Margaret invested in education & has tripled her salary in 13 years

Money has always been very important to Margaret.  She immigrated to Canada with her parents when she was a child. While there was always enough money for food and necessities, the family struggled significantly during the economic crash of the 80’s.  She remembers vividly the stress of losing the family home and having to rebuild from scratch.

Given her family’s financial situation, Margaret always had a part-time job, paid her way through university, and considered money a significant factor in her decision-making.  Enjoying travel, she taught English abroad for a number of years but found it difficult to get ahead and returned to Canada to restart her career. 

Margaret decided to go back to school to pursue her Masters of Library and Information Science.  Through this process, she continuously looked at industries and organizations where her skills would be most valued and where she could grow.   Since completing her Masters in 2004, Margaret has worked in three different industries, in 4 different organizations.  She has tripled her salary from her starting point of just under $50,000 annually.  She accomplished this through a skillful maneuvering of her career towards general management roles and fierce negotiation skills.  Her key strategies are: 

  • Have a north star:  As finances were important to Margaret she set personal goals around wages.  She recognized that senior roles in a general management area were highly paid.  Given this she continuously looked to broaden her skill set with a breadth of projects and roles that enabled her to expand beyond her expertise in research. 

    • Early on in Margaret’s career she would constantly look for ways to make improvements and opportunities to learn beyond her role. She recognizes that some organizations are more open to this than others. "Some want to put you in a box and want you to stay there".  If that is the case, she knows there is little room for professional or income growth

  • Understand what your organization values: Margaret is keenly aware of the value of different roles within her organization as well as her contribution.  She has established this by working to understand salaries, how much others in similar and different roles make, how much her organizational leaders and managers make.  This means she has a good sense of what her boss gets paid for what work and skill level and thinks about all this information when she sets a goal for her salary

    • She has built this knowledge up incrementally. She takes time to read salary scales using both glassdoor and PayScale, reads the Globe and Mail's profiles section which provides salary examples as well as Moneysense magazine, ask questions of colleagues and HR, and discusses money with friends

    • When negotiating her last role, Margaret took into consideration the following figures: her previous salary and remuneration including the economic value of the pension, employee RRSP contributions, professional development and other benefits offered (compensation for transit, phone etc.)…., as well as her understanding that salaries for comparable roles in organizations of similar scope and size ranged in the $140 - $190 k

    • She knows that once an organization sees your value, it is easier to negotiate for new roles, increases and opportunities; "If you are not a performer or have no value add - you have no starting point from which to negotiate". Given this, she is very strategic about the type of work she does - she only volunteers for projects that she knows are highly valued in the organization

  • Use your values and goals as criteria for decision making: Margaret has a target salary and has a glide path to get there. In addition to financial remuneration she also knows what is important for her including professional development, time off and location

    • In one of her previous salary negotiations, her manager outlined how they had budget constraints and so were not able to increase her salary.  Given she was able to walk to work and had a small child at the time, she was not willing to move.  She did not miss out on this opportunity though.  She used it to secure commitment to investment in an out of province leadership program and attendance at out of country conferences worth roughly $10k.  This win was the result of knowing what she wanted, understanding the different buckets of budget within her organization and building the business case that demonstrated the value to the organization. This did not provide immediate financial benefit, but it built her expertise, and better positioned her for future financial growth.  It also demonstrated to management that she was willing to negotiate but that she would not settle

  • Create an understanding of your goals with organizational leaders:  Margaret has always been clear about her goals with her managers. They know her interests both in terms of work and pay

    • Margaret uses every opportunity she can to make her goals clear. When beginning negotiations, she makes sure there is collective understanding for her long term salary and career progression goals. She then bargains as hard as she can when she enters a new role

    • Margaret has an understanding of the salary range as well as the full scale of remuneration ranging from investment in professional development, health and dental benefits to contribution to RRSP's. She sets a goal for overall compensation and for each of the pieces; "Usually you know when you have hit the max just as you know when you have not asked for enough. It is a fine line and must be carried out respectfully"

    • She is always very positive and solutions oriented in her negotiations, making clear her desires, yet also seeking to understand organizational areas of openness, policies, and constraints

    • Margaret recognizes that once you are in the role, it is tougher to negotiate for increases. At the same time, she knows that no one is going to offer you anything in this world

    • She notices that few people comprehend that: "I have been managing staff for nearly 10 years and I have never had anyone try to negotiate an increase outside of a review process and when they have asked – they have never been in a position of power with respect to performance. If you have just had a mediocre review it is not the best time to be asking for a significant raise"

  • Use every opportunity to pre-negotiate and negotiate: Negotiations do not just happen at salary review time. They are happening year round. You are demonstrating your value every day. You are also demonstrating your knowledge and expectations every day.

    • Margaret describes a perfect example of this; In her discussions with her former CEO about remuneration for an employee who was being terminated, Margaret made it clear that she was uncomfortable with a clause in her own contract which severely limited the amount of severance she would be entitled to should she be dismissed. Essentially Margaret’s contract did not entitle her to severance pay of any kind (statute, common law or otherwise). She articulated that this was unfair and she intended to renegotiate this at a later date. Margaret understood that to stay long term in this role with a potential change in leadership would be a financially risky proposition and that she had signed away her rights to take the job.  Outside of review time, she made it clear that she wanted this fixed

    • Margaret has used a breadth of conversation starters to negotiate including celebrating the success of a big project / initiative and discussing her future vision for the initiative or team.  This provides an opening to discuss the support, resources and remuneration needed to bring the vision to life

If you enjoyed this article and think it was helpful, please share it. If you have suggestions for others and or would like to tell your story, please comment or send Strive an email.