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Heading to a career fair? Here are 6 tips for success

In Career Development, International Development, MIIS on May 22, 2018 at 2:38 pm

(This post was originally featured on DevEx)

One of the older ways of recruiting endures to this day: The career fair.

Dozens, even hundreds of employers come with tablecloths, displays, pamphlets, mugs, pens, and other free stuff. They send recruiters and hiring managers, who come to sit at tables where they hope qualified people will come ask them about their various opportunities. These employers spend a lot of money. Some are paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars (if they’re sponsoring), sometimes flying their staff from abroad in order to find qualified candidates.

I have been a recruiter three times and I’ve attended dozens of career fairs at universities and other various conferences. I’ve been behind the table, so I have advice to help make this a better experience for everyone. Job seekers need to keep a few things in mind before walking into the recruiting hall.

Follow these tips for a productive career fair experience.

1. Dress appropriately: Even in California, you want to make sure you’re in at least a business casual, if not business formal outfit.

2. Do your research: The list of employers that are attending is always published in advance. Prioritize your target employers and make sure you know their open positions; their overall mission, objectives, priorities, where they operate, etc.; and their financial situation. For nonprofits, you can go to Guidestar.com to review most 501(c)(3)’s IRS Form 990, where you can see nonprofits’ sources of funding, expenditures, board members/compensation, as well as their top-10 paid staff. For publicly traded companies, you can check their websites or sites such as Yahoo Finance or E-Trade for more detailed information. The priority is to figure out their priorities and to understand a little about the market or industry they’re working in.

3. Ask good questions: When you get to the employer booths, be prepared to ask the recruiters a handful of questions. Informed questions always make a good impression. “Hi, I’m Amadou, a monitoring and evaluation consultant. I noticed that you have a position open on your MEAL team in East Africa. Would you be able to tell me a little more about the position and what you’re looking for in the best candidates?”

Never go up to a recruiting table, glance up at the name of the company, and say, “Huh, Asia Foundation… so what do you guys do?” That’s the worst first impression you could make. Of course if there are more than 50 employers at the forum, you’re not expected to be an expert about all of them. If you have already visited the companies that you researched ahead of time, you might be walking around hoping for serendipity and to learn about organizations you hadn’t considered. Sometimes this can lead to pleasant surprises. When you haven’t done as much research on a company, you can start by introducing yourself, which includes asking the recruiters their names and priorities. “What positions are you recruiting for today?” That’s a much better question and it allows the recruiters to be more direct about their priorities.

4. Be careful about the SWAG: Recruiters will come with all kinds of cool stuff to give away: SWAG, or stuff we all get, such as pens, cups, frisbees, squishy stress balls, notebooks, travel mugs, and charger packs. This is all designed to draw you to their tables. You are welcome to take these items, but not without giving the recruiters your attention in exchange. Walking by a table and taking something without talking to the recruiters is rude and makes a terrible impression. If you’re feeling introverted, a way to start a conversation with a recruiter could be, “Wow, that’s a great mug! How is it going for you today?” and the recruiter can then talk about what they’re looking for, and you go from there. The SWAG was brought to be given away, and the more recruiter gives away, the less they have to drag away on their way home. So please do help yourselves — after a conversation.

5. Manage your time: There is always an initial rush, in particular if it’s at a conference and you’re between sessions with limited time. If there is a scrum of people around a recruiter and the recruiter is generally answering questions, it’s acceptable to eavesdrop. But it’s not fair to monopolize recruiters’ time when there is a long line of people. So if you’re not directly in front of the recruiter, you listen and absorb what the person is saying. Then when things die down, you can go back and ask more detailed, personalized questions. Recruiters can get bored at these events during slow periods when nobody is visiting their tables; this is your opportunity to engage them and make a good impression.

6. Follow up: You’ll collect a lot of business cards. Write down what you remember from your conversations on the backs of the business cards. Then afterwards, you can write an email thanking the recruiter for their time and saying you look forward to applying or being considered for whatever positions you discussed. You can wait one or two days before following up. If a career fair is on a Friday, you make sure it’s in their inbox by Monday.

Do these six things and the career fair will have been worth your time, and you will have made such a great impression that the recruiters will feel good about their experience and want to come back.

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Learning how to ‘get stuff done’ — skills for a humanitarian career

In Capacity Building, Career Development, Humanitarian Response, International Development on December 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm

This post was originally published on 4 Nov 2016 on DevEx

It was a cool, misty evening in Kathmandu, Nepal, about a week after the April 26 earthquake. My Catholic Relief Services colleagues and I were meeting to discuss our emerging response. At that point, we had about 20 staff in country, about half were from the humanitarian response team, the rest had come up on temporary duty assignments from our India country program, but many more were needed. We had a human resources problem — and as the emergency HR adviser, it was the reason I was a part of the team.

We had 20 trucks coming in the next seven days. There were dozens of disparate tasks that needed to get done to make sure the trucks made it across the border through customs. The nonfood items transited to appropriate warehouses, would be unloaded and inventoried, and then transferred to their final destinations and distributed to beneficiaries according to the direction the Nepalese government.

We would need people working customs, procurement, logistics, distribution managers, warehouse managers, and other operational staff and we needed them very quickly. We were not yet legally able to hire local employees so we had to bring in all of our own staff. I would have hired almost any capable and available development professional at that time for a consultancy, just to test them out.

This experience and others I had during my time working in humanitarian response, including in places such as Niger, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Iraq and Turkey, indicate to me that in the humanitarian context — there will almost always be a need for skilled operations professionals, and there currently is a shortage of skilled, trusted operations managers. The best ones have their choice of assignments.

I left humanitarian response exactly one year ago to take a position as a career and academic adviser at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, where I completed my master of public administration in 2007.

In my current role, I advise students on careers in development. Many of my students have aspirations to work in the field, and they often start out thinking they want to be technical program managers. However, due to the fluid nature of humanitarian response, and due to the fact that more and more highly skilled local national staff are filling these roles, most expatriate program managers will need to be competent generalist managers, and the differentiator will be operational skills.

While the technical program management positions will continue to attract attention, aspiring development professionals will need to know about the fundamentals of managing donor-compliant programs.

Yes, there are fundamentals to designing sustainable development programs, and students need to have a sound academic foundation. Courses in program design, behavior change, and monitoring and evaluation are essential. But, the entry-level staff that get promoted are those that can hit the ground running and get stuff done.

Students studying international development program management should balance their coursework between program and operations-oriented subjects. Find classes, either through their school or through short-term training courses with groups such as EdX, DisasterReady, or InsideNGO where they learn about the budgeting and financial management in social change organizations.

Most development managers will need to know about human resources, proposal writing, project design, program management, ethics and strategic partnering. Graduate students should aim to complete an internship for three to six months at some point, to gain hands-on experience applying what they’ve learned.

Among the soft skills required, humanitarian operations managers need to be creative, flexible, patient and proactive. These attributes will help you navigate the often overly bureaucratic systems you may encounter, when, for example, looking for a place to rent or even faced with a potentially corrupt situation. We’re there to help vulnerable people as soon as possible, in some cases we’re literally saving lives; earthquake affected people had lost their homes and livelihoods and were living outside, without food and with ruined infrastructure. Agility and being able to think quick on your feet are essential to providing timely assistance.

Hard skills include experience with procurement, logistics, human resources and finance. When you’re spending donor money — you have to take the utmost care and take accountability very seriously. There can be no waste, and you have to make smart, quick decisions based on a thorough knowledge of procurement rules and regulations.

Logistics is it’s own art form — the ability to manage so many moving parts can be awe-inspiring when you work with a true professional. This is the kind of back-office work that many people take for granted — when things run smoothly you forget how much effort went into making sure the NFI’s were shipped, that the distribution managers and workers were well trained, that the procurement process was sound and the future audit will be clear.

Ultimately, within the just over three weeks I spent in Nepal facilitating CRS’s HR in Nepal — we peaked at just under 50 staff in country on temporary duty. The second phase would entail hiring local staff and normalizing the program for early recovery work.

Right now, in Haiti, many NGO’s are likely in the thick of the operations to distribute nonfood items and commence early recovery programming in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. While they will eventually hire consultants and staff that will design and manage long-term recovery efforts, they immediately needed skilled operations managers to get everything where it needed to be and leave a perfect paper trail behind. If you want to be gainfully employed in humanitarian work, operations and logistics is a great way to go.

Resources for International Development and Humanitarian Assistance

In Career Development, Humanitarian Response, International Development, MIIS on July 21, 2016 at 4:55 pm

This list and various summaries is for students interested in humanitarian response and international development. I’ve been sending this out once a semester, but I decided to share it with the world. Much of the text here is cut and paste from the “about” section of each website, but I wrote a little here and there where I can share useful context. I will be trying to update this list from time to time – so please do comment, tweet to me, or otherwise send me any updates!

Resources for International Development and Humanitarian Assistance

USAID Rules and Regulations – https://www.usaid.gov/work-usaid/get-grant-or-contract/trainings-how-work-usaid

This online training series is designed to answer some of the most frequently raised questions and concerns from organizations interested in partnering with USAID. This online training program allows you to learn at your own pace. We encourage you to start with the first e-module and work your way through the series.

DevExhttps://www.devex.com/

DevEx is now the main portal that International Development (they call it “Global Development”) INGO’s, especially American ones, use to post their jobs. They also have a strong journalist corps that aggregates global development and humanitarian news and insight, and produces original content and analysis of industry trends. DevEx is well connected with various partnerships across the nonprofit and for-profit sector. This is a great resource to begin with for aspiring international development professionals.

InterActionhttp://www.interaction.org/

From their website, “InterAction is an alliance organization in Washington, D.C. of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Our 180-plus members work around the world. What unites us is a commitment to working with the world’s poor and vulnerable, and a belief that we can make the world a more peaceful, just and prosperous place – together. InterAction serves as a convener, thought leader and voice of our community. Because we want real, long-term change, we work smarter: We mobilize our members to think and act collectively, because we know more is possible that way. We also know that how we get there matters. So we set high standards. We insist on respecting human dignity. We work in partnerships.” InterAction’s president is Sam Worthington, a MIIS Alumni.

Germane to InterAction – see their super useful NGO Aid Map. InterAction’s NGO Aid Map aims to increase the amount of publicly available data on international development and humanitarian response by providing detailed project information through interactive maps and data visualizations. NGO Aid Map gives a picture of international aid that would not exist otherwise.

ReliefWebhttp://reliefweb.int/

ReliefWeb is a specialized digital service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). ReliefWeb is a tremendously useful site for those interested in Humanitarian Response. They aggregate all Site Reports, evaluations, analysis, appeals, maps, situation snapshots, and other data which they organize for general consumption. This is a tremendous resource for learning about any humanitarian disaster or emergency operation. Their JOBS site is also very useful, mostly listing UN and other humanitarian response opportunities.

ALNAP – http://www.alnap.org/

The Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP) was established in 1997, as a mechanism to provide a forum on learning, accountability and performance issues for the humanitarian sector, following the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda (JEEAR). The JEEAR is the most comprehensive system-wide evaluation of an international response to a humanitarian crisis to date. It led to demands for increased professionalisation of the humanitarian sector. Consequently, several initiatives were developed during the same few years to improve the performance of the humanitarian sector. These include The Code of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief, the Sphere Project, the Humanitarian Ombudsman Project (which became HAP International) and People In Aid.

D+C Development and Cooperation – http://www.dandc.eu/en

The Germany-hosted D+C “Development and Cooperation” is a website that is up-dated daily. We discuss international-development affairs and explore how they relate to other fields of policy-making, such as security, peace, trade, business and environmental protection. We publish contributions according to a weekly schedule

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative:  http://www.atha.se/

The Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA) seeks to build operational capacity, facilitate learning across organizations in the humanitarian sector, and to mobilize change through a community of practice. ATHA enhances the capability of professionals in the humanitarian sector to manage and lead teams in multifaceted, remote, and often hazardous missions.  ATHA’s unique set of online and in-person learning tools, trainings, and engagement with the professional community support the expansion and deepening of key legal and policy exchanges within and across agencies in order to create a dynamic and creative space for learning and innovation.

Overseas Development Institute: www.odi.org

ODI is an independent think tank with more than 230 staff, including researchers, communicators and specialist support staff. We provide high-quality research, policy advice, consultancy services and tailored training – bridging the gap between research and policy and using innovative communication to mobilise audiences.

Bay Area International Link – https://bailsf.org/

“We established BAIL to foster a lively and engaged community of people and organizations who are based in the Bay Area and work internationally. We aggregate job opportunities, organize events, and support our network of members who are active in the fields of international development, governance, peacebuilding, human rights, trade, and environmental issues, as well as those working on international business development.” Their LinkedIn group is relatively active as well. Check out their handy-dandy “Directory of Organizations” if you want to search for work and start networking ASAP!

Catholic Relief Services – Emergency Field Operations Manual (EFOM) – http://efom.crs.org/

The EFOM is a comprehensive one-stop shop for all templates, forms, and guidance for every aspect of emergency program operations. It’s like CRS completely opening up their playbook and sharing it with the world. Includes three thematic areas: Emergency Field Operations, Emergency Capacity Strengthening, and Field Programming manuals. You must bookmark this site and use it!

Humanitarian Responsehttps://www.humanitarianresponse.info/

Humanitarian Response is a specialized digital service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) provided to the community as part of OCHA’s responsibility under the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Operational Guidance on Responsibilities of Cluster/Sectors & OCHA in Information Management. Humanitarian Response aims to be the central website for Information Management tools and services, enabling information exchange among operational responders during either a protracted or sudden onset emergency. This global site is complimented by country specific emergency sites that can be accessed through www.HumanitarianResponse.info. At the global level, Humanitarian Response provides access to country sites and a “one-stop-shop” for global information coordination resources, such as normative products including guidance notes and policies, cluster specific information and data, toolboxes and internet links. At the country level, Humanitarian Response is designed to provide a platform for sharing operational information between clusters and IASC members operating within a crisis. It provides a predictable set of core features that will be repeated on all sites and will host future tools for streamlining information collection sharing and visualization.

IRIN Newshttp://www.irinnews.org/

This is a great site for Humanitarian News and Analysis.  IRIN, originally the “Integrated Regional Information Networks”, started distributing humanitarian news in 1995. IRIN publishes reports in English, French and Arabic and has a monthly online audience of 280,000 website visitors. It has around 100,000 articles and 30,000 photos in its archive. Its audience is drawn from the aid, media, diplomatic and non-profit communities in some 190 countries.

Guardian Global Development Professionals Network

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network

The Guardian Global Development Professionals network (Twitter: @GuardianGDP) publishes some great columns from aid workers and the humanitarian community. Great career advice as well. I read their stuff every week.

InsideNGOhttp://www.insidengo.org/index.htm

InsideNGO’s Mission is to strengthen the operational and management capacity of organizations in the global NGO community through effective collaboration, practical solutions, professional development, and advocacy. Over 7,000 participants benefit annually from 100+ workshops, an annual conference, webinars, and over 30 peer roundtables. We conduct surveys for HQ and expat compensation and benefits, indirect costs, software use, and spot surveys. InsideNGO is a forum that links your voice with those of your colleagues to speak with influence when commenting on OMB Circulars and other relevant government regulations as they are proposed. Advocacy efforts to improve the effectiveness of USAID and Department of State policies and procedures continue apace. We are respected by key staff at these agencies and meet regularly to discuss and resolve issues.

InsideNGO has an open, free to access JOB board and has useful links to various training resources, however you need to be an employee  (or have an email account) from a member NGO to access the courses and much of their resources.

Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System – http://www.gdacs.org/

GDACS is a cooperation framework under the United Nations umbrella. It includes disaster managers and disaster information systems worldwide and aims at filling the information and coordination gap in the first phase after major disasters. GDACS provides real-time access to web‐based disaster information systems and related coordination tools. Many governments and disaster response organisations rely on GDACS alerts and automatic impact estimations to plan international assistance.

 

Other links:

  1. UNjobs: job vacancies in United Nations and International Organizations
  2. ReliefWeb: reliable and timely humanitarian information on global crises and disasters since 1996
  3. DevNetJobs: international development jobs and consulting opportunities
  4. NGOJobsVacancies: NGO jobs, Development jobs, Relief jobs and career, humanitarian relief jobs
  5. AidBoard: international development jobs
  6. Jobs4Development: international development jobs
  7. NGO Jobs
  8. United Nations Careers
  9. Idealist: volunteer, work, intern, organize, hire and connect.
  10. GenevaJobs: jobs and consulting opportunities arising within the international development sector in Geneva, Switzerland and Europe
  11. Devex: international development
  12. Eurobrussels: European Affairs Job website
  13. United Nations Volunteers
  14. Policyjobs: policymaking jobs around the world
  15. CharityJOB: UK’s busiest site for charity jobs, fundraising jobs, NGO jobs and not for profit jobs
  16. EurActive Jobsite: jobs in Brussels and EU affairs
  17. NGOjobsonline: NGO jobs
  18. EthicalJobs: ethical jobs around the World
  19. Hacesfalta: Spanish website with volunteering and NGO’s jobs from the Spanish world
  20. NGO Pulse Vacancies: NGO jobs from South Africa