Newsletter #27 – How to be a development consultant

One thing that most people don’t know about the International Organisation system is that most people that work in these organisations work under the title of “consultant”.  This is a common practice in order to hire more people under limited budgets and not having to deal with labour provisions. Consultants don’t have labour protection and are not entitled to vacation days, sick days, social security… But they also don’t necessarily need to pay taxes on their earnings.

There are usually three types of consultants:

  • Early career consultants: Early career consultants are entry-level staff in International Organisations that receive relatively low payment. Their contracts vary from 3 to 10 months, which can be renewed but not immediately. They fulfil the roles of regular staff, which is technically not allowed, but it is usually a good opportunity to get experience in those organisations, while still getting paid.
  • Mid-career consultants:  Mid-career consultants usually have passed the 3 years of experience threshold and the USD 3000 a month fee. They are paid for specific products or consultancies or strategic functions within the team such as communications specialist, M&E specialist and others. Since they usually have more choice, consultancies have to have some opportunity cost to make it worth it: good payment, an amazing opportunity to expand on their portfolio, work-life balance and more flexibility to pursue other projects.
  • Senior consultants: Senior consultants, much like super models, are usually the individuals that don’t get out of bed for less than a significant amount of money. They have surpassed the 10 years of experience threshold and they are usually considered references in their areas.

Is it worth it for me?

If you are trying to get experience, be paid and you don’t want to wait for usually lengthy selection processes within those organisations, than yes, being a consultant maybe a great option for you. Especially if you don’t have many other underlining responsibilities such as children, mortgages, student debt… It is more sensible to take that sort of risk and invest that time to your career.

How do I do it?

Once again and I can’t stress this enough, look at the country or region to which you are applying to specifically.  Entry-level job consultancies don’t usually show up at UNDP jobs because they are not Human Resources, they are usually considered Procurement. So… Instead of looking at UNDP Jobs, you should be looking at UNDP procurementDevNetJobs and Devex often have more entry-level consultancy opportunities than ReliefWeb or Inspira.

Entry-level opportunities are usually the same as general job applications. For UN processes, that usually means a signed P11 and a cover letter. For other International Organisations there are usually specific templates, online application processes or your plain and old CV would do.

Next week, we are going to talk about how to handle the anxiety of waiting for job responses.

Until then,

Best of luck in your search!

Natasha Leite

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *