Salary Story: The Less Fulfilling But Higher Paid Job Gave Me The Safety Net I Needed

·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: 30
Location: London
Current industry and job title: Unemployed
Current salary: £0
Number of years employed since school or university: Nine
Starting salary and year: 2014, £20,000
Biggest salary jump: 2018, from £18,000 to £37,000
Biggest salary drop: 2020, from £52,000 (+ bonus) to £40,000 (+ bonus)

Biggest negotiation regret: The company I have just finished working for didn't inform us about our commission structure changing. When I found out about it through someone not even in my team, I was upset. I spoke to our chief of staff at the time and she asked me to write her an email with what I felt I had earned. I included in my email with the breakdown of all the contracts I had signed a request to have the commission structure included as an addendum in our team's contracts, as should be the case anyway. This went down like a lead balloon. In an intimidating conversation with the CEO, I backed down from my request and ended up apologising for having spoken out at all. I was told I wasn't being a team player. I didn't raise the point that changing a team's commission structure and backdating it without anyone's knowledge is illegal, instead choosing to keep quiet in order to keep my job and make amends with the leadership team. Suspiciously enough, two months later I lost my job, which I believe is in reaction to this situation but they have tried to distance us from it a bit to save face. My biggest regret is backing down so quickly on getting the commission structure included in our contract and not knowing that commission structures are a contractual entitlement – it's essential that you clarify how commission is calculated and when it will be paid. If you work in sales or have a bonus structure of any kind, go away and check what is in your contract now.
Best salary advice: When I was in my early 20s, my priority was to find a job I was really passionate about. I earned very little working in PR and advertising jobs but told myself I loved being in creative industries. I was treated like sh*t, was extremely poor trying to live in London on £18,000 and in general was miserable. When I was 26, I landed a job with a big co-working space and my salary jumped up to £37,000. One of the main reasons I moved industries was because my priorities had changed, I wanted a job where I could save some money. Although the co-working space job wasn't particularly fulfilling, it enabled me to save enough to have a fallback and thank God as I have needed it. I speak to friends all the time who are choosing between the lower paid, more fulfilling job and the less fulfilling, higher paid job. If you are in this situation, just ask yourself: What do I need right now to feel secure? In my eyes, it's okay to do the less fulfilling job for a bit, if you know there is a purpose. If you think doing the less fulfilling job will sap the life and soul out of you and the money won't provide you any security or stability, then don't do it.

After graduating from university in 2012, I was lost. I spent several years interning during the day and working in bars in the evening. When I landed my first proper job in an architecture studio, I felt like I had won the lottery. I will never forget that first paycheque landing: my jaw hit the floor. I think I received something like £1,300 and the idea that I was going to get that again in 30 days' time was mind-blowing.
After graduating from university in 2012, I was lost. I spent several years interning during the day and working in bars in the evening. When I landed my first proper job in an architecture studio, I felt like I had won the lottery. I will never forget that first paycheque landing: my jaw hit the floor. I think I received something like £1,300 and the idea that I was going to get that again in 30 days' time was mind-blowing.
I was looking for a new step in my career, somewhere I could bed in for a long time and really grow, so I went to a women's creative networking event at a big advertising agency with a friend. A female MD spoke and she was absolutely hilarious and happened to be sitting in front of me. We got chatting in the break and I was relieved to discover she was so lovely and warm. I knew I wanted to be a part of this company despite the fact that the salary was less than I had been on before. <br><br>There seemed to be a career path and a greater salary in the future but when I started working there all my confidence collapsed under the pressure of the big male energy which advertising agencies are infested with. My dreams of a career path quickly fell through. I spent 18 months struggling with the social politics, the late nights, the passive-aggressive attitudes and being poorly paid before I knew this path wasn't right for me.
I was looking for a new step in my career, somewhere I could bed in for a long time and really grow, so I went to a women's creative networking event at a big advertising agency with a friend. A female MD spoke and she was absolutely hilarious and happened to be sitting in front of me. We got chatting in the break and I was relieved to discover she was so lovely and warm. I knew I wanted to be a part of this company despite the fact that the salary was less than I had been on before.

There seemed to be a career path and a greater salary in the future but when I started working there all my confidence collapsed under the pressure of the big male energy which advertising agencies are infested with. My dreams of a career path quickly fell through. I spent 18 months struggling with the social politics, the late nights, the passive-aggressive attitudes and being poorly paid before I knew this path wasn't right for me.
In 2018, I went to work for a big co-working space rather than continuing with the master's I had just started. I told myself that if I could get a job with this kind of salary, I didn't need the master's. Even though the co-working space wasn't in line with my interests, I was 27 and most of my friends by that point were earning good money and getting on with their lives. If I went to do the master's I would have had to move back in with my parents for two years and get a part-time job. While the job was largely unfulfilling, the money really changed my life. I have always been good at saving so I stashed away a lot of what I earned. Also, for the first time ever I was able to live comfortably and have fun without stressing about money all the time.
In 2018, I went to work for a big co-working space rather than continuing with the master's I had just started. I told myself that if I could get a job with this kind of salary, I didn't need the master's. Even though the co-working space wasn't in line with my interests, I was 27 and most of my friends by that point were earning good money and getting on with their lives. If I went to do the master's I would have had to move back in with my parents for two years and get a part-time job. While the job was largely unfulfilling, the money really changed my life. I have always been good at saving so I stashed away a lot of what I earned. Also, for the first time ever I was able to live comfortably and have fun without stressing about money all the time.
In 2019, I made it onto my company's community manager training programme. I had thought long and hard about doing this because the job was still relatively unfulfilling in a lot of ways. However the salary was exceptional and I knew if I could stick it out for a bit longer, I could get a mortgage and buy a flat with my partner. <br><br>Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit at the end of 2019 and something like 55% of managers lost their jobs, myself included.
In 2019, I made it onto my company's community manager training programme. I had thought long and hard about doing this because the job was still relatively unfulfilling in a lot of ways. However the salary was exceptional and I knew if I could stick it out for a bit longer, I could get a mortgage and buy a flat with my partner.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit at the end of 2019 and something like 55% of managers lost their jobs, myself included.
Having lost my job due to COVID-19 and everyone talking about a huge recession on the way, I knew I had to find a job ASAP. I found a job at a startup that was in line with my skill set but it was only after applying and interviewing with several people that salary was brought up. When I found out the asking salary was £32,000 I negotiated, being quite open about my salary at my previous job. They met me at £40,000 and I was told that through bonuses I would easily make up the salary difference. Given the situation, I took the job. Obviously I realised very quickly that their bonus talk was overblown, plus we later ran into issues when they decided to change the commission structure in the company's favour. In June this year I lost my job.
Having lost my job due to COVID-19 and everyone talking about a huge recession on the way, I knew I had to find a job ASAP. I found a job at a startup that was in line with my skill set but it was only after applying and interviewing with several people that salary was brought up. When I found out the asking salary was £32,000 I negotiated, being quite open about my salary at my previous job. They met me at £40,000 and I was told that through bonuses I would easily make up the salary difference. Given the situation, I took the job. Obviously I realised very quickly that their bonus talk was overblown, plus we later ran into issues when they decided to change the commission structure in the company's favour. In June this year I lost my job.
Despite being currently unemployed, I feel like all my saving has paid off. I have been doing jobs that I haven't enjoyed for what feels like an eternity so I am taking a year out and I am finally going to do that master's. I am so thankful that I can take this time to reset my life. Sure, I won't be able to get a mortgage any time soon but I have realised that my happiness does not rest in a mortgage.
Despite being currently unemployed, I feel like all my saving has paid off. I have been doing jobs that I haven't enjoyed for what feels like an eternity so I am taking a year out and I am finally going to do that master's. I am so thankful that I can take this time to reset my life. Sure, I won't be able to get a mortgage any time soon but I have realised that my happiness does not rest in a mortgage.

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