A question - how should I handle a pre-interview question asking how much you want for a job.  I know the reason for the question is as a qualifier.  I can read about the position, do some research and come up with a number that I think if fair - but I wonder if there's more to it than and my own industry knowledge.  I usually leave some wiggle room on the bottom because I don't want to be excluded if I'm just a little bit too high in my number and I'm out of their budget.

I have a current position twist on this that I also don't know how to account for.  I've discussed a specific management opportunity with a corporate HR person and we both agree I'm very well qualified for the job.  The twist is the job requires at least one trip a year to a third world country in Africa.  There are no direct reports there, the trip is probably an "education of real world conditions" trip.  I don't get the impression this is unstable areas such as Darfur or Somalia, but security is a concern in my mind.  In your opinion, what kind of salary premuim do you think this should this carry?  



picado24's picture


I have worked in international development for almost 10 years now.  I was interested to see your question.  Is this a non-profit or for-profit organization?  What type of industry?

In a lot of organizations that support operations in field locations in foreign countries it is seen as a professional development opportunity to be able to make trips to the field and is something coveted.  I think that seeing it as a task that they should pay extra for is a VERY wrong approach to take. 

1.  You could easily run the risk of coming off as elitist because you want extra pay to go to a developing country.  If they have operations in this African country this means they have business there.  If they have business there it means that they likely have a corporate culture where the host country or host country nationals are not to be looked down on.  Asking for money for being asked to visit really seems like you are disparaging this country- probably won't go over well.

2.  Since you seem to be concerned about this, I am guessing that you do not have much experience in developing countries (if you do and I am off-base, I apologize).  I have come across people for whom "developing" is kind of intimidating, but once they go (on more than just a tourist basis) they absolutely love the country and appreciate the unique insight they have gained. 

On another level, a prime reason that you should see this as a professional development is that you will be gaining first-hand experience in a different region of the world.  This will very likely give you a competitive edge in future job competition and will command a higher future salary because you will then be a subject matter expert in an area that will likely have few other experts in this country.

3.  It will help you do *this* job better.  Any time when an organization wants to give you training or field trips so that you are able to keep up with the realities of the field it is because they need you to have this knowledge to do your job.  I can't imagine any organization funding trips half way around the world that are not totally necessary.  To me that makes this a great place to work becasue they want to set you up to succeed.

Hope this helps.


RobRedmond's picture

My experience is different from Patricia'sbut she's right - if the company has that culture, and that does not appeal to you, back away now.

I used to work for a company with assets in South America. Doing tours down there always included what we called "combat pay." It was not coveted work - it was simply necessary as part of the job. Since the developing country was seen as dangerous and there was a security risk, it was expected that we would be paid more while doing our time there. It was not uncommon to have body guards, drivers in bullet-proof cars, and a high security building to live in. It was also not entirely unheard of that people were taken hostage or never heard from again.

I did a two year stint in Japan myself. Japan is not a dangerous nor developing country, and I went there out of personal interest and found work rather than as an employee of a company. Yet it was still a very trying experience. My two years there taught me that some people find living without comforts to be a spiritually rewarding experience, and then some of us get over that feeling rapidly and wish we had negotiated better up front.

I would not return to Japan without a golden offer that included considerable luxuries and high pay. As my wife writes in the intro of my book - we often wax nostalgic for Japan - and we will never go back except for brief visits.

I would not consider someone elitist who asked for "combat pay" for being asked to do a tour of duty outside their home country. The food is different - you may find it unpallatable. Health conditions are different. Living without your mother language is very difficult also. Driving on the other side of the road is not easy. Living without central air - that's an education.

In fact, the entire expatriate experience can run "the roller coaster" as we used to call it in Nagoya. You are up one day, having a spiritually rewarding experience in an ancient temple, and the next day you just want to throw it in and go home because of some psychological needs you have culturally that you either cannot fulfill or that are horribly violated by some everyday event the natives do not notice.

The experience opened my eyes to what immigrants to the US go through and what amazing people they must be to make it here and thrive. .

My friends who are training security personnel in Afghanistan are paid exorbitant amounts for being in a dangerous place. I think it is a valid topic. I don't find it elitist to insist that your job compensate you for your time, risk, and discomfort.


Mark's picture
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...And therefore somewhat worthy of covetousness.  If you want to get paid for it, someone else probably every bit as good as you wants that opportunity, and frankly should have it.  They'd probably PAY to have it.

If you don't want to go, that's fine. Careers aren't linear, but are probabilistic - other opportunities will likely come along.  But don't ask for money to make up for your concern. 

In most industries, there is NOT anything roughly akin to combat pay.  There are exceptions, but my intuition tells me you would have told us your industry if that were the case.  A few business trips a year to a country that your company feels it can send someone is not worthy of concern, I don't think.

I have worked in South America, and Africa, and the Middle East.  Companies do not send people to security-compromised locations without clear indications thereof, and briefings, and security services.

And, it's important to note, most countries are far SAFER than the media would have us believe.  When I worked for a large Fortune 500 Tech Company, they had extensive operations in Israel when suicide bombers were more common than today.  When someone mentioned to the Israeli GM that he was concerned about an upcoming trip, and "how were things over there...." the GM replied: "a lot more people died in LA last week than died in Israel last month."

About the only thing I would be QUITE cautious about is regional African airlines.  Their safety records are spotty.  But I'd be willing to bet that you won't have to fly one for the majority of opportunities that I know of that would fit the profile of what you're discussing.

So, do your best on salary, and don't ask for more for the Africa gig.  Go, eat bad food, get sick even, and meet some wonderful people worried for the most part about what you and I are worried about: kids and family and peace and prosperity.  the yardsticks are different, but THAT is where is elitism starts - in the yardstick.  As much as they suck, take your Malaria pills IF the State Department website says to do so.  You won't like them, but Malaria is worse.

[ Rob - I read your book and LOVED it.  I still remember the bicycle, and the shopkeeper closing his door in your face (to say nothing of your FIRST attempt to fly our during the snowstorm.)  But that experience isn't comparable to a time-limited business trip sponsored by a large firm, and neither is security work in Afghanistan. ]

If you're going to be alive, LIVE.


RobRedmond's picture

I misread his post. I read it to say "a trip for a year" as opposed to one trip a year. My fault. Given that it is a single business trip a year to Africa, I would have to say that would be a coveted feature of a job - consider it part of your compensation.

If someone tries to move you overseas for a year or longer, then come back and read what I wrote.


bflynn's picture

Thank you to everyone for the input. Unfortunately, this has turned into a theoretical discussion.

My concern was over the countries that were being considered. I have travelled internationally before and I do think it would be a bonus to travel to certain parts of Africa. But they were talking about countries more along the lines of Darfur, Ethiopia and Somalia. There were additional world wide locations mentioned such as Burma, Columbia and Haiti, so when I expressed my concerns about the security, it wasn't being elitist. I should have been more explicit about the locations.

Without being specific, this was an humanitarian aid agency. Given the overall conditions, it would have been incredibly interesting, but probably not right for me.


Mark's picture
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My response wasn't theoretical.  I completely misread your message - I thought you explicitly excluded those locales.  My apologies.


bflynn's picture

You have no need to apologize, I was not precise.  I knew they were talking about dangerous countries, but I didn't think they were meaning the worst one.  Your advice was very useful and I'll keep it in mind for the future.  

Thank you for your help.