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Education and languages for NGO workers

August 16, 2016
Q. Hello Nick
Thank you for your great article, I have recently graduated from high school and I am very interested in working in the ngo section (certainly with the UN) , I am wondering about two questions, would be very grateful if you are able to give me your opinion.
1- do you think it makes sense to take a volunteer trip abroad before starting my bachelor degree to have more insight into the ngo and humanitarian sector?
2- how many languages are enough to get you a competitive candidate? I speak fluent English and Arabic and currently learning German and French ( hopefully I will be fluent before finishing my university degree)
A. Hi Elhassan,
Thanks for the questions. With regard to the first, ‘yes’. The second is more complicated. The UN has six official languages – you speak two of them, and are learning a third. That’s definitely an advantage for UN recruitment, although you will want to read my article on getting a job with the UN, and check out the massive resources available on this daunting topic.
When we’re talking about organizations other than the UN, it really only matters whether you speak a language that is relevant to the country you’re going to. Arabic is great, but no use if you’re in Honduras.
Good luck!
One Comment leave one →
  1. Elhassan permalink
    August 26, 2016 4:10 am

    Thank you for your response! I have read all your posts and they are great!
    I have Two more final questions
    1- do you think where you are from can make a difference on getting a job in the ngo sector? I am from Egypt and being an Egyptian citizen doesn’t give me an easy access to different countries, not to mention that the United nations have a certain nationalties who could apply for certain jobs ( according to whether they are overstaffed or understaffed), however, I am planning to study in Germany and stay there after completing my studies to gain the German citizenship ( which unfortunately means that I would not be able to take jobs abroad) so my concern is that it may be hard to find ngo jobs/ internships in Germany., would that be an issue reflecting on my career in your opinion?
    2- do you think having contacts in the ngo sector important factor for a successful career?
    3- how do you build more contacts within the ngo sector?

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