Q. What is the purpose of this site?
A. I used to run the overseas internship program for a US based international NGO and got asked for my advice on how to get a foot in the door a lot. I’ve also been in the position of being frustrated at not being able to get information on how to break out of the experience catch-22 situation.
This site is my personal opinion as someone who has worked in the field both as a practitioner and on the recruiting side. It is the distilled version of the information that I would give in an informational interview.
I should make clear that this blog is not the view of my employer. It’s not necessarily what I think is best for the humanitarian community, and it’s not how I think the world should work. It’s simply my honest opinion on the best way to get your first job in this line of work.
Q. Can you help me get a job in relief and development work?
A. Not directly. I can tell you what I know about getting your first job, which is the purpose of this site.
Q. What do you know about this subject?
A. I’ve worked for large well-funded international relief agencies and volunteered for tiny locally run non-profits. I’ve run large logistical operations supporting refugee camps in major emergencies, and worked one-on-one with returning refugees in rural communities. I’ve recruited for humanitarian programs, and run an international internships program for a major international relief and development agency based in the US and the UK.
I’ve run programs funded by most of the world’s major donor agencies including a handful of UN agencies, US Federal Agencies, UK, and European funders, as well as private foundations.
More importantly than this though, I’ve been in the position trying to break into this line of work, and successfully navigated the obstacles. In addition to my take on this, throughout this site you’ll find excerpts from interviews from people who have recently found work in this area, and from people who recruit for the industry. You’ll get a range of views on what hiring managers are looking for and how to get their attention.
Q. Don’t you think it is irresponsible to suggest that people should travel to emergencies and look for work?
A. I’m certainly not recommending that anyone do that – that’s a decision that they would have to make for themselves. There are risks both for the individual and problems that unprepared volunteers cause. Having said that, the reality is that a lot of people who end up working in this field get their first job this way, and I think the fairest thing to do is to present the information as best I can. I feel it’s patronizing to say that people shouldn’t do what I and many others have done. People need to make their own decisions with the best information available.
Q. I think you’re wrong.
A. Please do drop me an email, or comment on the blog. I’m very interested in feedback. Even if I don’t agree with you, I will try to find a way to present an alternate point of view.