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My first job out of college was a lot of fun.  I worked for a big corporation on a technical help desk.  I got to talk on the phone all day and help people with their computer problems.

Along the way, I got trained on a whole bunch of cool technology.

It was fun, but there was the whole problem of not really getting paid.  I knew when I took the job that the experience would most likely be a stepping stone.  Sure enough, when I started seeing other people who had hired in around the same time leave, I sensed that it was time.

I gave the obligatory ‘Here's why I deserve more money' to my manager, who nodded, agreed with everything I said, but told me they weren't giving me any more money.

Next, it was time for the search.  I won't bore with the details but we'll skip ahead a bit.

The company I ended up working for was a really small company, so we'll call it Cool Small Company.  I was going to be the third guy hired on the network/desktop side.

At the time, I was making about $26k a year.  They'd thrown a couple bonuses at me along the way to keep me interested, but I knew I could get a pretty big bump.

The boss of Cool Small Company was all about hiring me, now we just needed to get to the nitty gritty.  He asked what I was looking for in terms of salary.

With the Internet still in the infancy and not really having a big wealth of knowledge to research, I decided that $40k would be a great starting point.  After all, that'd be a 50% raise, and I could skip right on by that entire $30k salary range.

I threw the number out there, not sure what he would say, but he nodded and said something along the lines of ‘That's what we were thinking too'.

I didn't realize it then, but I'd probably undersold myself.  I knew it a few months later when I found out what I was being billed out at.  Still, the company was awesome.  They paid for my certification training.  They sent me to Florida twice for conferences.  They gave me really big raises the first couple of years to bring me in line with where I realized I should be.  And the coolest thing that I'll never forget is that, one day in talking with the owner of Cool Small Company, I mentioned that I was going to apply for my MBA.  Right there on the spot, he said he wanted to pay for it.

How cool is that.

In the beginning, I ended up selling myself short on market value.  But, by the time I left Cool Small Company a few years later, I felt as if the difference had been made up big time.  Still, it wouldn't have hurt to have a better handle going in.  Now that there are online tools such as salary checkers and all that, there's a much better chance you can throw a number out there without selling yourself short.

Or, what I've learned since then is not to throw the number out there at all.  I wonder what the offer would have been had I avoided the question and waited for their offer……