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The problem with “I’ll go anywhere, do anything”.

November 25, 2016

Q. Hi Nick,

I don’t know if this is the right place but I would be very much interested in humanitarian aid in all aspects of it. I have a variety of skills I’ve picked up in my life and can pretty much be suited anywhere. My main goal is to help the less fortunate people. I am 25 Years old male and would do anything, even be sanctioned where no one wants to go. Put me in the worst of the worst situations, I can help. Not really into the whole salary/ wages thing.

A. Hi! Unfortunately you don’t leave a name, but thanks for writing. I get quite a lot of these kinds of questions, and don’t usually get a chance to respond, but this one is sort of the platonic ideal of this enquiry.

Firstly, a significant number of readers seem to think that I am a recruiter for aid agencies – to be clear, I’m not. I can’t put you anywhere I’m afraid.

Secondly, to the issue of skills. It’s a shame that you don’t mention what the variety of skills you have are, as that’s kind of critical. Skills like project management, engineering, nursing, financial management, staff development, negotiation, logistics etc are in demand in these lines of work, but recruiters will want to know what particular skills you bring to the table.

I know why you mention that you will ‘do anything’, but strangely that’s not an attitude most recruiters appreciate. I would encourage you to cultivate a pitch that shows recruiters that you understand the environment and job that you are applying for, and know what kinds of roles you will be most suited to. That kind of self-awareness will encourage recruiters to believe that you know what you’re letting yourself in for. The same goes for the places ‘no one wants to go’.

On the face of it you would think that most organizations would appreciate you not being ‘into the whole salary/wages thing’, but I think putting it like that might be another red-flag to a recruiter. It indicates either that you are independently wealthy (which is fine, but perhaps not the assumption that they will make) or that you lack judgment.

I would really encourage you at this point to look for opportunities to spend some time living and working overseas in the kinds of environments that you’re interested in getting a job, perhaps volunteering or interning, and honing your ideas about what, specifically, you’re like to be doing.

Good luck!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Obiomah D.O permalink
    December 28, 2016 12:19 am

    Your piece was really helpful. Cheers

  2. Domingo permalink
    January 4, 2017 9:08 pm


    First of all thanks for sharing your experience here, it´s very useful. I´m from Chile, recently got my lawyer degree and looking for a chance in humanitarian jobs. Many of the problems I have found in my research had been explain in previous posts, though there is something I would like to ask you little more detailed explanation if it´s possible.
    I started looking for a volunteer some months ago and I contact and Spanish organization working in Nicaragua. The main activity is giving English lessons to kids. You as a volunteer have to pay, but not to the organization but to the family that receives you, like a rent (and includes food too), these convinced me so I would not be working for an organization that pretends to earn money of these kind of experiences. Normally they have programs for some weeks but I talked with them of planning to stay a whole year. For me it´s possible to do so by these time, I don´t have children to feed and no debts to pay, and it would also permit to me a more effective impact of my work there. We accorded that the first three months would be as a regular volunteer and then I could take a coordination position (that basically consist in supervising the income of new volunteers and the work they do, some kind of middle rank I imagine). I think is a good beginning. I had work in aid organizations but just in Chile, not in another country, so I preferred to start with this, which is a “softer” work than we had to do here I think). But my precise doubt I would ask you to advice me is: even thought at the end of the year (assuming that all goes as we planned) I would leave with a experience as a volunteer and also in a “directive” position, and hopefully leaving the kids speaking some English, would you say a mayor organization would doubt of this considering is a not “authentic” volunteer job where a was asked to go there and get my plane-ticket paid? after the first three months I could go and find another volunteer I guess after some research and good luck, but if the work I would be doing there is functioning and motivates me I think it would be not very smart to leave it for what could be just a prejudice of the nature of the organization or the job.
    To be honest I´m not 100% happy with the fact that it could be seen as a “humanitarian tourism” but sincerely I could not find a better option. There are some organizations working in Chile that takes you over and I could have found a job there maybe but actually I don´t have interest in seen chileans at least in a while, I´m passing through some kind of discouragement with my environment and I saw this option and took it.
    Please, any advice would be very useful. I have already took this option and I want to commit to it and do it right but at the same time I have to think for what are the best options for taking this as a curriculum experience thinking in a future job interview, how to make this the best way possible thinking in the future. I would like someday in work in legal advising and/or any refugee situation, overseas specially. Being a RC or UN delegate would be a dream-come-true I sometime had and now I would like to back again, but I´m not sure of what to do in my present to orientate in that direction.

    Regards, and again my congratulations for your work, your life experience, and your disposition for the we-that-don´t-know-how-to-begin.

  3. March 13, 2017 12:37 pm

    Domingo – thanks for the question, sorry to take so long to get to this!
    I think I would encourage you to think about it from this perspective:
    1) Identify the specific jobs that you’re interested in getting at the end of the year.
    2) Look at the people who hold them now (Linkedin is great for this kind of research).
    3) Look at the kind of experience they have before they get hired into those jobs.
    That’s going to give you a pretty good idea of how competitive you’re going to be coming out of this year of experience.
    I’m afraid Latin America is not really an area I know a lot about – there is a lot of regional hiring, and it’s a rather particular job market that very much favors people from the region. I would suggest you talk to specific agencies that you might want to work for too and start to get to know their recruiters and hiring managers.
    Good luck!

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