Part Two: Beyond the basics
International development is a broad field. How can you prepare for a career in such a broad field?
Besides gaining the basic skills (see part one), the best way to prepare for your dream development job is to figure out exactly what you want and what you need to become qualified. Two ways to do this are networking and reading job ads.
Networking is an essential part of any job search process, and can serve many purposes. In particular, informational interviews are one way to figure out if you are qualified for your dream job or if you need additional skills. They are also a great way to figure out if what you thought was your dream job is actually ideal for you. The key to effective informational interviews is to form your questions in advance. Make a list of 5 to 6 questions and bring them with you.
Reading Job Ads
Start obsessively reading job ads, and figuring out which jobs you could love. Within your preferred sector of development (peace building, global health, governance, agriculture…), look at the kind of qualifications they want. If you look at enough, you’ll find a pattern. Make a list of the skill sets you’ll need, and seek out opportunities to build those skills.
Seek Support (Join the International Development Careers List!)
Job searching can be lonely and frustrating. Seek out job search buddies and support groups if possible. Support groups help keep morale up, and also can offer valuable advice and leads. The International Development Careers List is an excellent online resource and community. The IDCL is the list where international development expert Alanna Shaikh talks – in detail – about careers in international development. Subscribers can ask Alanna any question about careers in international development, and Alanna replies to the entire list. Learn from other people’s questions, and join a community that helps each other find the development job of their dreams. Subscribers also get special access to the IDCL LinkedIn group.
(Disclaimer: Alanna owns the IDCL and Lillian is the IDCL administrator).
Lastly, be persistent, but be patient! An international development job search usually takes about six months.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Alanna Shaikh is a global health and development professional with a vendetta against jargon. On her blog, Blood and Milk, she aims to make global development issues both accessible and understandable. In her TED Book, What’s Killing Us, she explains the biggest challenges in global wellness — from HIV/AIDS to the diminishing effectiveness of antibiotics — in a way that anyone can understand. Earlier this year, she co-founded AidSource, a social network for aid workers. She is also the co-founder of the group SMART Aid, which educates donors and start-up projects about international aid.
Lillian Gu is an international development professional with a passion for global health. She assists Alanna in administering the International Development Careers List. She previously worked as an Program Evaluation Coordinator at the Duke Developing World Healthcare Technology Laboratory. She speaks English, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. She is currently seeking job opportunities