to and the kind of work I want to do – and as as a result I find even more meaning in my job now. Plus I’m better resourced to do it (though of course, as is the way, there’s usually still too many ideas and too much to do compared to actual capacity). I’ve been able to save more and start to build wealth. And that is incredibly important to me.
The same thing happened to me for my first job–I went in ready to negotiate down, asked for more than the salary range that popped up in online searches for my profession. I was asked what I wanted up front, I gave a range, and the CFO laughed–they were ready to start with a number a full $10K higher than my top end! It’s so hard to know what to throw out there.
The second job, my current one, I took a pay cut as I had just moved to New Zealand but knew I was worth way more than what the listing offered. I negotiated. Thank goodness! Because I’m only now (8 years later) making what I was making in USD when I left. (Despite that, I’m A-OK with it, because I am in love with my job and really disliked my first one!)
Nice one NZ Muse. Onward and upwards.
Inspiring! I find myself thinking about looking for a new job, A LOT! My work is super stressful, but it pays well. Also, I get a significant amount of flexiblity in my schedule, which is really important with the kids. I’m probably just going to keep my eyes open for new opportunities.
Good article. Thanks
This is very uplifting! It shows people there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Wow, awesome job getting the various raises that you’ve achieved. It’s a shame that these days it appears you have to go from job to job to get higher pay, but I guess that’s the way of the world now.
More pay AND better conditions/enjoyment of the job sounds like the perfect scenario.
That’s awesome to hear. Usually you hear you get paid more but there is more stress. With my current job, there was not job description or pay range. I told THEM what I wanted to take the job, which was ballsy because it was more than double what I was making as a freelancer, and I knew it fit me perfectly. They countered at a smaller, but still huge amount, but then I had them put in writing what it would take me to get to the number I wanted. We did that and I hit that goal last month and got a huge raise. There is someone else I know who needed to hire someone and had a salary range. The guy she hired was worth it, but he ended up asking below salary range, so now he is always starting from behind. If he had only asked….Congrats again!
That’s amazing!!! SO happy for you.
Yeah that was a huge side effect of the industry change. Moving up from here would definitely involve more stress so next steps will be very carefully considered.
It’s sometimes crazy what you can get paid once you ask for it. I find that all the time in freelancing.
Great job with salary negotiation. I was terrible at that. Lowering stress is really great too. Congrats.
I first want to mention that your writing clearly demonstrates that you are a good writer 🙂
After reading what you went through, it’s funny how alike our situations were. However, it’s uplifting to hear that you decided to step outside your comfort zone and ask for what you feel like you were worth 🙂