What if I decide international humanitarian work isn’t for me – what next?
I used to advise people that they should only pursue a career in humanitarian aid if they could not imagine being happy doing anything else. I rarely do that any more, largely because it sounds a little melodramatic, but I stand by it as a measuring stick. As Cecil Day-Lewis said (about the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War):
“Tell them in England, if they ask,
What brought us to these wars,
To this plateau beneath the night’s Grave manifold of stars –
It was not fraud or foolishness, Glory, revenge, or pay:
We came because our open eyes Could see no other way.”
But enough of that. There are a lot of people who are interested in the world beyond the borders of their country, committed to international issues, and engaged in global humanitarian goals who are not international humanitarian workers. That’s ok, in fact it’s a good thing – there is a lot of other work that needs to be done both at home and abroad, and you certainly don’t have to make a career of it to make an impact.
If after reading this I’ve helped you decide that this is not for you, you may be interested in some leads in finding fulfilling, meaningful work in some other way. Here are some resources that I like for beginning that search:
- ‘The Non-Profit Career Guide – how to land a job that makes a difference‘, by Shelly Cryer is a great primer on the US non-profit sector, with a wonderful introduction to the sector as a whole, its scale, scope and variety. She goes on to discuss various sub-sectors in the field, and the types of professionals they employ as well as giving great tips for building a resume that will get noticed by non-profit recruiters and doing well in interviews. Get it from Amazon or Powell’s Books.
- ‘Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-time Job Seekers‘ by Meg Busse, and its companion volume ‘The Idealist Guide to Nonprofit Careers for Sector Switchers‘ by Steven Joiner are another pair of guides focused on the US non-profit sector from the perspective of first time job-seekers and mid-career switchers, respectively. Published by Idealist, they deals with many of the same topics, reprising an overview of the sector, job-search and networking skills, cv building and interviewing. The good news is that you can get them (and many other cool things) both as free downloads as well as in hard copy from Amazon (Sector Switchers, First-time Job Seekers) and Powell’s Books (Sector Switchers, First-Time Job Seekers).