Salary Stories: I Negotiated A Great Salary But Forgot The Overall Package

·7-min read

In our series Salary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.

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Age: 33
Location: Cheshire
Current industry and job title: Financial Services, Senior Content Strategist
Current salary: £45,000
Number of years employed since school or university: 10

Starting salary: £18,525 in 2011
Biggest salary jump: £37,000 to £49,000 in 2017
Biggest salary drop: £49,000 to £45,000 in 2019
Biggest negotiation regret? My biggest negotiation regret is only negotiating on salary and not overall package. When I accepted my current role I was so excited that the pay drop I was taking to relocate cross-country was much less than I expected that I didn't think about where else I was losing out. And, it turns out, my salary might be generous but the overall package is pretty basic. No bonus scheme, no benefits, bare minimum holiday allowances and pension contributions. I think I would have actually taken a smaller salary to have more generosity elsewhere in my package.
Best salary advice: You can't rely on your employer to benchmark your salary and make sure they're paying you a fair market rate. You have to do it yourself, so keep your finger on the pulse of the job market – even if you're not actively looking for a new job – and if you find you could earn more elsewhere (and not just one job offering a crazy high salary, I'm talking across the board other companies are offering more for your role than you're paid), flag it with your manager, or jump.

In 2011 I started my first job as a project co-ordinator on £9.50/hour (£18,525 equivalent). This was a fixed term contract with an enormous UK business, running a seasonal project, hence the hourly rate rather than annual salary. I'd done temp contracts in various departments at this company in university summer holidays and had a good reputation for being a good worker. This helped me secure a better hourly rate than if I was new and unknown.<br>
In 2011 I started my first job as a project co-ordinator on £9.50/hour (£18,525 equivalent). This was a fixed term contract with an enormous UK business, running a seasonal project, hence the hourly rate rather than annual salary. I'd done temp contracts in various departments at this company in university summer holidays and had a good reputation for being a good worker. This helped me secure a better hourly rate than if I was new and unknown.
In 2012 I took a new job as a marketing assistant. My first job out of uni had exposed me to lots of different areas of business and marketing was something I was interested in and had an aptitude for – particularly content creation. So when an opportunity came up, I jumped at it. My manager, when making me the offer, asked me what salary I wanted. The job involved relocating so I did a bit of research on rent costs in the area and how much I'd need to run a car and went back with £28,000, but I really had no idea if that was fair. I was eventually offered £25,000, which turned out to be more than enough. And I never bothered buying a car!
In 2012 I took a new job as a marketing assistant. My first job out of uni had exposed me to lots of different areas of business and marketing was something I was interested in and had an aptitude for – particularly content creation. So when an opportunity came up, I jumped at it. My manager, when making me the offer, asked me what salary I wanted. The job involved relocating so I did a bit of research on rent costs in the area and how much I'd need to run a car and went back with £28,000, but I really had no idea if that was fair. I was eventually offered £25,000, which turned out to be more than enough. And I never bothered buying a car!
This was a raise to £30k in the same role when I relocated (again!) to London, to accommodate the more expensive cost of living. I didn't negotiate for this raise, it was offered and also came with a generous relocation allowance. In hindsight I wish I had negotiated, and for more. In real terms I was worse off, as my living and transport costs more than doubled, but I was young, still junior in the company so didn't want to push my luck, and really wanted to move to London!
This was a raise to £30k in the same role when I relocated (again!) to London, to accommodate the more expensive cost of living. I didn't negotiate for this raise, it was offered and also came with a generous relocation allowance. In hindsight I wish I had negotiated, and for more. In real terms I was worse off, as my living and transport costs more than doubled, but I was young, still junior in the company so didn't want to push my luck, and really wanted to move to London!
This was a weird one. I wasn't promoted as much as my job title changed to marketing executive to reflect the work I was already doing, and the salary raise (£33k) was framed to me as "a raise to allow for inflation". Around this time I started to experience mental health problems that were later diagnosed as high-functioning depression and generalised anxiety disorder. I was crippled by a lack of confidence and, given the company I worked for had not long since made about a third of the staff redundant, was terrified of going the same way if I dared to express any dissatisfaction with my salary or attempt to negotiate. So I just got on with it, even though I wasn't happy.
This was a weird one. I wasn't promoted as much as my job title changed to marketing executive to reflect the work I was already doing, and the salary raise (£33k) was framed to me as "a raise to allow for inflation". Around this time I started to experience mental health problems that were later diagnosed as high-functioning depression and generalised anxiety disorder. I was crippled by a lack of confidence and, given the company I worked for had not long since made about a third of the staff redundant, was terrified of going the same way if I dared to express any dissatisfaction with my salary or attempt to negotiate. So I just got on with it, even though I wasn't happy.
This was a promotion to marketing manager that came at the peak of my mental health troubles. I was so surprised to get it that I didn't negotiate, even though I wasn't happy with the raise I was given (£37.5k). My illness had me convinced that I didn't deserve the promotion in the first place and that my employers would have put a lot of thought into what I was worth to arrive at this number. It's only years later and from a position of wellness that I can see that my brain was lying to me on all fronts.
This was a promotion to marketing manager that came at the peak of my mental health troubles. I was so surprised to get it that I didn't negotiate, even though I wasn't happy with the raise I was given (£37.5k). My illness had me convinced that I didn't deserve the promotion in the first place and that my employers would have put a lot of thought into what I was worth to arrive at this number. It's only years later and from a position of wellness that I can see that my brain was lying to me on all fronts.
In 2017 I was given a raise to £45,000. This rose to £47,500 in early 2018 and £49,000 in late 2018, all as raises in the same role. I'd been unhappy with my salary for a while and was not-so-subtly looking elsewhere. There was some chat in my company about salaries (to which I listened but didn't contribute) and I knew I was paid much less than others of a similar seniority. Because they didn't like the salary chat, my employer undertook a company-wide salary review, benchmarking us all against the market, and restructured salaries. Some people took cuts (and most of them quit pretty rapidly) but I got a chunky raise plus confirmation of further increases in the next 12 months, and a drunken apology from the then-new HR director, who said she couldn't believe how badly underpaid I was compared to others in my team and how sorry she was that her predecessor had allowed that to happen.
In 2017 I was given a raise to £45,000. This rose to £47,500 in early 2018 and £49,000 in late 2018, all as raises in the same role. I'd been unhappy with my salary for a while and was not-so-subtly looking elsewhere. There was some chat in my company about salaries (to which I listened but didn't contribute) and I knew I was paid much less than others of a similar seniority. Because they didn't like the salary chat, my employer undertook a company-wide salary review, benchmarking us all against the market, and restructured salaries. Some people took cuts (and most of them quit pretty rapidly) but I got a chunky raise plus confirmation of further increases in the next 12 months, and a drunken apology from the then-new HR director, who said she couldn't believe how badly underpaid I was compared to others in my team and how sorry she was that her predecessor had allowed that to happen.
In 2019 I got a promotion, a relocation and a pay cut. My partner and I wanted out of London as we knew we couldn't afford to buy the kind of property we wanted there, so we moved to Manchester. He works remotely so had no change to his salary but I had to find a new job. I was expecting to have to drop back to £40k base salary and the role I accepted (senior content strategist) was originally advertised at this salary. But after interviewing me and letting slip that they'd been admiring my work from afar without knowing it was mine, the hiring manager decided to offer me more. I was incredibly flattered by this but it stopped me seeing how basic the rest of my package was. When I eventually added it up, I worked out that I was about £15k down on my total remuneration package vs if I had been promoted at my last London employer (which wasn't on the cards).<br><br>My manager and I have a pretty open discourse about salaries and package. I've shared my thoughts on remuneration and how since the pandemic and the rise of remote working, they have to compete not just with the local area on this but with the whole country. I'm transparent about the fact that I regularly benchmark my salary and overall package against other jobs, locally and nationally (offering remote working), and he knows that I stay in this job because it's paying me competitively for now. If it ever wasn't, I'd say something or jump to a new opportunity!
In 2019 I got a promotion, a relocation and a pay cut. My partner and I wanted out of London as we knew we couldn't afford to buy the kind of property we wanted there, so we moved to Manchester. He works remotely so had no change to his salary but I had to find a new job. I was expecting to have to drop back to £40k base salary and the role I accepted (senior content strategist) was originally advertised at this salary. But after interviewing me and letting slip that they'd been admiring my work from afar without knowing it was mine, the hiring manager decided to offer me more. I was incredibly flattered by this but it stopped me seeing how basic the rest of my package was. When I eventually added it up, I worked out that I was about £15k down on my total remuneration package vs if I had been promoted at my last London employer (which wasn't on the cards).

My manager and I have a pretty open discourse about salaries and package. I've shared my thoughts on remuneration and how since the pandemic and the rise of remote working, they have to compete not just with the local area on this but with the whole country. I'm transparent about the fact that I regularly benchmark my salary and overall package against other jobs, locally and nationally (offering remote working), and he knows that I stay in this job because it's paying me competitively for now. If it ever wasn't, I'd say something or jump to a new opportunity!

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