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Welcome!

March 13, 2012

This site is about getting your first job as a humanitarian aid worker. Whether you want to run refugee camps, micro credit programs or health programs, this is my personal opinion (not my employer’s) about ways to make the transition to international relief and development work.

If you find this site at least as useful as a coffee and a bagel, and wonder how you can possibly thank me, please consider buying my e-book on Amazon! Getting your first job in relief and development.

My take on getting a job as a humanitarian aid worker is organized by chapters (on the right-hand side under the heading Book chapters) – and is supposed to be read top-to-bottom more or less like a book. Book reviews and other pieces are posted below. Find out more about this blog here.

Please read the disclaimer, and understand that this line of work is not risk free. You need to do your own research, make your own decisions, and take responsibility for them.

If this site is as useful to you as a book you might have paid for please consider buying my new Kindle eBook, which contains much of the content from this site, thoughtfully formatted for off-line reading on a Kindle, iPad, laptop, or other e-reader. It’s $6, and honestly, what can you get for that these days? Get it here

One more thing – I would love anyone who likes this site to go to Amazon and review the e-book – it really helps me to recover some of the costs of hosting this site – thanks!

We answer phones at a relief org, and we direct almost all of our requests for informational interviews to this resource. It's an honest, clear summary of what you need in order to work in international relief. Thanks for this great reference.

New program to encourage hiring of Peace Corps (and AmeriCorps) alumni

September 15, 2014

So this might be of interest to anyone still on the fence about the benefits of the Peace Corps (spoiler alert – I’m in favor of it). President Obama announced a new initiative to encourage employers to hire alumni of the programs – “Citizens who perform national service are special. You want them on your team.” he said. Awww.

Read about it here.

Smart advice (as usual) from Wayan Vota

September 10, 2014

Wayan Vota (those who don’t know him should check out ICT4D – his blog on jobs in the information technology side of development) wrote a brief but useful piece on networking and informational interviews today – read it here.

Seeking jobs at the UN

September 9, 2014
tags: ,

I wanted to introduce you to a resource that I like about a topic that frustrates a lot of people – getting a job with the UN. Elisa dos Santos is a business economics major and presidential scholar at Hofstra University Honors College as well as an intern at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Washington. Her article “Wanted: A Job Anywhere in the World With the UN” is posted on PassBlue.com here.

The site has a few good articles on employment at the UN, a task that has been compared to “trying to find a secret passageway from a brick wall”…

Interview with relief and development academic Alp Ozerdem

September 3, 2014

Professor Alp Ozerdem

Professor Alp Ozerdem

The Guardian posted an interview with Alp Ozerdem, who is Professor of Peacebuilding and Co-Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University in the UK. The interview is here. Professor Ozerdem taught at York when I was there, and this is a good example of the range of professions that are involved in the world of relief and development without necessarily being aid workers.

Rules and regulations training for USAID and others

August 25, 2014

One of the huge issues for INGOs that take government money face is the bewildering array of rules and regulations that are in place. As Inside NGO puts it – “The plethora of rules and regulations associated with the management of government grants and cooperative agreements by US NGOs is a source of regular and continuing frustration to those on the receiving end. Sorting out what is required, by whom, and when, is made even more complicated by the fact that the rules seem to be constantly changing and/or subject to differing interpretation. The situation usually means that authoritative answers are hard to find.

I want to draw your attention to Inside NGO, which, amongst other things, maintains a good list of trainings related to, amongst other things, donor regulations. One current example of this is the USAID/Federal Rules & Regulations: Grants & Cooperative Agreements, which addresses such questions as “What is an allowable cost? What procedures do I need to follow when purchasing equipment with USAID money? How much can I revise my budget without having to go to USAID for approval? How long should I retain records? What are the most common audit findings and how can I avoid being written up by my auditors?

If you’re new to this world, or even if you’ve been around the block, refreshing your memory on these issues can be worthwhile.

Live Q&A: international development career advice for students

August 19, 2014

The Guardian Development Professionals Network is hosting a live Q&A on international development career advice for students. It’s a topic that I get a lot of questions about, and I would encourage anyone interested to follow the chat and post questions on 21 August, 1-3pm BST (that’s British Summer Time).

The link is here, and I will be part of the panel.

Carpenter wanting to help people get on their feet.

August 12, 2014
Q. G’day mate, how are you? I’m a carpenter and would love to help people get on their feet with shelters and rebuilds and what not, can you point me in the direction of a group that could take me on? It becomes unaffordable to always leave a paying job,
Thomas
 
A. Hi Thomas – I’m well, thanks. 
So – as I understand your question, you’re a carpenter, in Australia, who would like to carpent internationally, helping people who need support building a home. The bad news is that I don’t think that there are a lot of opportunities to work as a carpenter internationally. I’ve never come across community that was afflicted by shelter needs who lacked the skills to assemble or build shelters. Construction (unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled) is a fundamental activity that pretty much every society has figured out. Shipping foreigners who don’t understand the local language, cultural, colloquial building practices, procurement norms, and traditional construction scams is not usually a good idea technically or from a financial perspective.
That said, a solid understanding of construction, contracting, and construction management is a great skill-set that a lot of international agencies need. International NGOs often get money to build thousands of shelters, and need to issue bids, analyze them, issue and monitor contracts etc, and people who can do that efficiently and effectively are in demand in most large INGOs.
Hope that helps!
Nick
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