Promotion Conundrum

Hello Everyone! I am currently an assistant who has been an assistant for 3 1/2 years now at the same company. About 6 months ago myself, boss, DEI and CEO sat down to discuss my career trajectory and what has kept me stagnant from being promoted to Designer to which I was told my speed (non quantifiable, and subjective). Fast forward 6 months after checking in twice, I’ve been told several times how incredible my work is and how I will be promoted to Designer. I just happened to check my companies internal site and saw that my title has changed from Design Assistant to Associate Designer and my pay has changed from 20.40 hr (43,000) to 58000 annually (something yet to be discussed with me). And I can’t help but feel I’ve been played. I’m fully aware that the person who was in the role before me and operated the same as I do, was paid $80000 (while the pandemic was occurring). If anyone can offer any tips on how to negotiate the correct and previously discussed title promotion as well address the glaring lowballing of salary without simply reducing it to race, that would be greatly appreciated!

Are you currently looking for a new position? If not, start!

I’m not saying that you should leave your current company but rather, it is good to know what is available and to actually engage with recruiters and hiring managers from other organizations.


I’ve been in this position before early in career and as (sometimes) the only POC in my department so I know it’s a tough spot. My suggestions:

  1. Do NOT mention that you saw the title /salary change. You usually have to sign off on promotions and title changes. If they did that without you knowing that’s shady and probably not a company you want to continue to stick with.

  2. When negotiating, keep to the facts. I.E. My designs have brought in x amt of dollars to the company over the last 3 years, etc.

  3. Do not mention your coworkers salary unless that coworker told you directly what their salary was. If so, then I would bring up the comparables. I.e. They launched X, I launched X. They executed Y, I executed Y, etc.

  4. And definitely shop around elsewhere as grandpoobah said. It will give you some perspective of your worth. To be honest, if you want to stay with the company, it will tough to jump from a $43K salary to $80K in one jump without leaving. I definitely think that’s one of the industries issues as it perpetuates low salary and no worker loyalty but it is a normal trajectory.

  5. Keep pushing! Keep emailing HR, DEI, etc. Keep setting up meetings to talk about your career. Keep a paper trail of conversations and your reviews. Make copies. Make sure to read and only sign things you agree with.

Just a snippet of the BS I’ve put up with in my 15 years in fashion: I’ve had bosses try to push me to sign blank reviews with no feedback because they were up against a deadline. I’ve have a VP CHANGE my end of year ratings (which would have triggered a promotion) after my boss and I have discussed/ signed off only because she didn’t like my boss. (This is a fact as they got into frequent shouting matches in the office) She also never said anything until I followed up several weeks later about the status of my promotion. I have been there and it sucks but you’re on the right path!

Good luck and I’d love to hear how it turns out.


Yes I’ve been looking for a new role for over a year now, have gotten to final rounds a few times but haven’t landed anything yet.

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Thank you! This has been very helpful, I did in fact receive insight into my former team members salary who functioned exactly as I do currently and she made more than me at the associate level, she also shared what her salary was at the designer level. I did think the change was super shady, especially because no one discussed it with me or presented me with a contract. I hope to get out of here soon as I am continuously undervalued, and overworked.

First off- same feedback and info as the other people- you should start looking for another job- but not because you feel you missed out and feel entitled to someone else’s pay.

First off- 3 1/2 years as an asst is too long- you should have moved to associate level designer by now. Sometimes- often- that doesn’t happen by staying at the same company. Most companies have the thought of “why should I pay you more to have you keep doing the same job you are doing” which is why changing jobs is key to growth, both financially and professionally.

I also feel it is important to change jobs, especially with your level of experience- because you need to learn new practices and processes of how to do things. You will learn something new at every company, and while there is no “right” way, having a variety of ways to approach a project will only help you long term. As you become a designer, being able to be nimble and troubleshoot issues in a company’s practices makes you not only a better designer, but also a better business partner and collaborator. When I’m hiring someone, I’m always leery of when they only have experience at one or two companie… so many times I have heard “Well, this is the way I’ve always done it…” At this point in your career, you don’t want to turn into someone whose skills are one sided. Working at a new company will enable you to meet new people, learn new ways of doing things, and also work on new product categories that you may not even know that you like!

As for your jump from assistant to associate designer- this is a natural progression. While you may feel you are doing your predecessors work- and I don’t know all the details- you most probably are not coming in with her past experience, aesthetic eye, and wealth of knowledge, which is what got her that salary. Design is not just task driven. It takes a while to develop these skills, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but 3 1/2 years of assistant work does not entitle you to a $80k salary. I worked for YEARS- as an asst, associate, and then designer- before I made anything approaching that. And when I finally did make that salary, I had a huge breadth of experience in tech, fitting, color and fabric development, sales meetings and presentations, travel to Asian factories, etc under my belt. And while I had different workloads at each company, it was ALL my past experiences that made me a valuable player.

Honestly, your company is trying to do the right thing by promoting you internally, getting you a promoted title, and also giving you a big salary jump (a $15k raise… that is unheard of!). They are giving you a path for growth- which so many places don’t do- and while it may be disappointing, they are genuinely partnering to give you want you want. They also appreciate your work and want to keep you. Yes, they are dangling a carrot of eventually being a designer there. But you are not being played. Go out and try to land an $80k Designer role somewhere else with your current resume… and if you get it, congrats. But I’d say most likely the best path for you would be to humbly accept your promotion and pay raise, and use that, in the next 6 months, to find something else at another company. Gotta start climbing that ladder somewhere else eventually!


I agree with you twirlgirl- the company is giving her a pathway to growth - they must see potential here- also the company may be policy-limited in how many steps in the org chart they can advance someone at a certain level to another level.


Thank you everyone! I seemed to have overlooked that I’ve worked for this company for 5 1/2 years, my experience here in this category and business surpasses my predecessor, which is why it is frustrating and quite the conundrum. I’ve been thé design lead on an upcoming collaboration launching soon, and am the designer behind the most lucrative aspect of our business, that is upwardly growing. Lead presentations, developed fabric, etc. The capacity at which I function throughout the entire design process isn’t one of an assistant or associate and really I just need the title change to be further validated in my job search. The assistant title has pigeon holed me to a degree in my search as I have been looking to leave for about a year and keep getting offered other assistant level positions. Which just feels wrong or rather a waste of any hiring teams time because I’m looking for a step up, not a side step you know?


Unfortunately, if you are an assistant now (title on your resume), you’ll most likely never get offered a DESIGNER role by another company. Associate Designer is the next progression step.

Take the new title and money gracefully, and plan your future exit so you can continue your path of growth. Best of luck :slight_smile:


Been following along - how are things progressing? Did they ever come back to you with a proper contract or have you moved on?

I’m still on the path for a new opportunity, hoping that I will land something new soon.

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