Salary Story: From Cabin Crew To Civil Service (On 35k More)

·4 min read

In our series Salary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.

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Age: 28
Location: London
Current industry and job title: Civil servant
Current salary: £57,000
Number of years employed since school or university: Seven

Starting salary: £22,000 in 2014
Biggest salary jump: £42,000 to £57,000 in 2020
Biggest salary drop: £22,000 to £18,000 in 2017

Biggest negotiation regret: Not being more forceful with my negotiations. The first time I tried to negotiate, I cried afterwards. Come armed with facts and stats, speak to colleagues and know your worth!

Best salary advice: Talk to friends, people in your network and colleagues about your salary. Information is key.

The basic pay as cabin crew was £12,000 but you could bump it up with the travel allowances, which I did, to £22,000. I used to work my absolute butt off doing long trips while also working a <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2019/02/224293/retail-renaissance-workers-millennial" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:retail job" class="link ">retail job</a> and volunteering for a <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/charity-homeware" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:charity" class="link ">charity</a> for the professional experience. It was an exhausting time but also an experience I would never give up.
The basic pay as cabin crew was £12,000 but you could bump it up with the travel allowances, which I did, to £22,000. I used to work my absolute butt off doing long trips while also working a retail job and volunteering for a charity for the professional experience. It was an exhausting time but also an experience I would never give up.
The pay drop to £18,000 was a difficult adjustment and I was working incredibly long hours as an intern at a public affairs agency so no chance of work on the side. I got the job by networking with absolutely everyone, including friends and family, and boldly asking for some career advice. <br> <br>I was due to <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/intern-how-to-get-a-job" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:intern" class="link ">intern</a> for three months but they kept extending it, despite telling me I was a valued team member…not great job security at all! I ended up asking my boss to put me in touch with his contacts to explore permanent roles with other companies. Suddenly that led to an offer of permanent employment.
The pay drop to £18,000 was a difficult adjustment and I was working incredibly long hours as an intern at a public affairs agency so no chance of work on the side. I got the job by networking with absolutely everyone, including friends and family, and boldly asking for some career advice.

I was due to intern for three months but they kept extending it, despite telling me I was a valued team member…not great job security at all! I ended up asking my boss to put me in touch with his contacts to explore permanent roles with other companies. Suddenly that led to an offer of permanent employment.
I finally got a permanent role after six months of interning, with a pay bump to £23,000. I was still working crazy hours and way above my job grade. <br> <br>I just felt <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2020/06/9877595/working-in-toxic-media-industry-diversity-movement" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:lucky to have a job" class="link ">lucky to have a job</a> at this point and in the early days I completely fell for all the '<a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/alcohol-workplace-culture-uk-sue-gray-report" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:work perks" class="link ">work perks</a>' of a birthday day off and drinks on Friday.
I finally got a permanent role after six months of interning, with a pay bump to £23,000. I was still working crazy hours and way above my job grade.

I just felt lucky to have a job at this point and in the early days I completely fell for all the 'work perks' of a birthday day off and drinks on Friday.
After a year I was promoted to associate in the public affairs agency, earning £25,000 a year. I attempted to ask for a <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/women-uk-pay-rise" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:pay rise" class="link ">pay rise</a> given that this offer only meant £50 per month extra in my pocket. I epically failed and was told they didn’t have the budget. I cried in the toilets and couldn’t look my boss in the eye for weeks. I later found out that male colleagues on this level had also asked for more and <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-au/gender-pay-gap-in-workplace" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:been given it" class="link ">been given it</a>. I was infuriated and immediately started to look for new jobs.
After a year I was promoted to associate in the public affairs agency, earning £25,000 a year. I attempted to ask for a pay rise given that this offer only meant £50 per month extra in my pocket. I epically failed and was told they didn’t have the budget. I cried in the toilets and couldn’t look my boss in the eye for weeks. I later found out that male colleagues on this level had also asked for more and been given it. I was infuriated and immediately started to look for new jobs.
I was given this promotion to senior associate quite quickly as I think my boss sensed my growing frustrations with the pay and workload. The promotion was well deserved as I was already working way above this level but I didn’t even bother to negotiate on pay as I already had plans to leave. On handing in my notice I was immediately offered another pay rise.
I was given this promotion to senior associate quite quickly as I think my boss sensed my growing frustrations with the pay and workload. The promotion was well deserved as I was already working way above this level but I didn’t even bother to negotiate on pay as I already had plans to leave. On handing in my notice I was immediately offered another pay rise.
It was a relief to enter the civil service with clear pay bands and a good <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/secret-to-happiness-at-work" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:work-life balance" class="link ">work-life balance</a>. Once joining I quickly realised I should probably be working at the grade above so started plotting my next step.
It was a relief to enter the civil service with clear pay bands and a good work-life balance. Once joining I quickly realised I should probably be working at the grade above so started plotting my next step.
After six months a promotional opportunity came up within my team and I took it as a temporary promotion, which meant a 10% pay increase to £36,300. Six months later I had to formally apply for the role in competition with anyone else who chose to apply. It’s pretty intimidating interviewing for your own job but I got the role in the end and moved up to £42,000.
After six months a promotional opportunity came up within my team and I took it as a temporary promotion, which meant a 10% pay increase to £36,300. Six months later I had to formally apply for the role in competition with anyone else who chose to apply. It’s pretty intimidating interviewing for your own job but I got the role in the end and moved up to £42,000.
I moved teams and was particularly motivated to move up this pay band (to £57,000) so I could get a mortgage. You don’t negotiate salary within the civil service but I think the pay bands are fair and it’s great to know exactly what you're in for before you apply. It felt like a big step up to take on this role but it was accompanied by the <a href="https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/biggest-salary-increase-stories-uk" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:biggest pay rise" class="link ">biggest pay rise</a> I’ve ever had. I’ll probably stay at this grade for a little while and enjoy trying new teams and departments without the pressure of a promotion.
I moved teams and was particularly motivated to move up this pay band (to £57,000) so I could get a mortgage. You don’t negotiate salary within the civil service but I think the pay bands are fair and it’s great to know exactly what you're in for before you apply. It felt like a big step up to take on this role but it was accompanied by the biggest pay rise I’ve ever had. I’ll probably stay at this grade for a little while and enjoy trying new teams and departments without the pressure of a promotion.

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