One element of developing confidence in salary negotiations is to know what you can reasonably hope to expect. Don't enter negotiations without doing research on what others are paid.
However, be sure to consider people who are performing the same work as you and have the same type of expertise. If you know such people and feel comfortable enough with them, you could ask them personally. But there are several good sources that list average salaries for different professions, such as the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary.com.
Location matters, too. The cost of living can vary widely between, say, New York City and Tulsa. So, if you're considering taking a job that would mean moving to a more expensive city, don't let the offer of a slightly higher salary fool you -- it could amount to a pay cut in the long run.
Although research is important, it won't help if you don't know good negotiation strategy. Experts agree, for instance, that you shouldn't be the one to broach the subject of salary. Don't reveal your last salary at all, and don't say your salary expectations until the prospective employer has named a figure. Although employers usually ask for you to name a figure first, you can politely sidestep this by simply saying "It's negotiable" or "I'd like to see if I'm right for this position before we discuss salary" [source: Weiss].
And, of course, you should negotiate the first offer. If the employer has reached a limit and can't go any higher, this doesn't mean negotiations are over. Many prospective employees don't realize that perks other than salary are negotiable -- like vacation time, which we'll discuss later. But other terms could be on the table as well.
For instance, some companies are able to offer a signing bonus. This is a bonus you get right off the bat for joining a company. It may sound like a strange idea, but companies can avoid awkward situations with a signing bonus. You can probably see how it may cause tension in a workplace if an outsider is brought in on a very high salary, for instance [source: Dawson].
Another option is to ask for a review sooner than the standard yearly review. This will give you an opportunity for a raise quickly, after you've had a little time to prove yourself. Next, we'll talk about good strategy when discussing a raise.