Lessons from my not-so-linear salary journeyFeatured

Our Salary Paths series aims to give fellow Elphas a reference point for salary negotiations and encourage more women to talk about compensation. We hope that opening up the conversation will contribute to more pay transparency and equitable pay.

Interested in sharing your Salary Path with us? Please fill out this form here and we will get back to you (can be posted anonymously, too! 😉 ).


As I reflect on my career path and my accompanying salary progression, I can now see a clear progression in my focus of work that wasn’t as apparent when I began working in the corporate world. When it comes to salary, however, that has definitely been a less linear journey.

My professional career began right out of grad school as a Leasing Manager for a large student housing company, where I started making only $27,900 annually. I enjoyed my role in leasing and operations but was eager to advance my skills and responsibilities.

After a short time, I was able to advance to Assistant General Manager and then General Manager, nearly doubling my salary in two short years. This final Operations role allowed me to take on more responsibility and make more strategic decisions for the company, but more importantly, it gave me a wider view of the various roles that existed outside of my narrow lens in the Operations world.

Having gone to school for an academic track, I knew I loved learning and loved helping others to develop, so when a role opened for a Training Specialist at our corporate office, I jumped to apply.

This move was the first time I tried to successfully negotiate and failed to make any headway. Since the move was entirely focused on me doing work I was more excited about, and the company had its fair share of solid internal applicants, I was in a tight spot where I was unable to move the needle when it came to requesting a higher base salary.

In joining our corporate team though, I was able to get bonuses in stock which, while not immediate cash in my pocket, did turn a hefty profit when I was able to cash those out years later when the company was booming. This was the first time I had to really examine a comprehensive compensation package and, while not as big as I was hoping for, it showed me that base salary isn’t the only piece of the pie I should be looking for when negotiating.

Within this company, I was able to ultimately move into the position of Director of Training (with a very small salary increase) but ultimately the work became very redundant in that role and a competitor came calling, offering me the same title with a nearly 50% pay bump! This is the sole cautionary tale in my career thus far. While money and certain opportunities may be initially appealing, vetting the roadmap of a company, the leadership, and the situation you are walking into is vital for long-term success in a role. As I did none of these things effectively, this role lasted only a short time and, as I noticed salaries and work lagging in the housing sector, I eventually started looking into transitioning to tech.

I knew I had found my niche in talent development and decided to take a role in recruiting to better understand the landscape I was moving into. Sadly, this came with a small pay cut, but it allowed me entrance into a field that was challenging and gave me immense learning opportunities. With this knowledge, I was then able to move into a role as a Career Coach, where I could transition back into the learning and development sphere and help individuals not only achieve their career goals but learn from the mistakes I had made in my own early career.

With that company I eventually rose to the position of Senior Manager of Talent Development, which came with a substantial pay increase, vaulting me past where I had been in the housing world by 20%. Many people in my life had been dubious of the pay cut I took to get into tech and thought it wouldn’t benefit me in the long run, and while I’m sure there might have been a move I could have made that wouldn’t have required that dip in pay, I think I can ultimately say that it has paid off over the long run. The knowledge I gained helped me advance faster than I might have if I had stayed strictly in the training space, and I was able to diversify my skill set which I believe is essential in the ever-evolving job and skill market.

In moving on from that opportunity during a restructure, I was contacted by an industry giant who offered me a contract position as a Senior Manager Learning and Development Program Manager, which paid 50% more than my last role and included the ability to work completely remotely. While it was a contract, and therefore didn’t have any benefits, I was able to leverage my partner’s amazing company benefits and work from home during the height of the pandemic, which gave me amazing piece of mind and a better work/life balance.

In my most recent role as a Senior Program Manager focusing on Learning and Development, I get to lead leadership development and manager training at a company that is not only making amazing products but is tied strongly to a mission and value that truly resonates with me. I was able to get a significant total compensation bump with this role (60%) given the full benefits and stock options that they offer, in addition to a slight base salary bump (9%).

It’s definitely been a slight financial rollercoaster, but I am proud to have been able to progress to this point in my career where I am able to make a significant impact on an organization and its employees, while feeling that I am well compensated for the work that I am doing.

In reflecting back on my career so far, I think it’s important to remember two things: Career growth (and salary) isn’t always vertically linear, and money isn’t everything when considering a role or move (although it’s definitely important). That said, be transparent about what you want for your salary growth, vet it against the market in your area, and never take the first offer!