I have two stories.
I had a job that I had enjoyed, but my employees left the company and were replaced by outsourced work. It was turning very sour. I started looking for another job and one of my former coworkers told his new boss about me. I got called in for a "conversation" that ended in a talk about salary. I asked for what I thought was a punch above my weight, but I knew it would be tough since the owners were Chinese(cheap). No reply, but my guy in the company acted as my eyes and ears and relayed to me that it would thought that I was too expensive, but I would most likely get a call in 6 months. This 6 month waiting period was corroborated by others since that time, but I have no idea what the cause of it ever was. I was very desperate to leave, and with my former employees replaced foreign labor I was afraid the same might happen to me. I remembered the guy who liked me the most in the conversation and asked my former employee to tell me when he was in the office, and not in a meeting.
As soon as I got the reply that he was in the office and not in a meeting, I walked in the lobby and asked for him then was directed to a meeting room to wait. Long story short, I told him I was laid off(not true) and that I understand that it would take me a month or two to find a new job and that was just dead space of lost wages, and I understand how that would change the salary negotiations... He was so happy and told me he would have a meeting with the owners. They brought my original salary request down and I agreed. They really thought they got a deal, but the truth was I got a pretty good pay increase just because the valuation of myself was so high during our first meeting.
The second story is less remarkable. I was looking for a job, found a good listing and rearranged my resume for it. It was digital marketing. Once I got in the interview it became obvious that they could use not only digital marketing, but offline direct marketing too, which I had experience in. I played up that part of it and the interview was drawn out for about an hour and a half and became more of a consultation than an interview. I also had an active AdWords certification, which isn't hard to get, but so many people don't have it. I played that up too, and by doing so, I know I just took everyone who I was competing with who did not have it out of the running. I got the wage I asked for and this week will be 2 months into the job. It's the most relaxed job I've never had. I also have not been told to do ANYTHING at all. I just started working and have created my own projects at my will and spend company money however I want. I love this job.
Really, the big upgrades come from getting a new position elsewhere. Studies have shown this too. The biggest on the job accomplishments I've had just came from me having the freedom to see a problem no one else has, fixing it, then showing the results. As far as comparing yourself to others. Talking about pay and what not is tacky, I save that only for the internet. You can also never verify it, so you can be sure there is a lot of lieing going on. Ever see the thread here "what was your starting salary? It's fine to talk about accomplishments here and there. People have seen me as more successful than I was, in the monetary sense, just because I kind of have this vague elitist WASPy air about me.