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#WednesdayWisdom: 3 Salary Negotiation Tips From Self-Made Billionaires

Take a look at Forbes' World Billionaires list, and one thing becomes apparent: the best financial advice is to be born into wealth. Nearly a third of the world's billionaires come from money, even if they've managed to boost the family fortunes by dint of hard work. If you've neglected to choose your parents well from a financial perspective, the good news of course it that two-thirds of today's billionaires were not born with a Black Amex burning hole in their wallet. Those are the folks to look to, for inspiration in your next salary negotiation (even if you never quite make Facebook-money).

Take a look at ForbesWorld Billionaires list, and one thing becomes apparent: the best financial advice is to be born into wealth. Nearly a third of the world’s billionaires come from money, even if they’ve managed to boost the family fortunes by dint of hard work. If you’ve neglected to choose your parents well from a financial perspective, the good news of course it that two-thirds of today’s billionaires were not born with a Black Amex burning hole in their wallet. Those are the folks to look to, for inspiration in your next salary negotiation (even if you never quite make Facebook-money).

gold bars 

(Photo Credit: New Old Stock)

1. Sheryl Sandberg: Acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

“I have advised many women to preface negotiations by explaining that they know that women often get paid less than men so they are going to negotiate rather than accept the original offer,” writes Sandberg in Lean In. (Via Careerbliss.)

This one is obviously for women specifically, but it raises a good point for both men and women who hope to boost their salary: being truthful is the best approach to any professional interaction, whether it’s a job search or a sale or a budding client relationship.

That doesn’t mean laying all your cards on the table on the one hand or being accusatory on the other. Note that Sandberg doesn’t suggest saying, “I know you’re going to try to pay me less, because I’m a woman.” She just advises being honest, while still being polite and persistent.

Whether or not you take this approach, it’s a good idea to prepare a script for yourself ahead of time, so that you know exactly what you want to say and how to say it, before you sit down with a potential boss.

2. Jeff Bezos: Base your decisions on facts.

“The great thing about fact-based decisions is that they overrule the hierarchy,” says Bezos. “The most junior person in the company can win an argument with the most senior person with regard to a fact-based decision.”

That’s good advice once you’re working at a company, and good advice while you’re interviewing and negotiating salary. If you come to the table with an accurate idea of how much your skills and experience are worth on the job market, you won’t set your salary range based on gut feelings, whether it’s fear of offending the hiring manager or a desire to buy more stuff.

PayScale’s Salary Survey generates a free salary report based on data, not guesswork. Even if you’re interviewing with intimidating people high up on the corporate ladder, knowing how much you’re worth will help you get the salary you deserve.

3. Oprah Winfrey: Being lucky isn’t just about luck.

“I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity,” says Winfrey, who has also said that she attributes her financial success to the fact that her “focus has never, ever for one minute been money.”

If that seems like a contradiction, it’s not – at least, not necessarily. Salary negotiations are about money, yes, but they’re not just about money. They’re also about what money means (e.g. security, respect) and what it says about how your prospective employer deals with supporting and rewarding their workers.

To that end, you want to go into the negotiation with your facts straight, but you also need to focus on more than just the dollar amount on your first paycheck. How does the review process work at your potential new company, and how does that play into raises and promotions? Do people move up at this organization – or move out? What are the benefits like, and do any of them help you save money or otherwise maintain a better quality of life?

Preparing and thinking beyond next week’s paycheck will help you plan a career that helps you grow, learn, and move forward, while earning an appropriate salary in the process.

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What’s your best salary negotiation tip? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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