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I Make $140K, Have Great Benefits — But Have No Idea What My Passion Is

Refinery29 logo Refinery29 3/1/2019 Ludmila Leiva
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In our series My 6-Figure Paycheck , women making more than $100,000 open up about how they got there and what exactly they do. We take a closer look at what it feels like to be a woman making six figures — when only 5% of American women make that much, according to the U.S. Census w ith the hope it will give women insight into how to better navigate their own career and salary trajectories.

Today, we chat with a chief of staff in Washington, D.C. Previously, we spoke to a lifecycle marketing professional from San Francisco, CA, and a fashion marketing manager from San Francisco, CA.

Job: Chief of Staff, Government Relations

Age: 33

Location: Washington, D.C.

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in English

First Salary: $28,000

Current Salary: $140,000

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

"I honestly don't ever remember wanting to 'be' something, but I studied classical ballet all the way up until I started college, so I probably wanted to be a dancer."

What did you study in college?

"I have a bachelor's degree and studied English in college after switching from pre-med and biology. I switched to English after I decided I wanted to go to law school — it was the fastest major to get there and graduate on time.

"I ended up loving my English major. Law school, however, was not for me. I finished my first year and ended up dropping out. I was miserable and it just wasn't my passion, so I couldn't justify the cost."

Did you have to take out student loans?

"Yes, for my one year of law school (thank you to my parents for covering undergrad!). One year was about $65,000 total. I deferred my loans for a few years because I was not making enough money to cover the payments. That was a stupid decision. Since then, I've been aggressively paying them off and have about eight more years to go."

Have you been working at this job since you graduated from college?

"No, I've worked in a few different roles on Capitol Hill. Overall, the salaries are shamefully low — especially in a city where the cost of living is obnoxiously high."

How would you explain your day-to-day role at your job?

"I'm the quarterback of our firm and make sure clients are happy, people get where they need to be, and all issues and assignments are completed correctly."

Did you negotiate your salary?

"Yes, my husband is a master negotiator when it comes to salary and benefits and is always coaching me. Honestly, the guilt of admitting to him that I didn't negotiate is the major factor in me asking for more money. I now preach the same strategies to friends, colleagues, and family. It works!"

Is your current job your “passion”? If not, what is?

"Not at all. I have no idea what my passion might be, and I'm fearful I will go through life not finding it. But I make enough money to live well and save, and my benefits are amazing. As of now, that's my justification."

If you could, would you change anything in your career trajectory?

"Yes, I've learned that I really value a work-life balance and flexibility, but have never really fought for that in my career. In my next job, I want to make sure to prioritize that."

What professional advice would you give your younger self?

"I would do some soul searching. I've made a habit of finding positions that I'm inherently good at rather than finding positions that interest me or ones in which I can grow.

"This has caused me to feel stuck in a career path that I'm not really passionate about. I have learned, however, to always ask for more money; that you don't have to be liked to be respected, and that it's ok to demand more from people."

Related video: Financial freedom author on the expenses you really should be cutting to save money (provided by Rachael Ray Show)

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