Career Advice, Part 2 – basics

In Career Development, International Development on April 13, 2013 at 8:30 am

I wrote a bit about interns and breaking into international development to a young student completing her undergraduate degree. Keep in mind I mostly deal with people developing their careers in America, and I don’t have a of experience with DFID or EU oriented types.  Go check our RedR for that, I guess…

I just started my new position with Relief International, I just finished my 3rd week, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can about how this place works.

One thing I’ve noticed here at RI is the number of interns we seem to have. It’s way more than at my last employer. So that’s a good way to break into things, these interns seem to have a lot of real things to do and opportunities to really learn about development.

Generally speaking, to break into the international development world, there are a couple of tracks – through UN-oriented organizations, or for USAID implementing partners.

UN oriented would be actual UN orgs, like WFP, UNHCR, FAO, UNICEF, etc. They do very interesting work with super vulnerable people in tough environments, and you can feel good about what you’re doing. UN jobs pay pretty well too. Check out the UN Foundation, they’re an interesting American org (funded by Ted Turner when he made that $1 Billion donation) that might be good for an entree.

USAID Implementing partners are the more familiar NGO’s like Mercy Corps, Save the Children, CARE, IRD, Relief International, etc. Most of these orgs also work with the UN, but as a compliment to their USAID funded programming. For these kinds of jobs, you need to be familiar with USAID programming and administrative stuff, like contracts management.

A good place to start to look into this world is DevEx – all American NGO’s have their jobs posted there and DevEx has developed a nice central website where you can really dig into various aspects of this industry – jobs, jobsearching, donor solicitations, etc. All American NGO’s post almost all their jobs there. Another good place to look is InterAction, they’re the umbrella group of American non-profit NGO’s. Lots of good information there and links to all the orgs.

A third option is the for-profit USAID contractors like DAI, Chemonics, and Creative Associates, among others. There are some good opportunities with them, but they are very selective. They’re also very successful. IRD is a nonprofit but in my time there they competed against and modeled themselves after the for-profits. It was an uneasy balance.


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