On November 4 the Foreign Policy Association conducted a Global Career Boot Camp event entitled "Landing a Job in International Development" on the American University campus in Washington, DC. The session lasted almost three hours and covered a variety of topics that were informative for those just entering the job market and those seeking mid-career change to shift into international development. During the first half of the session Kate Warren (Global Director of Recruitment at Devex) provided an overview of the types of employers in international development and descriptions of functional roles and transferable skills for the sector.
A highlight from the beginning of the session was the figure of 200 USD billion as the amount of business value that is involved with international development on an annual basis. This underscores the very large business opportunities associated with helping developing regions of the world in areas such as poverty alleviation, global health, disaster response and mitigation, education, gender issues along with other issues.
- Consulting firms and NGOs
- Donor Agencies
- Advocacy NGOs
- Private Foundations
- Corporate and Corporate Social Responsibility programs
- Suppliers of services and products
- Think tanks and institutes
Depending on experience, a job seeker can find a variety of opportunities with the employer types listed above. One message that stood out was how some people may have an overly romanticized perception of working in international development as largely relocating overseas and being closely involved in delivering services or programs.
- Technical writing
- Proposal writing
- Budget creation
- Contract administration
- Monitoring and evaluation (M&E)
- Project Management
Another key message was that, whenever possible, job seekers and those currently involved in international development should look for opportunities to showcase their experience and achievements. This includes using tools such as LinkedIn to document projects and training along with active participation in online groups and forums. The other presenter, Roberto Amorosina (Senior Recruitment Officer, The World Bank) also emphasized that starting and maintaining a blog about your interests and experience can be an effective tool to share one's expertise with potential employers.
Quality over Quantity
It may be tempting as a job seeker to apply far and wide to multiple position advertisements but the advice from the session's speakers emphasized that caution is warranted when this approach is applied in the international development sector. While there are numerous organizations that are working in international development, it is easy to quickly develop a bad reputation by applying to jobs for which you are not qualified. The use of applicant tracking systems is making it simpler for companies to see how often a person submits a resume for a position and this can be a disadvantage when application rates are high and generic in character.
- Focus your search - find opportunities for which you match 80% of the requirements
- Tailor your resume/CV and cover letter for each position
- Network to build connections for referrals
- Learn the correct formats when applying to jobs with donor organizations
- Localize your resume/CV to meet employers' expectations
More to learn but there are plenty of resources
The 3-hour session was worth the ticket fee and the speakers shared additional insights on current trends in the international development field. Fortunately, a lot of intelligence on job seeking can be found on Devex.com using their publications library and collection webinars.