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Landing your first development job

December 15, 2015

So I’ve been working on this site for several years now, and also working one-on-one with career consulting clients. It’s great to be able to share a success story from Will, who just landed a job with a major development organization.

A few years out of university I found myself in a job that for the most part I enjoyed but without a purpose I could really believe in. I had been working as an engineer in the sugar industry for two and a half years and knew that it was time for a change. Working in international development had been something I’d considered for years but, as a chemistry graduate, never felt I really had the right background to get into it.

Now into the second half of my twenties I decided it was now or never to make this dream a reality and set about trying to find a way into the sector starting from wherever necessary. One thing I realised early on, and that Nick helped me with a great deal, was how to highlight relevant skills in experiences which at first glance seemed irrelevant to a development agency. My CV changed from “improved fermentation efficiency in a Tanzanian sugar mill” to “project managed in a remote, developing location with obstacles such as x, y and z”, a month long summer placement writing press releases for a science publishing house became a chance to prove I could write reports for funders, I daily practiced my rusty French and Spanish and suddenly I started to look a lot more hireable. 

To be honest, I have been very lucky to find a position fairly quickly with an organisation which specified that it would accept applicants without previous experience in development, but I think the lesson of looking at your career through the eyes of a recruiter and finding anything that you can make relevant is really valuable.

Other than that I think one of the things that helped me most at interview was that I had researched the organisation to death and knew a lot about their previous projects and ideas so when they then gave me a series of scenarios I was much better placed to imagine what they would do in that situation. I will be starting my new position soon and hugely looking forward to it. Best of luck to everyone else hoping to make the switch to a career in the development sector!



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