The Most Important Career Conversation You Don't Want to Have!

Author, Dr. Ronda Ansted, is an RPCV (South Africa) and the founder of Be the Change Career Consulting. Her career coaching mobile app, My Career Design Studio, was created for those without the resources to work one-on-one with a career coach. Her mission is to help people who want to make a difference in the world to design and create their right-fit career based on their strengths and passions.

I'm a career consultant who primarily works with clients in the international development and social impact fields. This means that a majority of my clients care less about money than personal mission. They may recognize that both are important to making a true impact, but salary isn’t necessarily their main concern. Salary negotiations, a difficult topic for most people, can be especially challenging for those who aren’t significantly motivated by money.

Yet making a comfortable living is crucial for people in the social impact fields. 

Whether you are working in anti-poverty programs, environmental justice, or social policies, the work can be grueling and can lead to burnout. You need to make sure that financial concerns don’t create an obstacle to making a difference through your career. Salary negotiation preparation is an important yet often-neglected part of the job search strategy.

On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, I will lead a salary negotiations workshop at Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., for local Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The purpose of this workshop is to understand salary negotiation processes and to practice different strategies that will ensure you find work you love, and that loves you back!

Here are a few things that we’ll cover:

  1. How salary negotiation fits into your job search strategy. You will naturally be able to command a higher salary when you are a perfect fit for the job and you can easily articulate the value you’ll bring. To get a high salary, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate exactly how much you’re worth. We’ll talk about ways you can do that.
  2. Leverage: what it is and how you can use it. Knowing and articulating your worth is foundational in asking for a high salary. But this is a negotiation, after all. You’ll need to understand the leverage you have and at what time you can best use it. (HINT: It’s after you’re offered the job!)
  3. Navigating salary questions throughout the application process. When you talk about salary too soon, you are squandering your leverage. Knowledge is power and the more they know about you, the more power they have. That’s why you’ll be asked about salary expectations before the job offer. Learn artful ways of dodging these questions so that you give yourself a strong position.
  4. How to overcome feelings of low worth. Often, people underestimate themselves, and their value, which sets them up for a lifetime of low wages. There are techniques to help you overcome this. Learn them and use them!

Here are some questions to ask yourself when preparing for this uncomfortable but necessary conversation:

  1. Do I know the market rate for the jobs I’m applying for? You can learn the market rates in your area through certain websites (;; and
  2. What about for specific companies? You’ll find salary information by organization at
  3. Do I know the skills and expectations for the jobs I’m applying to? Read job descriptions and postings carefully so you have a sense of what’s common across similar jobs.
  4. Can I describe relevant accomplishments that demonstrate my expertise and that I have made positive impacts at previous jobs? Look at the job requirements and identify something that you did that was similar. Then practice talking about it using the SCAR method: What was the SITUATION you walked into? What CHALLENGES did you face? What ACTIONS did you take to overcome those challenges? What were the RESULTS of your actions?

The goal of these questions is to help you get the job offer. You’ll only get a job offer if they want to hire you and that’s when you’ll have the most leverage.

Salary negotiation is only a part of the larger process of career design. Career design is identifying perfect-fit jobs and creating a job search strategy based on your strengths and innate talents. To learn more about career design and how it sets you up for a fulfilling and rewarding career, come to RPCV/W’s workshop on August 14 and hone your salary negotiation skills!



Our blog is a platform for RPCVs to share their stories and activities as they relate to our mission and that of the Peace Corps. The opinions shared in this blog do not reflect the views of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C., and do not constitute endorsement of any particular organization or activities.