Finding a Job

On this page:

  • Some tips to get you started
  • Development organisations
  • Job Web Sites

This page gives links to websites where you'll find a huge number of jobs advertised.

Some tips to get you started

(Adapted from posts in the Forum by Graham Wood and Jayne Cravens.  Read the full discussion here.) 

Aid, relief and development agencies are looking for people with the qualifications and skills that are most needed in a specific situation or region. That a person wants to help others is nice, but it's not what these agencies are looking for; they are looking for experts who can undertake tasks that cannot be undertaken by local people, and people who can build the capacities of local people to undertake their own aid, development and relief efforts.

Networking is vital in finding a job, in aid and development or any career. If you feel you have solid skills and areas of expertise that would be immediately useful in the developing world, then you are ready to network. How to network:

  • Identify nonprofit organizations and university programs in your geographic area that are focused on the aid and development issues in which you are most interested. Attend their public presentations and events, read their publications, and get to know their staff members -- and let them get to know you.

  • Identify conferences that would bring you into contact with potential employers; attending is great, but presenting at such is even better. Meet people at such conferences; introduce yourself, and stress your areas of expertise that are applicable to aid, relief and development -- not your need of a job or your desire to help others.

  • If you have created a document, article, online resource or other freely-available product that you think would be helpful to a particular organization, contact that organization and let them know about it. This is a chance to let an organization benefit from your work and, in the process, identify you as an expert in a particular area and see the quality of your work first hand.

  • If you are in a country that donates to aid and development efforts in other countries, identify the government office in your country that provides such funding and personnel. For instance, in the the UK, it's DFID. In the USA, it's USAID. The major international donor agency for Germany is Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst (DED). Browse your country's web site regarding aid and development in other countries, get to know who's who at the agency and what the agency is doing (remember that this changes regularly), and sign up for any newsletters offered. Read publications and reports the agency offers related to your area of expertise in aid and development (these are often published for free on the web site) and write the authors if you have comments, to make an informal connection with the authors and to demonstrate your expertise in a particular area of development.

  • Create a web site or blog about your aid and development work, writing and related interests, to further promote your expertise.

  • Create a LinkedIn profile that details your areas of expertise, and link to previous co-workers, professors and other professional colleagues you know personally.

  • Stay in touch with previous co-workers, professors and other professional colleagues about what they are doing, and your availability. Make sure they know about any new skills you have acquired.

  • Join the nearest UN Association and any other internationally-focused associations in your area where world affairs might be discussed. Attend their events regularly.

  • If you can answer a question on the Aid Workers Network Forum, do it! Show off your expertise!

Look at the descriptions of the jobs you want most. Do you meet all of the criteria? What are you lacking and how could you gain the experience and knowledge you need for the jobs you want, through taking courses, getting a particular degree or volunteering locally? If you are lacking skills that are asked for, stop applying for jobs and start concentrating on building your skills, experience and knowledge.

The more jobs you apply for, the less time you have to spend on each application. That means each application is weaker than it should be. Only apply for jobs where you have a real chance, where you meet the criteria for the job. Remember that there will be other applicants who meet the criteria perfectly; what will set you apart?

Make sure the cover letter does exactly what is asked for. Usually this means summarizing how your skills and experience match their requirements and why you are interested in working at the organization. Keep it short and address their requirements asked for. One page is nearly always enough. Do not tell them things they do not want/need to know, do not repeat verbatim what's already in your CV, and avoid emotion. If you write something like “I want to use my skills to help people, to make the world a better place” I would not interview you. When you write a sentence think how it would be in the opposite. “I don’t want to use my skills to help people and I want to make the world a worse place.” If the opposite sounds silly, then you are not communicating well.

Do you know what your competencies - your core skills and attributes - are and how to sell them? Are you thinking about them and presenting them in a different way for each application? What key words are you using to describe yourself and your skills? Are you using words like "compassion" and "caring" instead of professional words like "proven manager" and "demonstrated leadership abilities"?

Some people imply in their applications that because they want to work for an aid agency and because they care, somehow they should be given a job. It really isn’t like that. If I had to choose between a person who cares passionately about poverty, children, etc., but is not focused and doesn’t present well, and a person who can get a job done dispassionately, without being very concerned about the bigger picture, I would nearly always choose the latter. It is not about what you want but about what agencies want and need.

You might say: ‘at the end of the day all of us are trying to help others and have a better world’. Partly. But don’t overdo that. Aid workers too have families, mortgages, contracts, deadlines to meet, the next job to find, dysfunctional bosses to please (obviously not in my current role!), planes to catch, children to put through school etc. We are not saints. Most of us try to do a job and do it well. But that is true of bankers and ice cream sellers.

Even if you are interested in a specialisation, for example HIV, you need to think of where/what you want to do. Prevention? Policy? Advocacy? Programme design? Knowing about HIV is not enough, you have to apply that knowledge and focus on how you will apply it.

Focus on fewer, more relevant jobs when applying. And work hard on selling your skills and abilities, not your desire to help.

You might want to read through the AWN Forum Branch regarding finding a job; there is a lot more advice there from aid, development and relief workers regarding starting a career, including advice on how to network.

Also see

 

Development Organisations

At www.proposalwriter.com/international.html is a "Comprehensive Listing of International Development Links".  Although huge, it is not a bad place to start, to appreciate something of the breadth of development activity and to consider options for a job-hunt.

 

Job Web Sites

ReliefWeb, the UN humanitarian hub, is perhaps the best-used site for jobs in emergency humanitarian relief with international agencies and NGOs.  www.reliefweb.int.

AlertNet, at www.alertnet.org, has a good jobs section.  Also have a look at 'Alerting Services' - there's a link on the home page.  You can get job vacancies, news, maps and even satellite images delivered to your email address.

UNjobs gives an excellently laid-out list of jobs in UN agencies and other international organisations.  It's at www.unjobs.org.

The University of Sussex has an enormous list of websites relevant to jobs in international development, at www.sussex.ac.uk/cdec/careers_path.php?carpath=15&carsection=4.

RedR/IHE (www.redr.org) and Bioforce (www.bioforce.asso.fr) maintain registers of qualified candidates whom aid agencies can recruit at short notice during an emergency.

UK ThirdSector Job Listings - International, http://jobs.thirdsector.co.uk/jobs/international-development. Most are with offices based in the UK.

cinfoPoste is a Swiss-based register of vacancies for information, counselling and training professionals.  The site is in German, English or French - look for the link on the home page.  www.cinfo.ch/cinfoposte.

BOND (British Overseas NGOs for Development) says it is the United Kingdom's broadest network of voluntary organisations working in international development, and have a job list.  www.bond.org.uk.

Hacesfalta is a Spanish site with international jobs and volunteering opportunities.  www.hacesfalta.com.

OneWorld lists jobs in human rights, environment and sustainable development worldwide.  www.oneworld.net/jobs.

The Eldis gateway of development information lists jobs at www.eldis.org/news/jobs.htm.

Action Without Borders lists a large number of jobs at www.idealist.org.  Free daily email service.  It also lists every nonprofit job site or directory it could find on the web, at www.idealist.org/career/morejobs.html.

World Service Enquiry, at www.wse.org.uk, provides information and advice about working or volunteering for development.  Experience Development (www.experiencedevelopment.org) has a jobs section.

DevJobs (www.devjobsmail.com) is an Internet service that provides international job announcements on various development fields.

DevNetJobs, at www.devnetjobs.org, lists jobs and consultancies in the international development, NGO and environment sectors.

Dev-Zone is a New Zealand-based resource centre on international development and global issues.  It has a jobs database at www.dev-zone.org/jobs.

developmentaid.org, has more than 1800 jobs and consultancies listed, and allows users to receive regular, personalized job emails and make his or her CV available to employers.

The Australian Aid Resource and Training Guide gives advice and information for people interested in aid work in Australia and internationally.  Click here.

Mango (www.mango.org.uk) provides a specialist register of accountants, to work with NGOs in the field and at HQ, full-time or on a consultancy basis.

InterAction (www.interaction.org) is an alliance of US-based international development and humanitarian NGOs.  You will find a jobs link on their home page.

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) focuses on opportunities for Canadian citizens but includes links to international NGOs based in Canada and general advice of wider interest.  www.acdi-cida.gc.ca.

Yellow Monday is a weekly newsletter from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Sussex, including a listing of internal and external job vacancies in the development sector.  It is available online or by email.  www.ids.ac.uk/ids/news/ymonday/index.html.

The Economist newspaper (www.economist.com) includes senior jobs in relief and development organisations (not only for economists).  The UK's Guardian newspaper, at jobs.guardian.co.uk, also frequently lists humanitarian vacancies in its jobs section.

The US Foreign Policy Association lists jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities in relief and development organisations. Offers free e-mail notification for new postings.  www.fpa.org/jobs_contact2423/jobs_contact.htm.

Overseas Recruitment Services is a Nairobi-based specialist recruitment service for qualified personnel in the relief and development sector in Africa.  www.oresrecruitment.com.

Also see Getting Started (Networking), by Dr. Ivan Scheier, which offers very basic advice on pre-Internet networking, to help you overcome any barriers you may be experiencing in purposely seeking someone out.


Also see the AWN Advice page regarding volunteering, both to donate your skills and training abroad and to gain the skills and training you need to pursue professional opportunities. Also includes some warnings about and considerations for pay-to-volunteer services.