Most people working in the Development NGO sector get asked on a regular basis how you can find a job in the overseas development sector. And the answer is not straightforward.
We have found that a good way to answer the question, is to ask a counter-question: “Why would anyone want to work for a development NGO?” After all, the sector is characterised by low salaries, high levels of frustration, few chances of promotion and often uncertain funding arrangements and work contracts. In addition, there are other sectors where one can work, and still have a great impact on global poverty. (see for instance the importance of journalists for development, or the role that banks can play in micro-finance, or of academics, etc, etc – You don’t need to be an aid worker to help make poverty history).
In addition, the role of the “aid worker” is diminishing. As a result of the changing role of NGOs, and of the many skills available in developing countries. The aid sector needs fewer expats, and more people with highly specialised skills.
However, for those who are convinced that they do want a job in the sector, there are a number of relevant websites, such as the Dóchas page on Careers in Overseas Development and www.volunteeringoptions.org
Anyone looking for a Development job should start by subscribing to the Dóchas Wednesday News, our free events and jobs listing.
There is not one path into Development. There are many different ways of being engaged with global poverty, and many different possible roles.
You need to be clear about your skills – don’t just study the theory, but make sure you add something to the mix – an MA in Dev is not enough.
Learn a foreign language. Development is essentially about people. And people that are able to communicate across cultural barriers have a distinct advantage.
Get Involved: Volunteer – Volunteering and extra-curricular activities help you get experience, and help you understand the territory. (And it helps improve your CV)
Don’t assume that the only worthwhile volunteering is abroad – there is plenty of need for volunteers at home.
And above all, make sure you are familiar with the Code of Practice on Volunteering: http://www.volunteeringoptions.org/