Should I just show up?


Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of requests for advice if people should just move to a country they would like to work in. Being perfectly honest, there is no definite response to this… Wait. Actually, there is. If by “showing up” you mean just arriving at a war torn, post-conflict, disaster-stricken country, with tons of cash and no plan. My answer is No. Don’t do it! Please don’t do it… And if you go through with it, don’t tell me about it. In those contexts having a sponsor organization is paramount to make sure you are safe and you get a little bit of rapport on the actual country context. Yes, that is a valid answer even if you are willing to work for free.

Besides going all “development rogue” on me, there are many other ways of showing up. If you want to work in a country where you have a tourist visa for three months or more, it’s not a crazy idea going there for a while, start building connections and adjusting to the “local” lifestyle. Also, “showing up” in a more controlled context may help developing some needed survival skills and help you become more confident in your own choices.

That being said, find a job could take you longer than three months. So, how can you best use your time?

Find all organizations that you find interesting in that country and that you would like to work with.
Check their websites for any openings
In case there are none, call the Country Office to book an informal meeting (it’s much easier and accepted to cold-call country offices then it is Headquarters and Regional offices)
Make connections and tell everyone you know you are looking for a job
Also, it is important to highlight that showing up works better if you have some previous field experience. You will be able to build rapport more easily, however, if you are going for the internship/volunteer route, you can get equally successful results.

Being in this field, we all have to manage a decent amount of risk and instability. This could be a way to control your destiny, make things a bit more stable. It’s an opportunity to expand your horizons and securities, but there are also risks. Don’t fool yourself thinking things will be perfect and you won’t have to plan or budget. Sometimes risks pay out, sometimes they don’t, but at least you will have tried. Just, please don’t show up in a country during war or during a massive emergency. Please.

Next week, we will be talking about Entry-level posts: profiles and limitations. Until then…

All the best,

Natasha Leite

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