Want to earn more money at work? of course you do, for our series top upIn this article, Canadians from various industries tell us how much they really earn—and how they navigated every raise, promotion and job change to get there. Each month, a different executive shares their journey and their best advice for how you can better negotiate your salary. This month, a Toronto-based HR director who works at a software-as-a-service company explains cb How she went from earning $60,000 to $150,000 within seven years of working full time.
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Current Job Title: Human Resources Director
Industry: human resource
First Full Time Job Salary: $60,00 as director of performance and culture at a wholesale company in 2016
At university, I had a part-time job with the student union council of my university. I oversaw the legal and financial aspects of the organization, and through that work I was able to network with a lot of professionals in the HR industry. I used those relationships when I entered the job market, and I was able to negotiate a higher starting salary at my first “adult job”—director of performance and culture for a wholesale distribution company. Back then, fresh graduates were making $48,000 to $55,000 but thanks to my relevant experience, I was able to get to $60,000.
First increase: $60,000 in 2017, bringing salary to $120,000
Before I joined the company, it lacked structure in many areas. Within my first year, I built a system for tracking performance, improved legal operations, and improved organizational design. I clearly defined business goals and indicated which KPIs we need to achieve. These changes affected my performance as well as that of others, and helped me make the case for my first raise.
Because I was working in HR, I looked at how much the previous person who did my job was getting paid. Taking this into account, as well as my experience and contributions, I put together a proposal for what my compensation should be. I quoted what I thought was a reasonable price: $85,000 to $100,000. They offered me $120,000 because everyone else in the company had bonuses and I didn’t. Instead of adding bonus, they just gave me higher salary.
With this promotion I started managing five people And my role expanded: The geographic focus of my work moved from Ontario to across Canada and then to Latin America. I became responsible for the budget and developed a new Cooperative Program for Young Talents, In my expanded role, I report directly to executive leadership. This line of communication allowed me to learn more about the business side of the organization and gave me a chance to build trust with senior colleagues.
Second job salary: $90,000 in 2018 with $30,000 in equity as HR lead at a financial-services start-up
I changed jobs because my former boss moved to another company and asked if I would be willing to join a start-up as well. I knew that when it comes to working in a start-up, you have to be fearless and comfortable with risk. You shouldn’t jump on board because of the money, but because of the vision, the leaders you’re working with and the impact you can make. And you have to be willing to work like hell to make it happen. These are the qualities the company saw in me when I applied. I used my previous work experience in improving organizations and growing teams as salary-negotiating leverage.
There was a lot of risk in this job switch: business was not doing well; There were issues with profitability and executing the vision; And management wasn’t hitting its targets. But I wanted to work with my mentor again and was up for the challenge of fixing a troubled start-up.
Third job pay: $105,000 in 2019 as VP of HR at a cannabis company
After a year at that financial-services start-up, I was poached by a cannabis company, I was attracted to a position where I could work on a product that was going from illegal to legal. This rarely happens in our economy. This was an opportunity for me to showcase my HR skills in an emerging industry.
“Know the outcomes your business is interested in and bring them up to your boss before discussing a pay raise”
I was promised equity for a total compensation of $130,000 – but the company’s IPO didn’t go as planned and the stock price plummeted, so my salary sat at $105,000. I was not in a position to raise my salary as the entire company was being downsized. I had to lay off people and eventually got laid off myself. So, for a few months in the summer of 2020, I was out of work.
Fourth job pay: $105,000 plus $20,000 in equity in 2020 as HR director at a SaaS company
while a lot of people like me let go Months later, during the start of Covid in the HR industry, things changed in my field: Companies were scrambling to hire talent, especially, American companies were hiring Canadians remote working. They were paying very competitively relative to their Canadian competitors. Hence there was a huge demand for HR professionals. I started at a base salary of $105,000 with $20,000 in equity, bringing my total compensation to $125,000. After a year, and a lot of effort on my part, my team had quadrupled and the company tripled in size. I decided it was time to negotiate a pay raise. I set a number based on the growth of the business and my contribution to that success, by hiring key employees and significantly increasing the scope of my duties. I also took advantage of the market dynamics.
First increase: $45,000 in 2021, bringing salary to $150,000
Negotiations took place in person and took about a month. I was very transparent about the offers that I was getting from elsewhere. In fact, I shared an offer letter I received from another company for $140,000 and a 30 percent bonus. We went back and forth on what would make me happy. He asked me what kind of base and equity would be appropriate given the particular market pressure. My basis went from $105,000 to $150,000.
Best Negotiation Tip: Know What Matters to Your Organization
Know the outcomes your business is interested in and bring them up to your boss before discussing a pay raise. For example, at my first job, I created a co-op program—which still exists today. You have to be prepared to deliver sustainable value. You do this so you can say something like, “Look what I did to save time or make money.” And the more senior you are, the longer you want your impact to last.