Career Advice, Part 1

In Capacity Building, Career Development, International Development on April 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm

I’ve found myself helping a lot of people with their career development lately, which has lead to quite a few longish emails, which I thought I’d aggregate and share for you below.  The Q&A below was written to help someone writing a book about career development, for background, but I’m letting you get the details.  Enjoy:

–Your favorite resource(s) for staying current on news, issues, and topics in your field:

Right now, my favorite resource is the DevEx daily briefing. The last few years, DevEx has really stepped up its game and started aggregating news relevant to the international development community. They’ve also assembled some decent knowledgeable journalists to create their own analysis and policy documents. InterAction provides good policy briefings that bear the weight of the American international Development NGO community that they represent. USAID has been producing and commissioning interesting studies and holds seminars on things like mobile technology and agricultural innovations. I also regularly consult ReliefWeb and AlertNet for humanitarian resources like Site Reports and crisis updates, mostly from the UN. Finally – I’ve followed a lot of international development organizations, professionals, journalists and news sources on Twitter, and I’ve found a lot of useful articles through iPad/iPhone apps like Zite and Flipboard that draw from those I follow on Twitter.

–The best resource(s) for those job hunting in your field:

From talking to my recruitment colleagues, LinkedIn and DevEx are the best for those interested in working for American or USAID-funded NGO’s. DevEx is still where most American NGO’s post their open positions. Inernationaljobs.org is a good general resource for program manager positions. AlertNet, ReliefWeb, and DevNetJobs are good for humanitarian and UN-oriented positions. LinkedIn has become your online CV. If you’re interested at all in getting a new position or positioning yourself for something new, an updated, well-written LinkedIn profile is essential. Many sites like DevEx allow you to import your LinkedIn profile to populate their database. I recommend connecting on LinkedIn with as many recruiters in your industry as possible. Then make sure you are an active LinkedIn user, at a minimum tweaking your profile from time to time, and posting status updates like links to articles you’re reading that are relevant to your work – if you’re disciplined on Twitter (keeping things professional) you can link your Twitter account to post to LinkedIn. That just gets your name out there and makes new impressions. Recruiters are on LinkedIn all day, you want them to see your name.

–The most important skills a professional looking to get into your field should develop:

The skills you should develop depend on the kind of work you want to do. If you’re the type who likes to line things up and knock them down, then Program Management is the way to go; you would need skills in budgeting, financial management, program management (courses like PMD-Pro or becoming PMP certified are useful in that regard). If you’re interested in writing proposals and managing projects in the field – aside from having a general expertise (agriculture, engineering, public health, etc.) skills like program evaluation, monitoring and evaluation, assessments, proposal writing, logical frameworks, strategic partnering, are all useful skills. Most important is being able to write and having the ability to advocate effectively for your ideas.

–Your best piece of advice for someone looking to break into your field and/or the one thing you wish you’d been told when you were starting out:

For international development – be mobile, spend as much time “in the field” as you can in your early career, before you have too many things keeping you stationary. In general – be patient and keep networking – maintain your connections. Put yourself out there and make new connections. Join professional groups. Write blog posts about your profession and share them around social networks. Talk to people about their jobs, learn about what they do. Know yourself – figure out what you’d really like to be doing and learn what you do NOT like doing. Settle if you have to, we all need to pay the rent.


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