In our series My 6 Figure Paycheck, women making more than $100,000 open up about how they got there and what exactly they do. We take a closer look at what it feels like to be a woman making 6-figures—when only 5% of American women make that much, according to the US Census— with the hope it will give women insight into how to better navigate their own career and salary trajectories.
Today, we chat with a 30-year old associate director of social media marketing from New York, NY. Previously, we spoke with a 28-year old associate attorney from Orange County, CA, a 21-year old software engineer from Berkeley, CA, and a 31-year old design strategist from Denver, CO.
Job: Associate Director, Social Marketing
Location: New York, NY
Degree: Bachelor's Degree, Public Relations
First Salary: $19,200
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"At various times, I wanted to be an actress, writer, actor, radio DJ, or lawyer. I loved communications. I would pretend to host my own radio show and would write a 'newspaper' that I delivered to our neighbors. I was passionate about writing and being creative, but couldn't define a set path for myself."
What did you study in college?
"I originally went to college to pursue a journalism degree, but then the recession hit and a professor convinced me to pursue a public relations degree instead. I quickly got bored with my core classes, so my attention wandered and I picked up more classes in digital media, web design, and marketing.
"Twitter and YouTube both launched while I was in college, so I became interested in social media. I ended up developing an independent study on the effects of social media on traditional communications for honors credit. I graduated with a Bachelor's in public relations, an independent study on social media, and a Fine Arts minor."
Did you have to take out student loans? If so, how much were they for and how long did it take you to pay them off?
"I definitely had to take out student loans, but my parents handled it entirely, so I didn't know exactly how much. I did receive a partial scholarship and worked part-time jobs throughout college to have spending money, so I was proud about contributing.
"When I graduated from school and got my first job, my mom told me about 3 loans I had to pay for, which was about $40k in total. Okay, not a big deal. Then 2 years later after my salary increased, she told me about 6 other loans in my name that I had to pay for, equaling a minimum monthly payment of $1,380, which was an entire paycheck. I also found out my total loan package was $109,000.
"Over the past few years I've been able to pay them down and have about $11k left and a minimum payment under $400, thank goodness."
"The reason why I've had so many jobs is that you normally don't see a huge salary increase or promotion unless you move to a new position."
Have you been working at this job since you graduated college?
"Heck no. I've been working at agencies throughout my entire career, and it can be volatile. I am currently at my sixth job and had about 7 internships when I graduated from school. I've worked and interned for various social strategy and social marketing roles throughout my career. I've worked at a few other marketing/communications agencies, a tech startup, and in-house for a brand.
"The reason why I've had so many jobs is that you normally don't see a huge salary increase or promotion unless you move to a new position. I've also worked at places that had to do multiple layoffs or weren't making profits, so I moved on for my own self-preservation.
"I've also had a challenging time trying to get paid what I'm worth. When I graduated from college, I was making less than my market value since it was only a year or two after the recession. I think I've done a good job increasing my salary over the years but I wouldn't mind if I made at least $20k more."
How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?
"I oversee account, strategy, creative, and analytics teams executing social campaigns and content for a global travel client at a digital agency. I also help with social strategy for new business pitches and other clients, mostly for influencer marketing and social media.
"My day consists of a lot of answering emails, following up with clients to get feedback, reviewing creative work, writing strategies, and brainstorming campaigns while overseeing my direct reports."
Did you negotiate your salary?
"For my current job, I did negotiate my salary. I had done some research through LinkedIn and Glassdoor to understand my worth, and even asked some of my friends who had similar experiences what they were paid for.
"Right from the first phone call, I was firm about what I was looking to make for my next position. When they came back with an offer lower than my range, I called it out and made it firm that I wanted to make more. I also knew they were looking to fill the position quickly, so I knew I had some leverage."
Is your current job your "passion?" If not, what is?
"No. I would love to freelance and develop my own consulting/content development agency helping small, creative businesses set up their social marketing programs. I would also love to pursue painting and writing more. (I used to do a lot of freelance writing.)
"At one point, I thought about making a switch to work more in arts and culture, even potentially working for the City of New York in their cultural affairs department. I've always wanted to find a way to work in the arts and was somewhat discouraged from doing so when I was younger since my family didn't make enough money. In an ideal world, I'd find a way to freelance to earn a living and then have free time to work on creative collaborations."
If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?
"I did make $85,000 at a tech startup that would have given me quarterly bonuses and raises, but then went in-house for a brand that was very culturally and creatively focused where I made $75,000 and got an annual bonus of $10,000.
"While I thought I was pursuing my passion, I ended up working way beyond my role and should have been paid more. I wish I stayed at the tech startup longer until I found that 'dream job' that would at least match my current salary."
What professional advice would you give your younger self?
"Keep up with side hustles and build up an emergency fund early so you have more options in case you're worried about being laid off. Take your time when evaluating new job prospects so you don't dive into something you regret a year later."
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