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. First, a communications chief who works for a Toronto tech company explains cb How he went from making less than $30,000 to over six figures within a decade of working full time.
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Current Job Title: communication leadership
First Full Time Job Salary: $26,500 as a radio news anchor and reporter in 2015
After graduating from journalism school, I was working freelance gigs and short-term contracts as a writer and editor at national newspapers and news websites. I did this for two years, averaging about $40,000 a year. Then in 2015, I got a job at a local radio station outside Toronto, where I grew up. I was offered $26,500. I asked if they could do better, and they said no, so I accepted it. It was a big hit on my income, and I didn’t even try to negotiate; I knew how difficult it was to break into radio. But because the job was in my hometown, I could live with my parents and save on rent. I also knew that this job would not be one that I would stay for long. I wanted to get on-air experience for my portfolio. I worked Tuesday through Saturday, chasing stories, doing interviews and writing scripts. From afternoon to evening, I anchored news and recorded segments for six other stations in the network.
Second Job Salary: $50,000 in 2016 as a newspaper editor and tech reporter
The radio station was a super high-pressure environment. The editor of a newspaper I worked for on a previous contract had moved to another newspaper and was building out its technology section. He knew I had always been interested in technology and offered me a job as a digital editor. I also got a chance to write technical articles and create videos and other multimedia which I enjoy. They offered $50,000, and I didn’t negotiate because this job ticked all my boxes and it doubled my salary. Plus, I knew the editor and enjoyed working with him.
About a year and a half into starting this job, there was a push to unionize the paper. Around the same time, management pulled me into an office and gave me a $1,000 raise. He didn’t say it explicitly, because that would be illegal, but my guess was that the raise was meant to persuade me to vote against unionization. I accepted the pay raise—I didn’t negotiate—bringing my salary to $51,000. The paper never unionized.
Third Job Salary: $83,000 in 2018 as a senior communications associate at a tech company
I always wanted to be in the tech industry. I had built a name and reputation for myself as a reporter, reviewing gadgets, going to product launches and getting exclusive interviews with founders. It was a great time to try something different and land a communications role at a tech company. I figured if it didn’t work out I could always go back to journalism. Also, the pay in journalism was not great and job security was questionable.
I saw a posting for a communications associate role in the Canadian office of a major US tech company. I already knew their head of communications and contacted him about the position. I applied formally, but I think my connections helped me get the job. They offered me $79,000. There was no salary range listed and I didn’t google around or ask others about industry averages. I kind of tested the waters because by that stage in my career I had learned that you should always try to negotiate your salary. So I tried it: I asked for $85,000. I felt more confident negotiating at this point because I had work experience behind me. I thought they weren’t going to say “no, we don’t want you anymore”. We settled on $83,000. I was in charge of communications for the consumer portfolio, meaning I would write announcements about new app features, for example. I had a great boss, and I got a crash course in communication.
After being there for about four months, some people left the company and others got promoted, so I was promoted to head of communications for Canada. That role involved identifying opportunities in the business that I thought tech journalists would care about, then working with a PR agency to get the word out and land coverage. The promotion came with an increase of $3,000. I just took it and didn’t talk. I didn’t take on a lot of work for a ton more money, but I had a supportive manager who trusted me. Plus, it would have taken me decades to get that kind of salary in journalism.
Third Job Salary: $90,000 as a Senior Media Consultant for a Transportation Authority in 2020
My wife is from New Zealand. In early 2020, we’ve lived together in Canada for about four years and thought we’d try living in New Zealand to see where we might eventually want to settle. We moved there in January 2020, then got married a month later. I was fortunate enough to work before leaving Canada.
After working in tech, I wanted to try my hand at public sector. I worked for the transport authority of a major city in New Zealand. They covered transit, sidewalks, parking, roadways, bike trails—anything related to movement. I applied for a role as a communications associate.
I raised my salary expectations to NZ$110,000, which equates to roughly CAD$90,000, which was higher than what they expected for a public sector gig. But they were very keen to hire me based on my experience. So they bumped my title up to a senior communications role so that I would be eligible for a higher pay band.
In this job, I wrote press releases and handled questions from the media while pursuing their answers within the organization. Anything with the public sector moves slowly, especially compared to a tech start-up. I actually found it a bit boring at times, especially since I was used to the fast-paced nature of the newsroom. But I do enjoy going into “crisis comms” mode, like when the Covid lockdown hit. I provided strategic consulting to Heads of Communications and CEOs using my past newsroom experience to give them an idea of how a journalist might think.
After living in New Zealand for a year, my wife and I decided that we wanted to live there permanently. But we felt we weren’t done with Canada yet. So we thought, before we settle down and have kids, we’ll do one more thing in Toronto.
Fourth Job Pay: $147,000 in 2021 as a national communications lead in a tech company—with 10 percent equity
In early 2021, I got job opportunities in a tech company based in New Zealand. They had circled Canada as a priority market and were hiring someone to lead communications here. The Venn diagram of my past experiences seemed to fit the bill for this job. I was hired in the spring of 2021.
I gave him a range of $140,000 to $160,000 and he offered $147,000. I accepted his offer because he said he had as much wiggle room as he could. I really wanted to work in the company.
Due to Covid travel restrictions, I worked out of their New Zealand office for eight months, remotely leading communications in Canada, before we moved back to Toronto in early 2022. So at first, I was paid in New Zealand dollars, but when we came back, I was paid in Canadian dollars.
I also got the equivalent of 10 percent annualized in stock options – which was a very exciting bonus. The company is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and I see lots of opportunities for growth, especially since I will have direct involvement in how well the company does in Canada. I will identify interesting stories and narratives within the company and find ways to build awareness for the brand. I knew the company was keen on a good work-life balance and that was part of the attraction for me.
In the summer of 2022, I received a raise as part of the company’s annual review process. They were based on performance – I know some people who got two per cent hike, some four per cent and some got no raise at all. I got four percent because I was exceeding my set performance goals, which landed me my current salary of $150,800.
Best Negotiation Tip: Bet on Yourself
When I graduated from journalism school, I knew I wanted to be a tech reporter. But when I only had written work in my portfolio and no broadcasting. I wanted to show that I can do both and diversify my skillset. By taking the radio job and accepting the low pay, I was betting on myself. It was less about the money and more about the path to the end result. In a way, I was reverse engineering my dream job. If you’re capable, if you know you’ve got the skills and you have a plan for your next steps, then accepting a low-paying job isn’t always a bad idea.