For some context, I work at a series C tech startup in San Francisco.
I’ll be frank and transparent. Salaries are definitely higher here — but so are the costs of living. I started my role as a coordinator with a startup at a lower paid tier as a 3+ months contractor, and the agency was taking a hefty portion of my salary. I was given $27 per hour as the offer, but negotiated (like we should all do), and they bumped it to $30 per hour. They took the bait, and so I packed up my things in Sunnyvale, sublet my apartment at the time, and moved to the city.
Taking a contract role comes with much uncertainty, but at that point, I was dying to get away from the previous role I was in, and I’d never worked at a startup before. I came from corporate, so a startup environment was a different beast. The company lacked processes and order — I had to build out so many things during my first week and almost quit because I couldn’t handle the pressure. But I stuck it through, grew some extra white hairs, and now want to pass on what worked for me and how I got what I wanted.
This was the timeline of increasing my income:
I started my contract at the startup and basically signed my life away. Just kidding. Started at $30 per hour.
My conversion to full-time happened. I had been applying to other companies at the time, and I brought up to my boss that I need full-time. He offered me $85K with stock options, which was above what I was aiming for. Guess my value was higher than I expected.
At this point, I had taken on many high transparency projects and focusing more on work (due to my breakup). I brought up my salary expectations to my boss, and he came back with $5K more than what I wanted. He gave me $100K.
These were the steps I took:
1. I crafted a forward-thinking plan for myself — filled with the somewhat ambitious projects and goals I were to manage — and sent it to my boss for review.
I made it very clear that I would hit every goal I had on that sheet, and if I didn’t, I would refine it and make it so that I did. I broke it out month by month based on what my workload would look like, and I always asked him what he needed me to focus on. During this time, I worked really, really hard. I knew what I wanted and would always write it down somewhere. Full-time. Conversion. Salary raise.
2. I had open conversations with my boss in regards to my conversion and my salary expectations.
I had 1:1 check-ins with my boss each week. For feedback, I’d always ask him what I could do better, if I was on the right path to conversion, if there were areas that he needed help with. I also solidified my relationships with coworkers, so that they could vouch for my work ethic if my boss were to ask.
3. I made myself so valuable to the team that they couldn’t afford to lose me.
I made my boss and my team look good by working hard. I started getting in at 8 AM, one of the earliest folks at the tech company. I always raised my hand to help out on projects, which usually meant adding more to my pile at times, but I proved my dependability and was appreciated for my eagerness to help. I appreciated my team in small ways, including my coworkers on email threads to highlight their successes or to thank them for their hard work. I cut out any complaining and negativity I could bring to work, and I only offered constructive feedback.
It’s not to say these steps will work for everyone, but they worked for me. I will say that I worked really hard to get to where I am now, and it has honestly made my financial plans more achievable. I used to think it was impossible getting a higher raise than what I earned, mostly because of my insecurities and lack of technical expertise. But people will recognize your hard work and the little small things that you do for them. If they don’t, it’s probably time to switch jobs and find a team that only wants to elevate your career success.
Emily is a millennial living in San Francisco, CA. She runs a developer advocacy events program at a tech startup. If she’s not tending to her big family of house plants, she’s either doing core40 classes, listening to FIRE podcasts, reading at the library, or going on hikes. She has found money to always be a taboo topic amongst her circle, and wants to crack that barrier by being honest and transparent with the techniques and experiences she’s found to be successful in her financial journey.
Image via Unsplash