The Salary Chronicles: I Negotiated A $36K Raise But Forgot What Else Was Important

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Welcome to The Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible.

This week we’re speaking with a woman who after many frustrating conversations, finally got the raise she wanted. But she forgot to ask for the other things that were equally as important to her. 

Location: San Jose, CA

Title: Contractor, Engineering Project Management

Hourly rate: $52 (approximately $104k per year)

New hourly rate: $70 (approximately $140k per year)

What was the situation when you decided to negotiate?

When I graduated from college 7 years ago I didn’t have the best job options. I graduated with an engineering degree and after a couple months of job searching, I ended up at with a job at a contracting agency. Different from an independent contractor, I’m an employee of the agency so they put me on different assignments, handle all the billing, and provide some benefits.

After searching for a job, it was nice to have the consistent work that an agency provided, especially right out of school. I thought it would be a great opportunity to have the flexibility of moving around to different projects while still having one company that I ultimately worked for.

I knew was doing well. I got great feedback from the projects that I worked on and was always being picked up for new work.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like my performance was being acknowledged by the agency that I worked for. Any formal feedback I received directly from them was average and my raise each year was a minimal cost of living bump, at best. I wanted to do more, take on more, and move to more challenging projects but I wasn’t being given opportunities to do so. I was unhappy doing the work I was doing.

During 2016 I decided to really push hard for more money and bigger opportunities. I had 3 separate meetings with my supervisor and with HR, to talk about my career path within the agency. Each time I left the conversation feeling like a failure. I’m usually outspoken and direct, but they always had a reason why they couldn’t pay me more or give me more responsibility.

In late 2016 I was talking with an employee at one of the companies I was contracting for and he mentioned casually that he was blown away by how much money they pay contractors. This clearly caught me by surprise. I thought I was paid decently, but in no way did I think my hourly rate would shock him.

I asked him if he had seen how much I made and he said that no, he was referring to another contractor that worked on the project.

Once I heard that I knew I needed to investigate.

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