Working in Development

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Working in International Development

International Development is a global industry that attracts the interest of many people and therefore by its nature it is very competitive to enter.

Here are some of the common questions we often encounter:

I am interested in working in International Development

Is it difficult to get into?

What jobs are there?

I am interested in a particular field

How do I start my career?

Do I need another qualification?

Are languages important?

What will help?
 

I am interested in working in International Development
Using the term International Development is too broad and too vague to convey any real meaning; which area of development, or which issues do you find interesting, and why?

An 'interest' is not enough! For example, if you're interested in football, then you might watch your team on TV, buy a team shirt, hold a season ticket, even travel internationally to support your team; that's an interest! So, what evidence can you give to support your interest in international development?

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Is it difficult to get into?
With the proliferation of university degrees specialising in international development studies or similar there is strong competition for every development focused job. For some graduates, and a growing number of career changers, working in International Development is the dream job; particularly in today’s recession and economic downturn days; more people are considering value-driven careers.

Unlike traditional professions, there are no apprenticeships or normal entry routes into these careers. Agencies require qualifications, and professional expertise and experience. It's very competitive but not impossible!

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What jobs are there?
There are many kinds of jobs with a wide range of organisations. Most people focus on working with an NGO, however there are many other alternative employers. The range and type of jobs will depend on the employer who could be an international consultancy, an overseas government department, a commercial operation, all of these contribute to the economic growth and strengthening of the county's development or infrastructure.

Generally, jobs could be broadly classed as either technical assistance/training or management.

Most sites list the types of expertise they need and the areas of their focus and you need to find out where your expertise fits. Get to know the synergy of the networks.

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I am interested in a particular field
As a specialist you will need to identify the key networks, funders and stake holders in your area as these are where to look for an opportunity. Policy and funding priorities change. However, currently all major funding is focused on the MDGs and there is limited funding for other projects. As a specialist with an interest in international development you might not find a suitable opportunity.

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How do I start my career?
For many this is the "Catch 22" situation, especially for new graduates. Our response: if you have a qualification, then you need to get relevant work experience. There are many ways you could do this. Probably the most common way is to gain experience via volunteering. However, if you are a professionally qualified accountant, for example, you would not need to volunteer. Simply apply for a finance job. Much depends on what you have already done.

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Do I need another qualification?
First, you need relevant and practical work experience. Depending on your expertise you may easily find work. Many jobs require candidates to have a Masters Degree, but before you spend thousands of pounds, look to see what the job market is asking for.

If you are continually seeing your ideal job asking for a particular level or qualification specialisation then you will need to consider further study as an investment for your career. Don't simply assume gaining another degree will open the doors to employment.

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Are languages important?
Yes, of course, but language in itself is not enough to get a job.  It is an important additional skill. The common languages are French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic and if you want to work within the UN you will need to be fluent in two of their official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

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What will help?
The basics that will help are: personality, relevant qualifications, skills and experience, signs of commitment and understanding the issues.

You could talk over your situation with one of our advisers in a One to One; in a tailor-made conversation you would gain insight into your particular situation and what you need to do.

You can find out more by reading blogs and website stories from development workers.

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Working in Development
Our booklet full of ideas on how you can improve your chances to get your first or next development job has been designed specifically for career changers and new graduates.

Written by one of our experienced One to One consultants and based on the most common questions we have encountered from career-changers and job-seekers over the last few years.

Now out of print. Try searching Amazon for a used copy.

 

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