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Case Study: The 20-something who quit her job and made $50,000

Ramit Sethi

Cool story today.

Meet Darby, a 20-something marketing professional who read about my Briefcase Technique and used it to land a job she loves earning $10,000 more than her old salary.

The Briefcase Technique is one of my free techniques that I’m happy to give away to show you how effective IWT material can be for you.

Read on…

“I’m stubborn, so I got them to $40,000.”

A couple years ago Darby finished up college and started looking for work. She landed an interview with a marketing company for Quebec hotels. “At the time I had a lot of friends who were struggling to find entry level marketing jobs”, she said. It was a tough market and here was an opportunity to use both her education and bilingual skills.

But the interview didn’t go well.

“I wasn’t confident in that negotiation because I had no leverage”, Darby remembered, “at that point I had maybe two months experience, and they told me I was competing with a more experienced applicant. I was nervous because I was the underdog.”

When it came time to discuss salary, Darby suggested a range in the low to mid 40s. They offered her $39K. “When I tried to say, ‘I asked for X, I really feel like because I’m bilingual I’m worth it’, they came back with, ‘we chose you instead of the more experienced candidate because we want to invest in you’.”

Conversation over, right?

“I’m kind of stubborn. I was like ‘oh, come on, you can give me another $1000’”. Darby got her $40K, but was left feeling undervalued in a position that didn’t have much room for growth. “I didn’t have any other offers on the table and I needed to pay my rent.”

From $40,000 to $50,000

Fast-forward two months. Darby logged into LinkedIn and had a message from a recruiter. “I always keep my LinkedIn profile pretty updated”, she said, “the recruiter was looking for someone who was bilingual and a marketing coordinator, which was pretty much exactly the headline in my profile.”

“It was awesome,” said Darby, “I felt really validated because it was a very reputable company. It was exactly what I wanted but couldn’t find two months before.” Darby told them she’d need at least $50,000, and after a few phone interviews the company flew her in for an interview.

So Darby started researching how to negotiate. “I had read a lot of nonsense like ’10 things not to do in an interview’. I felt like I was an okay interviewee, but I wanted something a little more intense. If I was going to fly out for an interview, I needed to bring my A-game.”

That’s when she found this site and my Briefcase Technique.

“It seemed very practical but not easy, so I figured it would work. I thought that a high level of preparation would allay any concerns that the hiring manager had about my relative inexperience.”

Darby checked out the source code for the company’s website and found out they weren’t even using page titles. An SEO and usability disaster. Since she was preparing for the interview anyways, she decided to put together a PowerPoint. “That way I could say, ‘I have something for you’, and really drive the conversation.”

“Oh, you prepared something. Wow”

“I had prepared with the Briefcase Technique, only I didn’t whip out a document, I whipped out my computer. I said ‘this is how long it will take me to implement these things, and I think it would have a huge improvement on your website.”

And it worked. “The hiring manager was really impressed, and was like ‘show that to my boss.’” After the follow up interview, Darby had earned great feedback, “the hiring manager said I had done really well, they were really happy, and I would hear back within a week. Seven days later I got the offer.”

$50,000. That’s $10K or 25% more than she was making at her old dead-end job. Plus a signing bonus of $2,000 for relocation.

“When I look at the presentation now I think ‘oh my god, it’s totally rudimentary’, but it was very practical. I remember the hiring manager asked me, ‘How did you even get our source code?’, and I laughed, ‘Oh it’s easy, anybody can do that!”

“I’m going traveling in Japan for a year. I’ll study leading-edge digital marketing, Japanese, and the martial arts.”

For Darby, landing a great job with a better salary was just the first step.

A couple months ago she received a small inheritance — exactly $1000. She used the money to buy Earn1K and has already lined up three warm leads and is negotiating her first contract — a year-long, $400/month project.

“I’m an Earn1K student because I know that your material really works. I plan to freelance while traveling Japan for the next year. After the year is done I might just be looking for my dream job.”

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  1. avatar
    Timothy Moser


    This post struck me as uniquely applicable to someone like me. So many of the things you write are about people who have made $100,000 on the side, or raised their salary from $60,000 to $80,000, etc., and that just sort of goes over the heads of people like me (“I could never do that where I am”), but this is an example of how your tools and techniques are for everyone from the fresh college graduate to the thriving entrepreneur.

    You don’t even have to be out of college to reap major benefits from the IWT materials. I was still in college when I began reading and implementing your ideas. I needed money but hated doing a few hours of minimum-wage work for the university cafeteria, so I took your advice and looked at my skills to see what was marketable. Eventually I discovered that people would pay a lot of money for PSAT/SAT tutoring and quickly started doing very cheap advertising. My first client payed about $20/hour, but I raised my rates with each new student and was soon getting $45/hour.

    Previously I had the most horrible ideas about how to make money, all of which were sure failures; but after going through Ramit’s free materials, I ended up not having to worry about money at all. With just an average of one or two hours a week of doing what I love to do, I ended up netting over $4000 in about 16 months. All without skimping on my studies (despite carrying a heavy academic load).

    People, read Ramit’s stuff, even if you don’t think it’s about you. If you really do what he says, it always pays.

  2. avatar

    I was counseling a woman yesterday and she was asking me about salary negotiation. She needed tips on how to help her daughter handle an interview. I provided her with sound tips and since I’m fan of your site, I told her she should have her daughter check out your site.

    Congrats to Darby. Being prepared in an interview is more than just knowing how to answer “standard” interview questions. You have to be prepared as though you are the presenter.

  3. avatar
    Raul Felix

    This is an awesome post. I think it great when you post stuff about people going from $50,000 to $100,000 or whatever, but like the previous commenter said; having someone who has something the may be a little more reasonable makes this more tangible. Don’t get me wrong, my dreams are big, but even though I make $65,000 a year, my skills are not marketable outside my profession so I have to figure out to which new skills that will make me marketable or to start a new business that I’ll actually enjoy. Keep it up man, your blog has helped me out a lot.

  4. avatar
    Tyler F

    This post has been live for 4 days and there are 3 comments?

  5. avatar

    …and your point is…?

  6. avatar

    Maybe no one is commenting because they don’t care about an entitled 20 something who is complaining about a decent wage. Get over yourself Darby and be happy you even have a job.

  7. avatar

    @Richard–Or she could negotiate, develop her skills, and use that as leverage to further boost her career. With your attitude, she’d still be making 40k in a dead end job. Instead she is making 10k more and travelling in Japan, further developing her skills. It isn’t entitlement if you have the skills to back up your wage. She asked for and received no hand outs, she just got into their heads and demanded what she knew she could. “Be happy you even have a job” seems to be code for “I’ve settled for what I was given and I’m upset that others have the motivation and skills to demand to be treated as more than another commodity.”

  8. avatar

    Richard- Just because it’s tough out there doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Darby presented real value to her perspective employer and it was recognized. One of the hardest thing about hiring college grads / low-experience workers is finding things in their background that look like real experience. Darby’s presentation shows drive, thinking skills, strategic planning skills and most of all ambition.

  9. avatar

    Yeah, I had this GREAT pic of a chocolate raspberry parfait…but then I found out the onion one existed. Substance before flavor… Glad you liked it! (the post, not the parfait)