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Intractable questions…

April 21, 2014

So – some of the questions I get on this site are ones I feel able to answer, and some of them are not really ‘questions’, but requests for extensive work developing a career plan. I raise this distinction to explain a little my rationale in starting to offer personal career counseling services. I’m happy to answer questions – if there is an answer to the question – but I simply cannot help this poster without a set of conversations and quite a lot more information.

Hi I am a medical graduate and … have done my MBA and have been working with a food and beverages company for almost a year now as a finance manager. I have always realized that I want work which is meaningful and more than money which gives me the satisfaction of having helped someone improve their life. Also to be completely honest which affords me the opportunity to travel to exotic locations.

How can I go about applying for a job with the UN,WHO or doctors without borders. My qualifications are mismatching with low levels of work experience, I have been educated in elite colleges, both medical and MBA in India but want to start in the humanitarian field, Kindly suggest how can I go about it.

That said, there might be some value in laying out the process I use with career counseling clients.

1. We’re going to want to nail down some specific short to medium term career goals here – ‘a job with the UN, WHO or doctors without borders’ is not specific enough. I would want this person to do some research on specific examples of jobs that they would like to get in the next 12-18 months, with specific organizations, and save the postings and job descriptions. We’re going to use them to analyze the resume and cover letter.

2. Once we’ve got 5-10 of these target job postings (hopefully they are somewhat similar – if they are not then we’re going to have to repeat this process for each ‘type’) we’re going to go through them an pull out the main things that the posting is asking for in terms of experience, skills, qualifications etc. We’ll end up with a list of 5-20 requirements.

3. We’re going to compare the resume and cover letter with this list. Objectively, does the applicant have what the agency is asking for? If so, then we can jump to the point of polishing the resume and cover letter, and beginning a networking plan. If not, then we’re going to need to look for ways to get those things, be it education, internships, Peace Corps or the like, or stepping-stone jobs.

4. Assuming we have a close enough match between the applicant and the skills required, then we can work on making sure that the resume and cv communicate that match effectively.

5. Finally, we’re going to want to identify a group of people who either have the types of jobs that the candidate is looking for, or hire for them. The candidate is going to make it their business to get to know these people through professional networking.

So, in brief – there’s the answer to the question “Kindly suggest how can I go about it.” It’s a process, and its different for everyone.

I’m happy to work with people to craft an individual plan, but I do have to charge for that service. In the meantime, if you want to know whether it’s a good idea to take your pet with you, or what kinds of tropical diseases you might reasonably expect to contract, please do send your questions my way!

Good luck,


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hill, Thomas permalink
    April 21, 2014 9:59 pm

    Good post – I always find that a hard question to answer for people, but I do so along the same lines that you are recommending here.


    Thomas Hill | Director of Program Operations | Save the Children, Occupied Palestinian Territory

    • April 22, 2014 8:31 am

      Thanks Thomas – I’d love you to write a guest post on your advice if you feel like it sometime! Nick

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