Letter of CWGL for all of those who want to be part of the campaign:
In these turbulent times, the global theme of the 16 Days Campaign, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World”, could not be more pertinent. During the last year we have witnessed gender-based violence targeted at women in the streets, at home, and in the workplace as they go about their daily activities and defend their rights; and so the struggle continues. The Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) is excited to share with you the 2014 Take Action Kit for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.
It remains critically important to address the intersections of gender-based violence and militarism in the lives of women, men, and whole communities. As a set of ideas and values, militarism is pervasive and has detrimental effects on the safety, security and dignity of all peoples. Militarism is rooted in patriarchal beliefs about gender, and influences how we are socialized to believe in and act upon stereotypes. Militarism enables perpetrators of violence to act with impunity, governments to sanction discriminatory and unequal legislation and policies, and societies to condone and promote harmful cultural practices.
There is no better time than during the 16 Days Campaign to advocate for an end to gender-based violence, in all its forms – from child marriage to femicide, from attacks on Women Human Rights Defenders to violations of women’s right to land and access to productive resources.
Join activists who believe that women’s human rights are indivisible by participating in this year’s 16 Days Campaign! The Campaign is highlighting three priority areas that affect issues of gender-based violence in cross-cutting ways: 1) Violence Perpetrated by State Actors; 2) Proliferation of Small Arms in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence; and 3) Sexual Violence During and After Conflict. These priority areas encompass a multitude of vital issues. By participating in the 16 Days Campaign, you can choose to take action most relevant to your context.
Regardless of the issues you choose to focus on this year, we encourage you to adapt the Take Action Kit materials so that they are relevant for local work. We encourage you to find ways to connect with the international theme and work in solidarity with other activists around the world. We hope you will find the enclosed Campaign materials helpful as you plan your events for this year’s 16 Days Campaign.
In the Take Action Kit, you will find the following materials:
Information on Violence Perpetrated by State Actors; Proliferation of Small Arms in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence; Sexual Violence During and After Conflict; on Gender-Based Violence, Women Human Rights Defenders, and State Accountability; on What is Militarism?; and on Gender-Based Violence in the Workplace.
Profiles on the Post 2015 Women’s Coalition, the Beijing+20 process, and information on writing grant proposals, creating a press release, and using social media, along with 16 Days Campaign and Center for Women’s Global Leadership brochures which you can share.
Links to all of the materials in the Kit are available online at: http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/2014-campaign/2014-take-action-kit. Share your planned actions on the International Campaign Calendar: http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/campaign-calendar. Submit photos and see them on the 16 Days Flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16dayscampaign/), or share your videos, advocacy materials, newspaper articles, and reports with us.
Thank you for being part of the 16 Days Campaign in the effort to end gender-based violence!
Savi Bisnath, PhD
SEATTLE — Natasha Leite has nine years of experience working as a governance expert in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. She has recently written a book on development work called “Doing What You Love! A Straightforward Guide to a Career in International Development” that can be found here. You can also subscribe to her newsletter on development, follow her other articles or learn about a career in development or job opportunities on her Facebook page.
Here is my Q&A with Natasha Leite:
1. What does the “new generation of development professionals” look like?
This new generation of development professionals have probably grew up with the idea of development workers from the 90s and 00s… In a very romanticized way. Alongside the Generation Y high expectations for their (our) future came the idea that your work should also be meaningful and, for many, that translates into development work. They are also more educated and tech-savvy than the generation before… Because, well, we grew up with this technology and a market that demanded more qualification.
2. Why is there a divide between the two generations? What changes exist and why?
The main divide between the two generations is that previous development workers didn’t graduate in international development or have related MAs. They value much more practice-based education and work experience, which has led to a lot of activities that were implemented on a trial and error basis. In turn, this generation has focused on getting advanced degrees early. And even though we graduate much earlier, it’s easier for all this knowledge to become wasted if there is no relation with practice. Furthermore, having a bit of practical experience (if that is your goal) before going to graduate school can significantly alter your perspectives on work, on what do you want to focus in your degree and how to make the most out of that experience.
Also, there is a different profile… Before, most aid workers came from semi-diplomatic backgrounds (for headquarters) or field workers who were sort of a mix of misfits/adventurous/missionaries who were expecting to face a lot of hardships, but they would do it anyway. Not many protocols or standards of protection. Today, we have an array of intermediate positions and much more job security and professionalization of the area (which is a positive, in my opinion). People today are more entitled than before, when they knew that this would be a difficult process. Plus, today, there is a lot more ownership of local knowledge and local experts, so it is truly a global competition (which I also add to the good aspects).
3. What are various challenges that this generation faces? How and why are they different from those that previous generations faced?
This generation faces more competition for sure. Most professionals can find a related area of expertise in the nonprofit world. You can be a doctor for MSF or an engineer for UNICEF. However, social scientists and humanities students have to work double to establish themselves as viable and valuable candidates.
Also, there is a lot more being requested from entry-level workers than before. It’s not good enough to know English. You have to know English and another U.N. language, plus a local language if that language is not among big 6 (Arabic, English, French, Mandarin, Spanish and Russian). Plus, if you want to work abroad you must have some outside-country experience and related-experience, which usually is a tall order from someone who has just graduated at 21-22. So, I would start thinking local before going global.
The other good aspect from previous generations in that they had no rush to get where they got. They knew where they wanted to be, so they didn’t mind investing the time to get [there]. We grew up on a diet of instant gratification, so patience is something that many have to work on.
4. Why do you believe that investors should focus on this generation and the work they do?
I think investors should focus on great ideas, innovative solutions, ownership and prioritizing the views of local communities, supporting projects for longer periods of time (5 years, instead of the current year-funding madness)… Regardless of the generation it is coming from.
5. Why do you think it is important to change things on a global scale?
I think it is important to change things in a local scale globally, especially social injustice. If everybody had a chance of dignified living, our collective existence would improve greatly. We don’t live by ourselves. We share this world with a lot of people, most of whom don’t share our privileges and don’t have the access to the same opportunities.
I think it is part of our job – as development workers, but also as a society – to be more tolerant and supportive with one another. Yes, we have to support the development of individuals, but we also have to empower communities and encourage social cohesion in order to create peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies.
6. If you could invest a billion dollars in improving the world, how would you spend it?
Uff… That’s a difficult question. Twenty percent I would spend it in 5-year innovative peace projects that could chance their priorities according to evaluations and communities’ priorities.
Another 20 percent I would spend in girls’ education where the educational gap between boys and girls is more critical. Women are half of the world’s population, but in most countries their ability to transform and improve their communities is limited due to patriarchal values that lead us nowhere.
Definitely would invest in the other 20 percent in sexual and reproductive health rights. It’s been 20 years since the International Conference for Population Development and we have progressed. In many cases, it even seems like we are moving backwards. We desperately need family planning, sexual education, but also appropriate clinics and support for people who have been sexually assaulted in conflict and emergency scenarios.
Twenty percent I would spend on legal and psychosocial support for victims of human trafficking; it’s the fastest growing criminal trend and the actions being taken to curb come once again from a perspective of criminalizing the victims.
Last, but not least, I would invest my last 20 percent in restorative justice. Supporting our justice systems to become much more focused on what the victim needs to move on with her life than to focus on punishing the guilty and creating one more instrument of “social control” of the most underprivileged.
I chose those areas because I believe they have major repercussions on people’s lives. But also, because I believe they are the ones that create the least dependency. I also think that the existing investment on those areas is: a) very limited or b) very restrictive.
7. Further comments:
I think we have enhanced the quality of development work a lot. We pay more attention to the sustainability of our actions and their future consequences. The field is a lot more democratic and communities have a bigger role in the development of projects. It does make the process a little more burocractic, but there is also a lot more transparency and accountability.
This article was originally posted at Borgen Magazine.
Oxfam’s From Poverty to Power usually doesn’t share that much on the career aspects of the job, but this is one of those stellar moments. So here is the post, originally posted at http://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/how-to-get-a-job-in-development-an-fp2p-guide/ by Duncan Green.
There’s nothing like a lecture tour to bring home just how many bright young people are desperate to work in development, and how hard we make it for them (is this a deliberate form of institutional Darwinism, in which only the most determined survive?) So I’ve gone back over a few previous bits of advice from me and others, to produce this revamped FP2P guide to throwing your life away getting a job in development.
I won’t give advice on what to study – if you’re reading this, it’s probably too late anyway. But in any case, qualifications are not enough – you need to get involved in organising relevant activities at your university, depending on your interests (e.g.Engineers Without Borders, Amnesty International, assorted International Development committees). You’ll learn a lot, make great contacts and friends, and develop skills that NGOs prize (organisational abilities, putting on events, writing, debating etc).
Then, decide what kind of work you are interested in. Research? Programme work on the ground? Emergencies (conflict refugees, disaster reconstruction etc)? Advocacy and lobbying? Public campaigning?
Next think what kinds of experience will help – experience often marks you out more than gaining another post graduate qualification, but you have to find some way to get over the inevitable first-rung problem of ‘how can I get experience when I haven’t got enough experience to land a job’ – it’s not easy, but it can be done.
For emergencies and programme work, try and get out there and get some experience in developing countries – it’s very hard to arrange that from this end, unless you have a particular network (eg a Church or university connection) that you can call on, so many people just try and sort something out on the spot. For campaigners, a record of activism at university or afterwards is always helpful.
For advocacy work, NGOs are often impressed by people who have worked in other sectors, especially the institutions we are keen to influence – governments north or south, multinational companies, aid donors. Many of them are much larger than Oxfam, and have good graduate entry schemes – a further advantage if you’re trying to get your foot on the ladder. Many are highly competitive, but check out the schemes for DFID, the World Bank, or the Overseas Development Institute. And if successful, make sure you get out before you get too comfortable, as NGOs are likely to pay less!
Show your face. Putting in a spell as an intern may not help with your student debt, but it enables you to make your mark and prove your commitment. It also enables you to apply for jobs that are only advertised internally, including short term jobs (maternity cover etc) that help you get on the paid employment ladder. But be choosy who you intern for, and what jobs you accept – even if there is no pay involved, you are offering skills and time to an organization, and should demand things in return.
And remember that research, advocacy and campaigning jobs are often the most sought after and competitive. It may be advisable to try to get a foothold by applying for more ‘corporate’ areas such as marketing, HR and finance, and then start from there.
Once you get an interview, follow all those useful guides to how to prep etc, but also, don’t hide your passion (even if you’re English). I’ve given jobs to interviewees because they were more passionate about development than the other candidates, (and never regretted it).
And here are some thoughts from a couple of other development bloggers
1. Get an office job while you’re still in school. Most development work is office work. You need to prove you can handle an office every day. Really, the only way to do that is to have an office job. Do it in the summers if you can’t hack it while in school. Office work is not the most profitable way to spend your time, but it will be worth it later.
2. Study something useful at university. For example, technical subjects like nursing and IT are useful. Epidemiology is useful. A master’s degree is more useful than an undergrad degree.
3. Learn to write. I don’t mean you need to be a novelist, but with practice everybody can write a clear, useful report at decent speed. Have writing samples to prove you can do it.
4. Study a second language. You don’t have to get all that good at it, but making the effort demonstrates you are willing to commit yourself to international and intercultural work. If you are already bilingual, you don’t have to learn a third language. People will assume you are good at intercultural navigation.
5. I think this is the hardest one: Have a goal for what you want to do, that’s specific but not too specific. “I am interested in food security and emergency relief” has a good level of specificity. “I want to work for UNDP” is too specific. “I am interested in women’s empowerment, reproductive health, and community development” is too vague. There is kind of an art to this; basically you want to give people a sense of who you are and what you want. Too broad and they don’t have any sense of you. Too narrow and you’ve ruled out too many jobs. If you’re having trouble with this, it’s a good thing to talk over with a mentor.
To which Chris Blattman adds
6. Be prepared to volunteer your first couple jobs
7. Pound the less-trodden pavement (e.g. try contacting program managers, country offices, etc. directly rather than applying through the front door)
8. Consider a private firm
9. It’s a numbers game (so understand that 50 emails will yield 45 non-responses, 3 immediate rejections, 2 interviews – and one job)
10. Be willing to go to uncomfortable places.
Alanna and Chris are both included in the exhaustive and excellent set of posts and links onWhydev.org
And once you get the elusive job, you can of course get your disillusionment in early by signing up to the excellent Stuff Expat Aidworkers Like blog. With that, good luck to all. Anyone know of any books I can recommend on this?
Originally posted: http://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/how-to-get-a-job-in-development-an-fp2p-guide/
I work with development for 9 years. I give lectures about defining yourself as a development professional. I even wrote a book about how to get a job in international development. The number one question I get, regardless where I am is how do I get my foot on the door? Or something along those lines….
For my first article for AidBoard I decided to help you with that… Some practical information on how to start working in development through access schemes. Now, I’m not saying this is the only way you can start working in development, but they are usually a very good place to start.
Access schemes are basically traineeships for international, regional and cooperation organizations. These programmes focus on “young talent”, so there are not aiming at experience, but “potential”. Well, at least in theory. That’s why we are separating then in the good, the bad and the ugly!
Here is this category are the programmes that are what they say they are without some twist, crazy application process or requirements.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – Graduate Trainee (IHL)
The ICRC’s offers traineeships in their Legal Division for a period of one year at its headquarters in Geneva.
Tasks and Responsibilities:
Trainees at the Legal Division undertake a variety of assignments, including carrying out research and writing project briefs on specific legal questions primarily related to IHL, both in French and in English. They also review legal documents, contribute to the preparation of meetings, prepare draft reports or minutes of meetings and give presentations on IHL to groups visiting the ICRC.
- A university degree in law or international relations and a Master degree in international law (or an equivalent post-graduate legal training).
- Excellent knowledge of IHL (shortlisted candidates will be tested in IHL during the course of the interviews).
- Fluency in either French or English, and a very good understanding of the other.
- Age: Applicants should be between 25 and 30 years old at the beginning of the traineeship.
Why is it good? Besides being a great way to start building a career in humanitarian standards and protection, the ICRC actually has a fairly consistent process of selecting trainees and their stipend is reasonable.
For more information, check their page here.
UNHCR – Entry-Level Humanitarian Professional Programme (EHP)
The Entry-Level Humanitarian Professional Programme, or EHP, is a competitive point of entry into UNHCR for talented professionals under 40 years of age who have a passion for humanitarian work. This recruitment initiative is designed to identify highly qualified and motivated individuals with the right profiles, willing to be deployed to locations where they are needed most.
Selected candidates will join the programme at the P2 level on a two-year cohort program and will be deployed to the field after having completed a comprehensive orientation program.
Applicants will need to fulfill the following minimum requirements:
- Advanced university degree, at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution;
- Two years of relevant working experience in the respective functional area;
- Excellent knowledge of English and at least one other UN language (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish). Additional languages are an asset;
- Ability to work in a multicultural team;
- Willingness to serve in conflict zones, deep field locations;
- Willingness to rotate every few years.
Why is it good? UNHCR has taken YPP, NETI and other UN-born talent initiatives and it has made it better. The process is really consistent, well-publicized and they recruit within several of UNHCR specific and functional areas, so the topics are not so broad that can gather the interest of everyone.
More information about this programme at this page.
Should I say it more, the category “bad” is relegated to programmes in which the “intended” applicants have no chance of getting in or there is a pretty significant catch.
United Nations’ Young professionals programme (YPP)
The young professionals programme (YPP) is a recruitment initiative that brings new talent to the United Nations through an annual entrance examination. For young, high-caliber professionals across the globe, the examination is a platform for launching a career at the United Nations.
Are you eligible to participate in the young professionals programme examination?
- Do you hold at least a first-level university degree?
- Are you 32 or younger by the end of this year?
- Do you speak either English and/or French fluently?
- Are you a national of a participating country?
The examination is held worldwide and is open to nationals of countries participating in the annual recruitment exercise – the list of participating countries is published annually and varies from year to year.
Initially you will be appointed for two years and then be reviewed for a continuing appointment. The Organisation promotes mobility within and across duty stations and job families. As a new recruit you are expected to work in a different duty station for your second assignment.
Why is it ugly? It builds on the premise that everyone can be a part of the United Nations, but the criteria are so broad for most of the areas selected that it is almost impossible for an entry-level professional to be selected. A lot of the selected professional have been working in the area for at least 7 years, speak more than one of the UN official languages and have a graduate degree. So, the promise does not match reality.
For more information, check this page.
UNESCO Young Professionals’ (YP) Programme
The Young Professionals’ (YP) Programme provides the opportunity for young university graduates and young qualified professionals from non- and under-represented Member States* to join UNESCO early in their professional career.
- Age: less than 30 years.
- Education: an advanced university degree in education, culture, science, social and human sciences or communication, or in a field of direct relevance to the management and administration of an international organisation.
- Languages: fluent English or French and a good knowledge of the other working language. Knowledge of Arabic, Chinese, Spanish or Russian is an additional asset.
- Previous experience: initial professional experience is an asset, but not mandatory.
- Nationality: non- or under-represented Member State in UNESCO.
- Values: Integrity, professionalism, respect for diversity and a strong commitment to the UNESCO mission.
Why is it bad? The bureaucracy of this process is astounding. Not only the processes have to pass through the national commissions who have their own way of communicating with headquarters, hindering any chance of consistency in this process. The internal processes within national commissions tend to be less than transparent and have very little accountability. It is something that UNESCO has been trying to improve in the last 5 years, but it still has a way to go.
More information at this page.
WORLD BANK – Young Professionals Program
The following are minimum requirements to be eligible for the Young Professionals Program.
- Be 32 years of age or younger (i.e. born on or after October 1, 1982)
- PhD or Master’s degree and relevant work experience[?]
- Be fluent in English
- Please note that full proficiency in one or more of the Bank’s working languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish is desired but not required.
- Specialize in a field relevant to the World Bank’s operations such as economics, finance, education, public health, social sciences, engineering, urban planning, and natural resource management.
- Have at least 3 years of relevant professional experience related to development or continued academic study at the doctoral level.
In order to be competitive for the limited number of positions, a combination of the following credentials is highly desirable:
- Display a commitment and passion for international development
- Possess outstanding academic credentials
- Exhibit excellent client engagement and team leadership skills
- Have international development country experience
- Be motivated to relocate and undertake country assignments
- Please note that the Young Professionals Program does not recruit individuals who specialize in disciplines such as: Computer Science, HR, Accounting, Marketing, Law and Linguistics.
Why is it ugly? Besides being known to be a process of somewhat “internal” referral, this process has more minimum requirements than a mortgage loan. It favors Economic majors, Economic majors pursuing their PhDs and candidates from American Universities. Plus, it has a peculiar discrimination against computer science, HR, accounting, marketing, law and linguistics…
For more information, please, check this link.
Here are the processes that would be good, if there was not some pesky catch. At the same time, the little twist is not big enough to redeem them as “bad”.
Save the Children UK: Entry level trainee schemes
Save the Children UK’s entry level trainee schemes are designed to enable trainees to develop the necessary skills in order to launch a long lasting career in the humanitarian sector. The focus may be on programme management, logistics or technical specialties (e.g. health, water and sanitation, shelter) and trainees are placed with a country programmes that has the operational capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance.
Why is it ugly? It is very transparent process, however you have to keep a watchful eye to figure out the time of application and it is restricted to UK and EU nationals.
For more information here.
GIZ – Development Cooperation Trainee Programme
The programme begins on 1 July of each year and lasts 17 months, during which time you will learn hands-on about many different aspects of German and multilateral development cooperation. The programme focuses on technical cooperation (TC). Training begins in Germany with two months of preparation for your assignment abroad, comprising an induction period at GIZ Head Office and a preparatory programme at the German Academy for International Cooperation (AIZ).
This is followed by a 12-month assignment abroad, nine months of which will be spent working on a GIZ project in one of our partner countries and the remaining three months in a partner country or at the head office of another German or international organisation for development. You will then undertake a three-month assignment at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Bonn or Berlin.
Once you have completed this programme, you will be well qualified to take on a challenging post as a specialist or manager at GIZ, or within another German or international development institution.
You need to have a university degree (Bachelor or higher). You should also have gained some initial work experience (this can include internships) or hold a postgraduate qualification. Initial experience of working in a developing country and knowledge of development cooperation (this can similarly include internships) are desirable. The programme is open to people of any nationality, but it is important that you have a sound command of spoken and written German.
The ugly? It is well know to be a great opportunity and YPPs usually get absorbed quickly by the institution – which should be the goal of most of these programmes. It is really consistent and the information easy to find. It is just known to favor applicants that have interned in GIZ before.
For more information, check their page.
First published at Aidboard.
Related: Want to build career in international development? Don’t reach for the UN
Doing what you love! A Straightforward guide to a career in international development
Last part of my AMA with the Reddit folks! This part was definitely more job-related, but I hope you enjoyed the discussions!
Q: What would you suggest for someone hoping to get a career at the UN?
A: My best advice would be not to focus on the UN but what type of job would like to have. Focus on what, more than where. I have written an article on Idealist with more details. Especially for those of you who are just starting – not sure if it is your case – try local NGOs and national NGOs. If you are really gunning for the UN, try looking at National Offices first. Internships in the HQs (Geneva and NY) don’t translate into jobs after or that much of a valuable experience. Also, take a look at UN programmes such as UNV, in which you are a volunteer with all your expenses paid, but that usually translates into great experiences and you are able to parlay that to a “fixed-term” post and JPO, where your country or A country finances a P-2 (entry-level professional position for a year with the possibility of a year extension.
Q: What internship/opportunities did you pursue out of undergrad? Do you see a specific field of development work that has had the most impact? I’m currently an international studies undergrad still figuring things out and contemplating joining the peace corps.
A: While I was doing my undergrad degrees, I first worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross, then went on to working as a paid intern for a local NGO for 2 years. After I graduated, they hired me as a full time staff. Well, again, impact is very condition and context-dependent. I think the development work that has most impact is the one that is able to deliver the foundations and the services most needed to that country or community. On a personal note, I like working with communities and people. I think it recharges me. But, working on this, you will understand that every position, every one has their value. You need the fundraising to implement your projects, national support helps with ownership and the sustainability of your actions, M&E is important because it helps you keep track of what you are doing and your results. Plus, we can’t do it all alone. So, we need other organisations with other technical skill to help as solve the complex issues we are dealing with.
So, my advice is usually: do what you love! What are the subjects that appeal to you? What are the topics you love delving into. This field really demands specialisation, but that does not mean you have to specialise on a subject. You may find that you love a lot of topics in development and work with all of them being a cross-cutting specialist – by specialising on Programming, M&E, Knowledge Management, Communications…
I think the Peace Corps is a really great programme! It gives you opportunity to challenge yourself in a new environment as well as helping you define what you want to be as a professional. International Development is all about your accumulated experience, so that is a pretty great place to start.
Related: What recruitment officers really look for
A: I’m graduating in a few weeks with a BS in Economics. I have zero related work experience, but some volunteer experience abroad. I hope to partially compensate for this omission with an excellent academic record.I’m looking to be a research assistant in the field of economic development, specifically something that would prove useful if I decided to do graduate work in economics. I don’t care where I work, as long as I work in the service of the poor. Innovations for Poverty Action seems like the biggest clearinghouse for work like this, but if you have other suggestions I’d love to hear them. I realize you’re closer to development practice than development research, but I imagine you come into contact with research.
Q: I’m closer to applied research than purely academic research, that’s for sure. Even though I do think we all got important roles in the discussion of aid and development, I’m just impatient and usually like to see the research in practice or being used for something. Guess that happens when your parents are accountants.
There are a lot of interesting fellowships for Economics, I think you should take a look at: Proinspire Business fellowship, Acumen fellowship, Kiva fellowship, IDEX fellowship and IDEO fellowship. Especially, because again, even when you are a Research Assistant, your previous experience will come a lot in hand. It also helps to have a blog or a web portfolio of your articles. Innovations for Poverty Action does a pretty sound work, but I would take a look at http://acumen.org/ ,http://www.skollfoundation.org/ , even http://www.grameenfoundation.org/.
Most of the organisations that try to tackle Poverty have to done some background research for it and that can be you. Best of luck!
Q: Any advice for someone who wants to work at the UN? I’m hoping to work in climate change adaptation / disaster risk reduction at UNEP or UNDP.edit: I’m currently living in Cambodia working as a journalist, plan to start a masters in climate change adaptation in 2015
A: You can work with one, the other or both! Well, just explaining, UNEP usually does not work with DRR. Within UNDP there is an area of Environment and Energy, which works closely with Crisis Prevention and Recovery (where I used to work), who has the mandate for Disasters. I would also take a look at UNISDR’s website http://www.unisdr.org/ , specially in the section “Who do we work with” to have a better picture of who is working out there. Again, I have written a recent article on Idealist that has more details on how to work at the UN, by not focusing on working at the UN. Your international experience already comes to your advantage and there are many organisations working on DRR and CCA in South East Asia, so you already have an unique advantage to this field. Unlike the HR at the UN, you can call those and ask if can sit down for an informal interview or “use” your journalism background to get to know more about them. I’m not saying to pretend to make a story about them, but you more than most will be used to cold-calling and getting the information that you need.
Q: Wow thanks a ton man that’s actually very stellar, practical advice! Go reddit!
Related: Want to build career in international development? Don’t reach for the UN
Q: Hi OP, I’ve just completed my BA in IR/ ID and I’m scouring MA programs across Canada. My specific interests are conflict, development, and IPE (I’ve been taking a look at UBC’s poli-sci program since some advisors are working in fields I’m very interested in). Just wondering where you completed your master’s and what kind of advice you would have for someone researching programs in a field similar to yours.A little background on myself: I have almost two years work experience (off and on) for the federal government here in Canada, one term with Health Canada working on the Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence, and the rest of my terms with DFATD, specifically with MEP or the Development Policy and Institutions division. I am taking the year off to work and travel and hope to be back in school (somewhere) in fall 2015. Budgetary cuts in the government have put downward pressure on hiring here in Ottawa in both the federal government and in the local NGOs (who have downsized due to funding cuts). So things are bit tough for the moment here, but I believe, like usual, they will pick up in the coming years (hopefully beginning with the 2015 federal election!).Thanks for any and all advice. I’ll be sure to check out your newsletter, cheers!
A: Canada is a great case study (of what not to do) of when a government (Harper) decides to obliterate a country’s international reputation and development work. It truly breaks my heart because I know a lot of wonderful people who used to work for the Canadian cooperation and who now have their hands tied because of the current government’s narrow perspective on development. I’m sorry for the little rant. It’s just this government’s attitude goes completely against all Canadians that I know, who couldn’t be any nicer or caring. So, I would just assume those guys are not Canadian and they are secretly trying to ruin Canada’s reputation around the world. Now to your actual question the best CSD (Conflict, Security and Development) programmes in Canada were Simon Frasier University and – as you have mentioned – UBC. I don’t know if that’s change, but most of practitioners and major Human Security studies and projects came from those two Universities. I have friends who recently (last couple of years) studied at Alberta and they were pretty happy with the programme, but those were Poverty and Development oriented. If you are trying to boost your academic background and get to know what is being discussed elsewhere Canadian cities have hosted ISA (International Studies Association) global events for the last… 5 years (?), so I’m sure you will have the opportunity to interact with different scholars with different perspectives.
Related: Can graduate school help you land a job in international development?
It’s finally here! Doing what you love!
Welcome to the club!
Original post: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskSocialScience/comments/25qgwk/iama_governance_and_development_specialist_with_9/
One more in a series of great advice on how to work on development.
A master’s in development isn’t going to guarantee you the top jobs, understanding the specific area you want to work in is essential and you shouldn’t sniff at entry-level admin positions.
Reshna Radiven is volunteer marketing manager for VSO, a development charity that sends volunteers to work abroad
A speculative approach can land you an internship – but make sure you stand out from the crowd: For anyone that is looking for an internship with an international development NGO, I would suggest you decide on the specific function that you want to work in and then make a speculative approach. We are inundated with speculative approaches, so make yourself stand out by having done your research on the organisation and by tailoring your approach. However, we are also always looking for people who are able to support us by offering their time – so we welcome serious approaches.
VSO offers overseas and UK-based volunteering experience: If you’re interested in volunteering in the UK and overseas – and have six months to spare – check out VSO’s Global Xchange programme. It’s a six month volunteering programme which involves community development work in the UK and three months community development work in an exchange country. No previous experience of development is necessary, just the willingness to commit to the programme and get involved. One of my team volunteered on this programme and five years later is now working at VSO.
Starting at the bottom can lead to bigger and better things: The international development sector is a hard one to break into. Disheartening though it may be, it could work to your advantage to take on an entry-level administrative position. At VSO people who come in at this level and perform well often move into other better paid and more senior positions. I am sure this is quite similar to what happens in other organisations too. The other alternative is to build your career in a specific field and then move into the development sector at a later date. For example, I built my experience in marketing in various sectors (publishing, technology, financial services) before looking for a marketing job in the international development sector.
Pauliina Keinanen is recruitment and training coordinator at Skillshare International, an international volunteering and development organisation
Development qualifications are often not enough to secure you a job: My personal experience is that development courses are helpful in increasing the knowledge of the student – but international development is such a huge sector, one course will not qualify you for a wide range of paid jobs. If I had to name a course which is a guaranteed stepping stone towards paid work in development, I supposed I would name something quite obvious like medicine. There is always a high demand for medics, as you can imagine. I haven’t come across development qualifications which instantly stand out from the rest.
Beth Goodey is international placements coordinator for Restless Development, an international development agency
Find out what you are interested in first – then tailor your skillset accordingly: I would advise you to think about which area of development you are particularly interested in. Getting some overseas voluntary experience can give you exposure to a variety of areas of development work and help you to decide what aspect you are most interested in and best suited to. This can then help you to decide on which master’s should you decide to continue studying. The key is to try and identify what area of development you want to work in and to then build up your experience (academic or professional) in that area.
Use your time at university to boost your CV with the skills employers want to see: As a reasonably recent graduate myself, I definitely found the extracurricular activities I did outside of my studies at university really helped build up my CV. Universities have a real variety of societies to get involved with including many that are development-related, for example the Student Stop AIDS Campaign which is coordinated by Restless Development. Getting involved in societies provides opportunities to develop a wide range of skills including events management, campaigning, communications, finance and fundraising – and also provides opportunities to learn about development issues by attending talks, debates, film screenings and so on. If you have time, volunteering for a local charity or organisation over your three years at university also adds to your work experience on your CV – perhaps try to tailor it to the area you might like to look for a job in once you graduate.
Katherine Tubb is director of 2Way Development, a UK-based organisation that places volunteers into development NGOs in Africa, Latin America and Asia
Make the most of overseas experience by matching it to your career plans: The whole point of overseas experience is you get a knowledge of the practicalities of working in the sector and a contextual knowledge, which is imperative for programmes based working in the UK. You have to make sure your overseas experience is relevant to your skills and long term goals – this way you will get a worthwhile experience for your future and it will be a good investment of your time and money. Seeing a careers adviser before deciding what type of overseas experience is right for you might be a good idea – or applying for those jobs you would like afterwards and talking to recruiters, even if you only get an interview at this stage. A good web site is Volunteering Options.
Having a master’s in development isn’t going to guarantee you the top jobs: I would be very careful jumping right into a master’s programme before looking at jobs and getting a sense of where you want to specialise. I find that employers tend to like more specific master’s qualifications. Certainly having a master’s in development isn’t going to guarantee you the top jobs. I would recommend getting some experience first, in the UK or overseas, and then making this kind of decision as it will be a huge investment of time and money.
Kevin Cusack is director of World Service Enquiry, which provides information about careers in international development and aid
Consider the skills you have to offer an employer: Generally, NGOs need relevant work experience (read: SKILLS) and some specialist knowledge for the job. If you are considering a change, I suggest you look at the current jobs and see what you have, and also what you lack, in experience. This might help you make an informed decision about what to do next.
What Recruiters really look for?
Can graduate school help you find a job in international development?
Yes, it is Mike Rowe… That guy from “Dirty Jobs”
Well, at least for this blog!
I get asked a lot for advice. Don’t get me wrong, I love giving it so much I have at least 5 outlets to do it. But, sometimes, I have to break to people that there is no such thing as getting your dream job immediately. You have to work towards it. Once you reach that stage, you going to dream with new and bigger things. Also, you have to check if your expectations are realistic. I’m not saying not to dream big. But it’s hard to choose working in an emergency context, with plenty of stability, great pay, a family duty station, in a country that you don’t speak the language and know nothing about. I know that is an extreme case, but this is a nice moment of self-reflection and realising if you have set yourself out to failed by wanting too many aspects of your job that can’t possibly coexist.
This is that sort of advice from Mike Rowe. One fan wrote to him asking for help finding the ideal job:
I’ve spent this last year trying to figure out the right career for myself and I still can’t figure out what to do. I have always been a hands on kind of guy and a go-getter. I could never be an office worker. I need change, excitement, and adventure in my life, but where the pay is steady. I grew up in construction and my first job was a restoration project. I love everything outdoors. I play music for extra money. I like trying pretty much everything, but get bored very easily. I want a career that will always keep me happy, but can allow me to have a family and get some time to travel. I figure if anyone knows jobs its you so I was wondering your thoughts on this if you ever get the time! Thank you!
And here’s the reply…
My first thought is that you should learn to weld and move to North Dakota. The opportunities are enormous, and as a “hands-on go-getter,” you’re qualified for the work. But after reading your post a second time, it occurs to me that your qualifications are not the reason you can’t find the career you want.
I had drinks last night with a woman I know. Let’s call her Claire. Claire just turned 42. She’s cute, smart, and successful. She’s frustrated though, because she can’t find a man. I listened all evening about how difficult her search has been. About how all the “good ones” were taken. About how her other friends had found their soul-mates, and how it wasn’t fair that she had not.
“Look at me,” she said. “I take care of myself. I’ve put myself out there. Why is this so hard?”
“How about that guy at the end of the bar,” I said. “He keeps looking at you.”
“Not my type.”
“Really? How do you know?”
“I just know.”
“Have you tried a dating site?” I asked.”
“Are you kidding? I would never date someone I met online!”
“Alright. How about a change of scene? Your company has offices all over – maybe try living in another city?”
“What? Leave San Francisco? Never!”
“How about the other side of town? You know, mix it up a little. Visit different places. New museums, new bars, new theaters…?”
She looked at me like I had two heads. “Why the hell would I do that?”
Here’s the thing, Parker. Claire doesn’t really want a man. She wants the “right” man. She wants a soul-mate. Specifically, a soul-mate from her zip code. She assembled this guy in her mind years ago, and now, dammit, she’s tired of waiting!!
I didn’t tell her this, because Claire has the capacity for sudden violence. But it’s true. She complains about being alone, even though her rules have more or less guaranteed she’ll stay that way. She has built a wall between herself and her goal. A wall made of conditions and expectations. Is it possible that you’ve built a similar wall?
Consider your own words. You don’t want a career – you want the “right” career. You need “excitement” and “adventure,” but not at the expense of stability. You want lots of “change” and the “freedom to travel,” but you need the certainty of “steady pay.” You talk about being “easily bored” as though boredom is out of your control. It isn’t. Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting. It’s one thing to “love the outdoors,” but you take it a step further. You vow to “never” take an office job. You talk about the needs of your family, even though that family doesn’t exist. And finally, you say the career you describe must “always” make you “happy.”
These are my thoughts. You may choose to ignore them and I wouldn’t blame you – especially after being compared to a 42 year old woman who can’t find love. But since you asked…
Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.
Many people today resent the suggestion that they’re in charge of the way the feel. But trust me, Parker. Those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from Dirty Jobs, and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck. What you do, who you’re with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.
Good luck -
PS. I’m serious about welding and North Dakota. Those guys are writing their own ticket.
PPS Think I should forward this to Claire?
Credit: The Real Mike Rowe
Brazilians love football. Being no exception to the rule, I can spend hours discussing why it is one of the most beautiful and democratic sports on the planet. It would have to be, to move the hearts of over half of the World’s population. That being said, the World Cup organization in Brazil and Qatar have tarnished the beauty of the sport with a gruesome series of human rights violations.
Recently Brazil was given a “yellow card” by Amnesty International due to its violent attempts to silence protesters. The massive demonstrations that took place a year before the start of the tournament showed the public discontent over the public expenditure on hyper-inflated budgets on infrastructure when the country’s education, health and social protection structures are deteriorating. Mega sporting events have the potential to bring investments, employment, economic growth and the improvement of urban and housing infrastructures, but they have been mostly known for forceful displacement and human rights violations. Hosting the game we love should be a joyful moment, but what we saw made the hope of the sixth title become overtaken by massive corruption, generalised greed, police brutality, sexual exploitation of minors, forced evictions,labour rights’ violations, and overall chaos in the hosting cities; this was coupled with the overall corruption and intimidation from FIFA, without mentioning the thousands of workers that have died during the construction of stadiums in Qatar.
The new Brazilian stadiums cost millions. However, the ones in Manaus and Cuiabá are currently sad national jokes. There are exactly zero football teams in the area, leaving no one to maintain the stadiums. The government (which really means the taxpayers) paid millions for four matches. Worst of all, several workers actually died in their construction. To think that all the blood, sweat and tears went to waste for four matches is appalling and enraging.
Since the tournament began, the World Cup has been a test for the “panis et circenses” method of entertaining crowds. The protests haven’t stopped, but they have been limited, mostly because they are being met with significant military force. The most important exception until now was the massive demonstration in São Paulo on June 19 to celebrate the first anniversary of the demonstrations, which I have mentioned in my previous post.
Now, when most of Brazilians think of the World Cup, they think of the hundreds of thousands that were expelled from their homes without notice to make cities prettier for the tourists. They think of the street kids that are “disappearing” from the streets of northeast Brazil. They think of themselves and their children who were threatened with extreme violence by law enforcement in case they decide to exert their constitutional right to protest against this corrupt and shameful administration of funds by the cities, states, the national government and, of course, FIFA. Presidential elections are in October of this year and many political analysts tie the results of the World Cup to the result of those elections. Once more, this will go beyond the sport. Once more, it will affect directly the lives of millions. As always, I’ll be rooting for Brazil.
Natasha Leite has worked for the last 9 years with Governance and Security in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
Blog written by Natasha Leite and published on 11-July-2014 on http://www.beyondviolence.org/blog.php?id=101
I stopped at Reddit recently and let them ask me a bunch of questions. I had posted this previously, but it looked funky so I decided to repost it in parts… So, you can better follow it! Enjoy!
Are there any questions?
Q: Thanks for the AMA! I’m about to start a JD/MA in Washington DC and would like to focus on a lot of what you currently do (trade, conflict resolution, security, economic development). Do you have any recommendations for aspiring lawyers in your field? What opportunities exist and what doors are opened with a JD? I currently have a degree in IR (conflict and security) and my area of focus is primarily in Asia (China and Russia more specifically). Haha I’m sorry for such a broad question but I’m just so goddamn excited to move up to DC and get started!Also, I did a short stint in Shanghai with an UNDP affiliated organization called South-South Gate. Are you familiar with them? Thanks for your time on the AMA and good luck with the e-book!
A: Hey! Good luck on your JD/MA!For lawyers usually is protection and policy-making, but there is a lot of areas you can focus on. Migration and refugee law, women’s rights…I would advise on getting a lot of experience while you are there in Washington to help you define yourself as a professional. See, one issue IR students (and social science students in general) usually have is not be able to explain to the employer clearly what are their strong suits. That way in an interview (or cover letter) or can point blank say: “my qualifications are X, my expertise is knowledge management, but I also have experience with project management and M&E frameworks. I have worked in Shangai, which consolidates my interest and experience in Asia…
ACT did a study on 2006 on what recruiters look for the most when hiring new people and the first thing was related-experience, after was international experience, then cultural awareness… A graduate degree was number 5 or 6 on that list. I don’t mean at all that your JD or MA is not important, trust me, I have one, it is. But don’t rely on it as the most important aspect of getting a job in this field…
I’m not familiar with South-South Gate, but I haven’t got that much experience with China, but knowing UNDP they must been a sound organization because their selection criteria is pretty high. I worked mostly with Kashmir, Nepal, the Maldives and Timor Leste.
Related: Can graduate school help you land a job in international development?
Q: Thanks for the AMA. I was wondering what’s your view on open markets. If you were to rank the factors of production in terms of openness they’d be capital, goods and services then labor.Have you any ideas on how to make the labor markets as open as the capital markets.Do you think this approach to a countries problems is too theoretical?
A: Thank you for participating! Well, in name of full disclosure, I should say that my thoughts on political economy were largely shaped by Dependency theory and CEPAL, but also with the consequences of IMF’s strict view on open markets and economy and not enough on human rights and participation. Theory is a good place to start, but the issue we usually have is that in reality actors hardly follow the ideal scenario, so you will have to be able to adjust or adapt you original framework to that particular context.
In this case, I don’t know what problem you are trying to solve. Is it a country’s economic system? Is it aid’s approach to economic development?
Q: Sorry for being vague. Lets take Peru as an example. In your work do you consider the economic value of a work visa to the EU or the US.Is the economic value created by the issuing of that work visa considered in international development.(By economic value I mean the value gained by the Peruvian getting the visa and to the Peruvian economy.)
A: Now I see what you mean! Sorry… Well, I usually don’t because I don’t work a lot with Macro economic policies regarding visas .For instance, I would work on how much of Central American government’s budget would go to Security and much money would they spend on prevention, control or rehabilitation. How much of El Salvador’s GDP was lost due to the Mano Dura policies. SALW transfers in Latin America, Caribbean and Africa. Human trafficking, but not much on work visas. Maybe ILO would have something on that area.
Q: How does the rise of radical Islamism effect your efforts? What can be done to stop it?
A: Any rise in radicalism affects our work because it prevents participation and the development of inclusive societies. The main issue I had with Islam was regarding advocating for women’s rights and on that issue sexual and reproductive rights. But, unfortunately, we can’t discard that to Islam, because I had the same issues in Sub-Saharan Africa with the rise of evangelical politics in governments and in Central America, because of the great mix of “machismo” with a catholic streak.
As a development worker the problem for us it is usually because many organisations become targets for extremism and we end up paying the price of representing “West” wrongdoings. In other countries, like Somalia, the issue is not ideological. It’s a business. It became profitable to kidnap international workers.
In terms of stopping, I don’t want to criminalise an entire religion because of the actions of some very few. I also don’t want to go into the more simplistic explanation of saying that poverty creates violence (because that criminalises poverty). It’s important to bear in mind what elements are causing extremism. How those groups manage to recruit people? Drones have been pointed out as a major source in recruitment in Pakistan. Where people can find a sense of community? The really important role of education in breaking the cycle of misinformation and supporting critical thinking. Working with communities to create that sense social cohesion and purpose that many extreme groups create. Work on communities construction of masculinity and what are the role of men within said communities… There is no one “magic bullet”, but fortunately there is a lot that can be done to make people’s life better and create alternatives to extremism.
Q: I live in a Muslim country (Turkey). Recognizing religion as a nonsensical dogma and ditching it altogether was one of the best things I did for myself. You are welcome to criticize it any way you like, be my guest.In the past decade or so we have seen sharp rise in neo-liberalism and Islamic extremism. Both happening so fast and in such a coordinated fashion is hard to explain away by natural flow of things. I happen to live in a country where both are happening at the same time, to great detriment of the country.On another tangent, we often say that education is the solution to the problem… and there we stop. I haven’t seen any detailed analysis on what education is most needed, how it is supposed to be delivered, how to make it sustain itself and so forth.
I suspect giving standard curriculum education to Tuareg people won’t be of much use to them right now. They need things like water management, basic infrastructure and so forth, things that will lead to immediate betterment of their lives. Do we even posses know-how that is even applicable to desert conditions? I doubt it. If there are institutions that research this kind of stuff I’d like to volunteer my engineering skills.
A: I was in Turkey two years ago, but I don’t consider myself to be an expert in the country. I can speak, though, of general trends. The fact that extreme islamism would follow a rise in consumerism and individualism is not uncommon. They seem antagonistic forces, but they are products of globalisation and exposure to global consumer patterns and values, and in some point to themselves. Education, but most importantly social sciences and history are invaluable for the development of critical thinking and it is supposedly embedded in most countries planning. However, if they have the structure, the staff or the willingness to prioritise education is a different matter. As unfortunate as it is, for some politicians out there, there is a case to be made of holding back education in order to have a more “controllable” audience. On the other hand, there are conflict management and masculinity classes and those help – mainly boys – to deal with feeling such as frustration, disillusionment, and anger without resorting to violence.
WASH – water and sanitation is an emergency component. Most organisations need experts on that field. To name a few: Save the Children, Oxfam, UNDP, UNICEF (that actually leads that cluster, so they hire engineers a lot), MSF, ICRC… Engineers without borders also do a lot of work in creating better infra-structure. However, it’s important to highlight what you think or I think is important may not be their priorities right now. So, as a development worker, you will have to balance the priorities of that community (ideally through a participatory assessment), their short-term needs and the long-term needs to address the issue. So, in a coordinate plan – ideally- you will deal with basic infra-structure as well as education, health, governance…
Q: I’ll be definitely looking into these. Thank you.
Q: Know anybody who’s hiring?
A: Tons of people! What are you looking for?
Q: Absolutely anything in the DC area at this point. I have a PoliSci degree and three related internships on my resume. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
A: Where were your internships? Have you looked for NGOs in the DC area? On that related note… Freedom House is hiring http://www.freedomhouse.org/content/career-opportunities#.U3afxFhdVvM
Q: The first was with a state legislator (some ghostwriting, research, etc), at the second one I was a program assistant an interfaith peace summit, then I had a fellowship with a Senate campaign in my home state. I’ve been pumping out around 10 applications a day for anything I can find. I’ll take a look at the Freedom House link, thanks!
Q: What has your career path been like? In other words, how did you get to where you are today? Thanks a lot for the AMA.
A: Hi! So, I have started working on the Red Cross as a Programme Officer on Youth and Local-based solution, basically working with at risk youth and marginalised communities, at the same time, I was doing my BA in Law and International Relations. So, in that sense, I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to work with since the beginning of my studies.
Mid-way through college I got an internship in a local NGO in the Arms Control area and that really was where I learned most of what I wanted to be as a professional, but also what I loved and was good doing. We were in several coalitions in the preparations for the BMS, but we also did a lot of capacity building in my own country (Brazil) than in Mozambique and than Angola. There is where I first started working with UNDP.
So, after 3 years at that NGO, they decided to change their focus to drug and health issues, I was going to let my contract end and apply for a MA, but I saw this position at the regional centre for Latin America and the Caribbean in Panama that was a lot like me and I knew about their work on Citizen Security, so I applied and got the job. I stayed there for 2 years. Later, I decided to get a MA because I truly enjoy these spaces for dialogue and discussion, but also because there was so much I could go in my career without one.
That was a great decision; I stayed an entire 2 weeks after my MA without a job. I got a consultancy with UNFPA on a Youth-related programme, than my job with UNICEF Maldives developing a draft Youth Bill. Coming back, UNDP asked me again to work with them (by this point, I was already in their expert roster). On the months in-between jobs I have done consultancies for UNLIREC (twice), Saferworld and Fundación Arias. As well as writing for Beyond Violence and participating on different specialised networks.
Q: Thanks so much for your response. I think it’s always good to get an idea about career paths in a certain field and use this knowledge to inform one’s own choices. I am currently a junior programme officer in a democracy assistance NGO and I enjoy the work and this field, but I’m also trying to get an idea about what’s out there – and more importantly, the kind of choices I should make career-wise to reach those possibilities.
Q: I’m very impressed by the detail in your answer
A: Ha! That’s nice, thanks. I can add attention to detail to my list of “transferable skills”.
Ask me anything (part 1)
Newsletter 1: Welcome to the club!
Posted at Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandratalty/2013/10/10/millenial-thursdays-the-down-and-dirty-of-international-aid-work/ by Alexandra Talty
Four months in Myanmar, three months in Yemen and then five months in Turkey. While most of these destinations sound like many people’s worst nightmare, there is a certain type of person to whom these sound ideal: international aid workers.
Imagine living in the bush in sub-Saharan Africa working 10, 12-hour days, hundreds of miles away from anything resembling a city, to coordinating aid packages for war refugees in less-than-safe locations, to being the first crew on the ground after an international disaster like a tsunami. Friendships form fast when you live with your colleagues, spending the weekends exploring your new home base together. Sprinkle in some R & R to exotic locales with work buddies, a few weeks back home visiting wherever you grew up, and you have the lifestyle down pat. While one might choose to invest themselves longer in a particular country or region, the life and work of a humanitarian is vastly different than your typical 9 – 5 grind.
However, despite the long hours and penchant for danger, working ‘in the field’ for an NGO remains one of the hardest careers to snag post-college.
“It is not an easy sector to get into,” says Martha Reggiori-Wilkes, a millennial who has worked with an international NGO in both South Sudan and Lebanon. “It can sound like a quite romantic thing to do. And there are lot of very, very good people who want to do it.”
1. Educate Yourself
Unless you have extensive volunteer experience, a master’s degree is a ‘must’ for the NGO world. When looking at her own professional career path, Reggiori-Wilkes says, “I probably wouldn’t have been able to get my internship [without my masters], especially because, in terms of experience, I only had two months volunteering in Asia.”
Although a master’s degree doesn’t have to be completely aimed at a humanitarian crisis skill like food security, it should work on something applicable, either through a course of study or dissertation.
“My masters was in Global Citizenship Identity and Human Rights so it wasn’t specific about working for humanitarian crises or something like that, but my dissertation focused on children associated with armed groups,” explains Reggiori-Wilkes.
Even with a master’s degree, it is close to impossible to land your first job without some internship experience on your CV. Regrettably for do-gooders everywhere, unpaid internships are the norm for NGOs.
“Often you have to do unpaid work to start with and for a lot of people, voluntary work is not an option. Unfortunately the hypocrisy of the aid world is that although you are helping people in developing countries, a lot of people are disadvantaged from getting into the sector,” says Reggiori-Wilkes, adding that some humanitarian agencies are actively trying to change this through traineeships that do offer stipends.
3. Look Local
If you don’t have the resources to volunteer abroad for a few months or work an unpaid internship, Reggiori-Wilkes advises to volunteer with a small, local NGO where you are living. It will give you some experience in the meantime and might end up opening doors in the future. An added bonus is that you can keep your day job while volunteering, ensuring that you have a steady paycheck.
Sites like Idealist.com can help match you with organizations to volunteer with, depending on your interests. If your goal is ultimately to work abroad, try to find NGOs that specialize in refugee-related issues. An added bonus would be to work with a refugee population from the area of the world you are most interested in. Not only will it stand out on your CV, but it will help acclimate you to the culture that you are interested in experiencing.
4. Bring A Skill
Having skills like nutrition, finance or nursing can also be an easy way to fast-track your career with a humanitarian organization. Although one still has to have a master’s degree, there are fewer twentysomethings with a skill like finance who want to work in a developing country.
“If you’re a nurse, then it is quite easy to get a job because then you have a specialist skill. Or if you are a nutrition expert, that is helpful as well,” explains Reggiori-Wilkes. However, even if you bring a needed skill to the table, “you will have needed to first spend some time in a developing country [volunteering] in order to get a paid job with an NGO.”
5. Plan Ahead
What areas of the world interest you? Research conflicts in the region and see how your abilities align. Although this strategy won’t work for an emergency response to something like an earthquake, try to get to the crisis earlier than most so that you are on the ground at the beginning of the humanitarian efforts.
“I had wanted to get involved in the Syria response. I thought that in terms of, well I was interested in the region. Professionally I knew, and I am right, that Lebanon is where people will be going,” says Reggiori-Wilkes. “I got [to Lebanon] earlier than most people, before it got crazy big. When I arrived [in August 2012], there were only 18,000 refugees in Lebanon and suddenly [the Syrian refugee crisis] became massive.”
In Lebanon today there are over 786,000 Syrian refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Since that number only accounts for registered refugees, many put the number higher than one million.
After studying Arabic in London for a few months, Reggiori-Wilkes packed up and moved to Lebanon. She signed up for a one-month course of study in Beirut and then sent emails to former colleagues who had begun scaling up to respond to the crisis. She has been able to move up the ladder because she was involved with the Syrian response from the beginning.
6. Own The Head Office
Instead of lamenting the work of a head office, own it. A year’s stint at the head office of an international humanitarian organization could be your ticket to the world, connecting you to the right people for the next two, three, even four jobs down the line.
“I was working on a humanitarian team where you had people who were based in developing countries, coming through the London office all the time so I was meeting lots of different people, working for my organization in different countries,” says Reggiori-Wilkes. “You can capitalize on that.”
Have patience if you are working the head office route as “some people…will have masters and they will have worked in an admin role in the London office, sometimes for years before they get the chance to work in the field,” says Reggiori-Wilkes.
The millennial is careful to add that networking will only get you so far and you have to back it up with good work. If your peers or superiors notice your work, they are more likely to connect you with the right people and support your long-term career goals.
7. Scour the Web
Once you’ve got the skills and experience, it’s time to hit the world wide web looking for job opportunities. Search sites like Reliefweb.int, Trust.org or DevNetJobs.org for international postings. Or go local, looking for job boards specific to your country of interest. For example, Lebanon has a site called Daleel-Madani.org where only humanitarian jobs in Lebanon are posted.
If you are a patriot, try looking on the website of your foreign ministry, as they will list humanitarian jobs on projects that they fund. Passionate about a particular organization like Doctor’s Without Borders or One Acre Fund? Check their website regularly for new positions.
Personally, Reggiori-Wilkes has enjoyed her experience of living and working abroad. However, she has seen downsides of the lifestyle. Although she loves working for a humanitarian aid organization, she “[has] a lot of friends in the sector who when they go home…feel very detached. They are doing such different work and living in such different worlds.” While exposure to a different world might be the hook of NGO work for some, it is important to understand the hazards of the exceptional lifestyle.
Bonding with fellow ex-pats, being exposed firsthand to a different way of life, the ability to affect change through work and the opportunity for travel are all reasons why working for a humanitarian agency in a developing country can be such a sought-after job. Not only is the work fulfilling, but it is edifying, immersing you in a completely new culture and way of thinking.