Career & Finance

What to Do When Your Dream Job Doesn’t Come With Your Dream Salary


I love my job. As a magazine editor, I have the sort of job I always fantasized about a teen, when movies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Devil Wears Prada were everything. I get to spend my days typing away on a keyboard, diving into the world of social media, and composing stories that allow me to share my passion with others.

Back when I first graduated college with a literature degree, I had a dream of becoming a writer, an editor, something that would allow me to pursue my love of the English language. Yet as the months passed and I struggled to balance my passion for writing with my very real need for a stable salary, I became less sure that those two interests would ever align. So, when I first dipped my toes into the world of freelance writing and, later, landed a job as an editor at a publication I have long adored, I thought things couldn’t get any better. Well, almost. See, while I was free to write (yay!) about content I love (double yay!), I wasn’t bringing in the salary that I envisioned for myself. 

Was it a flaw in my near-perfect job setup? Perhaps. Regardless, I knew that from the day I signed my commitment letter, I needed to address the gap between my real salary and my dream one in order to cope with it, manage its impact on my life, and figure out exactly what it meant for my future. So, instead of wearing rose-colored glasses to work, I developed a plan that would not only allow me to find happiness with my current state, but also brainstorm a way to get to where I wanted to be.


Step 1: Recognize your needs

In a perfect world, we’d all have the perfect job with the perfect salary to match. Yet as my dream editorial job made clear, that’s not always how it works. Even so, don’t let that stop you from pursuing what you want! When I accepted my position as an editor, I knew that it would go part of the way toward meeting my needs. On the one hand, I’d finally be able to pursue work I genuinely enjoy full-time, and with a salary to boot. On the other, I’d still be under my goal salary, which I determined after researching comparable positions in my field. Because of that, I realized I’d be on a serious budget in order to live within my means.

At this stage in the game, the key is to weigh both sides to determine if one is a make or break. For me, while the lower salary was not what I wanted, it wasn’t enough of a detriment for me to turn down the job. Yes, I knew I’d need to make sacrifices and perfect my budgeting skills. At the end of the day, however, being able to say yes to a job that made me feel happy every day was worth it.


Step 2: Be a shining star

While landing your dream job is a wonderful thing, saying yes to a not-so-ideal salary is not. Because of this, it can be easy to fall into the rut of “I’m not earning as much money as my peers, so I should just stick to my basic responsibilities and nothing more.” Yet such a mindset won’t get you where you want to go, Everygirls. With a dream job in hand, the next step is proving to your company that not only do you deserve to be there, but you also deserve a raise, a bonus, a perk, or whatever extras your company has in place.

To do so, the key is to look beyond your job description. Of course, you can and should take care of whatever responsibilities you’re assigned. Beyond that, you should also look for places you can lend a hand, step in to fill a need, or take on an extra project that will help your supervisor. Simply volunteering to take on supplemental work is a powerful act and one that shows your boss that not only are you happy to make his or her life easier but that you’re willing to make the extra effort to help the company succeed. All in all, you’ll feel good, your boss will take notice, and you just might wind up with a nice little spiff by the time your annual review rolls around.



Step 3: Get a side hustle

Obviously, your job is important. Yet in a world that’s grappling with a pandemic during a time when incomes are far less stable than they once were, side hustles are more critical than ever. Fortunately, the definition of a side hustle looks different for everyone. Depending on your skill set, your side gig might be delivering to-go orders, taking on part-time social media work for a local business, or selling your handiwork on Etsy. No matter what, your side hustle should be a supplement to your full-time position. It shouldn’t burn you out, but it should contribute toward your goal of earning additional income. If it happens to loop into a hobby or passion, bonus points for you!


Step 4: Work on you

Just like picking up a side hustle, dedicating extra hours to self-improvement requires a concentrated effort, yet it’s so, so worth it. After all, as the gap between your dream salary and your actual one makes clear, there’s room for improvement when it comes to achieving your money goals. To help—or in the interim between now and your next performance review—make a point to think about ways in which you can work on becoming a better version of yourself. 

Admittedly, this is unique for everyone. Depending on your job and what you think would best help you climb the career ladder, this might mean networking with those in your industry through Zoom business conferences or online happy hours. It could also entail signing up for an online course to learn a new skill set you’ve always been curious about. If you’re really serious, it could even come down to enrolling in an online degree program to expand your education and add another credential to your name. No matter which path you choose, they all offer a way to reach the benchmark in your career that you’re looking to achieve. Networking could lead to an unexpected job opportunity, while additional skills or an added credential could result in a pay boost from your company once it realizes your added value to the team. The point is that there’s always something you can do to work on becoming the version of yourself that you want to be… and, trust me, it feels really good, too.



Step 5: Manifest your future

The word “manifest” gets thrown around a lot nowadays, and for good reason: it really can work! In my experience, real-deal manifesting isn’t just thinking about what you want (although that’s certainly part of it). Manifesting begins to work when you not only visualize exactly what it is you’re looking to achieve, but when you put in the work to get there.

In the case of working toward your dream salary, step one is to see the raise you envision in your head. Maybe you make an inspiration board that features it, or maybe you write it down in your journal or as part of a list. No matter what, you should turn the concept into a material, tangible thing so you can refer back to it from time to time.

Step two, meanwhile, is figuring out how you can work toward realizing that vision. In the case of your salary dreams, getting to your goal will likely be a combination of going above and beyond at work, picking up a side hustle, and working on self-improvement when you can. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s important to consider exactly how to balance these steps in a way that best gets you closer to that salary you want. No matter what, the point is to never give up, Everygirls. You landed your dream job, so you’re already a star in my book. While getting your dream salary might be more of a challenge or take more time, I’m fully convinced that you have the drive to turn that into a reality, too. Go get it!


What are your tips for bridging the gap between your current salary and your goal salary?