Under-Earner Seeks Advice!


Does anyone have advice for moving from a low-paying job to a high-paying one?

Background: I do digital marketing for a non-profit doing: social media, blogging, SEO/keyword research, website management, email marketing, the whole works. (Hell, I even dabble in a little photography.) I’ve worked at the same company since 2013, and in this particular position since 2014. I’m also going to school part-time to complete a marketing certificate on top of my degree.

Right now, I earn $40,000/year and have done a lot to keep my expenses low (no car, splitting rent with my boyfriend), but I feel like the next step is to really step up my income.

Question: Is it feasible to jump from $40K/year to, say, $50K/year in one go?
Does anyone have any insight on this?

Thanks in advance for lending an ear… or, I suppose an eyeball :blush:


Of course it’s possible. Simply by jumping from a non-profit to a big-co you will jump in earnings.
Now if you jump to a well-funded start-up, you could earn even more!

Just keep in mind that past performance does not guarantee future results (as we financial bloggers know :slight_smile:) so your past salary does not affect your future salary.

You should not mention your past salary in an interview, it is irrelevant and won’t help you.

Hope this helps, Xyz.


All of the skills you mentioned are things that you could also do as a freelancer, so as long as you don’t have a non-compete, I don’t see why you couldn’t pick up some side work to get you that 20% pay increase you are looking for.


Ah, yes - my salary. Every interview I’ve had always makes a point to request it, but I’ll try to research savvy ways to not reveal it! Thanks for your insight, Xyz :smiley:


True! Regardless, I think I’m going to freelance anyway just because I love the idea of not being 100% reliant on one income.


The Ask a Manager website has some great tips on how to not reveal your salary in a job negotiation. I love her site for all things job and job-search related. Massachusetts recently passed a law making it illegal to ask about salary history.

It’s certainly more than possible to jump 25% when switching jobs, especially from non-profit to for-profit. You can do some research on Glassdoor to see what companies are paying for someone with your skills. Just search your position name + your location. I think you’re in San Diego, and when I searched for “digital marketing” + “San Diego” it came back at around $63k


Yes of course it is possible! For me, switching companies was the trick. You can always search an average of how much your position pays and use that as leverage for a pay increase or when negotiating a salary, and then bring to the table your experience and how much value you have added to the company. Just don’t fall into the trap of lifestyle inflation once you do get a pay increase like I did. Once all your needs are met, keep costs as low as possible and don’t go shopping on that new income! You got this!


I don’t have a ton of helpful information on this, but I’m part of another group with @JoshDoody who specializes in helping people with this stuff.

I gave him a heads up to see if he could take some time to give some advice from his professional opinion :slight_smile:


Ah, NICE - thanks for the tip! These salary examples are great, and I can definitely start using them right away when interviewing.

$63K?? Okay, I seriously need to leave the non-profit sector.


Replying in one post since it seems to be the most efficient method…

So, I did try to negotiate a pay increase - while using average industry salaries as leverage - and they said they’d consider it, but then they came back to me and said, “Well, there’s talk of a recession in 2018, so we really need to be conservative. We’ll try to give you what you asked for (12%), but don’t be disappointed if 2-3% is all we can spare.”

Really, I think leaving the non-profit sector will solve a lot of my problems.

And, argh - lifestyle inflation is the WORST! I’ll do my very best to keep my expenses low :smiley:

Thanks for the tip! I’ll be honest, I’ve heard of his book before but - precisely as you predicted - the title was a major turn off, haha.

I really like the “total compensation package” idea, because really: I’m not even counting my 401k and the $1500 of education tuition I get from them.

Thanks, Seth - I appreciate it!


My boss at my old employer never gave out raises. He said it was just they way it went. BS!! take the 2-3% increase while you look for a position elsewhere and then tell them good luck!


Thanks to @sethdrebitko for the heads-up.

@KatashaLovesTacos, the short answer to your question is that you can definitely move from 40k-50k in one move. As others have said, you’ll likely have to move out of the non-profit sector, or at least move to a different company within that sector. Moving from 40-50k at a non-profit without changing companies would be… challenging.

It can’t hurt to try to get a raise

But that doesn’t mean you should try to get a 25% raise while looking for other opportunities. I wrote a six-article series on how and when to ask for a raise, and I think it will give you a good starting point for working to get a big raise without changing jobs: How and when to ask for a raise the right way

Estimate your market value

Assuming you’ll need to change companies, you should start by getting a sense of your market value. My guess is that getting a certificate will help increase your market value. Read about that here, and you can also work through the process with a free lesson from Get Your Next Raise. (I’m not sure how long that lesson will be free, but it’s free for now.)

Knowing your market value will give you a better sense of how well you’re doing at 40k.

How to avoid revealing your current or desired salary in interviews

@OurFinancialPath mentioned that you should not share your past salary in an interview, and I would add that you should also not disclose your desired salary in an interview. (I’m talking about when you’re interviewing with a new company, not when asking for a raise at your current company.)

Here’s an article I wrote on how to avoid that question effectively: The Dreaded Salary Question.

Hopefully that helps you map out next steps. I’m happy to answer any other questions you have. Good luck!


I think when you make the switch from a non profit to a corporation, they know the pay expectation is different. I would even be upfront about that and say something like, “I have really loved my time at xzy, but after x years I am excited about a new opportunity. There are so many wonderful things about non prof work, but the pay isn’t one of them. It’s time for me to transition into new opportunities.” I think it’s ok to set the expectation that you aren’t switching jobs so you can make your old wage. They need to bring a competitive offer to the table. And you know you were underpaid for your skill set before.


Thanks, Josh! Just signed up for the free lessons.

I really like this approach, because really - that’s the only reason why I’m considering leaving. Yes, I love the work that I do for my non-prof, but not as much as I love the idea of getting rid of my debt 2x faster.

I’ll be sure to keep y’all updated - thanks for your help!


Have you read Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny. Although everything mentioned in all the replies is very good advice, I still swear by this book. It broke me out of a mindset that kept me working for little pay. So even though there are tons of actionable steps in the replies, giving the book a read might move the dial a little. I mean, you already know you’re worth more, so that’s a HUGE advantage right there.


To be honest I don’t know how you survive on that salary in California. I grew up in San Jose and back in the early 2000s we were paying a little north of 2k for a 1 bedroom. Where I live now my mortgage payment is $1350 for a nice 1800sqf house on 1/2 an acre! As far as getting a raise… ABSOLUTELY…can never hurt asking. There is something to be said about doing work that you feel great about, however, for your paycheck’s sake I would agree with the others. Get out of non-profit work. Keep us in the loop and good luck!


Sorry for the late replies, I’ve been in hectic mode at work!

@Amanda - You know, I actually BOUGHT the book after reading your blog, but I never actually sat down to read it! 'Doh! I’ll have to get to it.

@Frugalcop - I make it work. I don’t have a car, and I split rent with my boyfriend 60/40 (at $440 per month), so it’s not too bad, but it doesn’t leave me a lot of room to throw extra money at my debt.

Guess I gotta leave the non-profit world!


3 weeks later and I got word from my supervisor that I’m getting a 10 percent raise ($44,000).
I figured I’d update you all since you took the time to help a girl out :smiley:

Don’t worry - I’m still on the hunt! Just filling you in:

@OurFinancialPath, @_TJ, @ChiefMomOfficer, @TheFinanceSpa, @Mrs.Groovy, @sethdrebitko, @JoshDoody, @Ms.Montana, @Amanda, and @Frugalcop.


That is awesome! Congrats. =)


Way to go!