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Engineering careers and intractable questions!

April 25, 2014

Hi Nick
I have a BSC in civil engineering and but have a heart to serve and help people, I have excellent interpersonal skills, I even won an international reward. I have done mission works for years and would love to get a job in humanitarian aid, how do I go about getting my first job, please advice.

So – this is another ‘intractable question’ – the poster is asking for individual career advice without giving anything like enough specific information. What kind of job are you looking for? Do you have any other qualifications? What exactly is the ‘mission work’ you’ve done? Where was it? That said, let’s take a swing:

As Neil Gaiman said, “You’ve a good heart. Sometimes that’s enough to see you safe wherever you go. But mostly, it’s not.” Luckily you have an engineering degree, excellent interpersonal skills and an international award too! It is actually on my schedule to post an interview with a humanitarian engineer, but for the moment I would say that I don’t think getting your first job as an engineer in this line of work is very different to any other first job. You need the qualifications that the job requires, you need experience living and working in the kinds of places the job requires you to be, and it doesn’t hurt to have good contacts in the aid world.

I do think in the meantime there are a couple of good resources for the engineering inclined:

1. REDR – the Register of Engineers for Disaster Relief is a great organization.

2. Engineering in Emergencies : A Practical Guide for Relief Workers is exactly what it says on the tin.

3. Thirdly I think my book Getting your first job in relief and development is packed with good advice on this issue! While we’re on that topic, I have 11 reviews on the book, and hundreds of posts and questions on this site – I’d love it if you felt like buying the book, but if not reviewing and rating it helps me a lot! Thanks!


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