Tips for Finding your Next Assignment in International Development
A few years ago, I was the presenter for the Foreign Policy Association's Global Careers Boot Camp series in Boston. The workshop was about how to "Land a job in International Development" for new entrants, or individuals transitioning from other sectors into the international development sector. This made me reflect about the type of information that may be useful to you, when trying to find your next assignment.
I am hearing from many managers in the field that they will be seeking new projects very soon. Recently, there has also been a big push by donor organizations to hire more locals, national workers and fewer expats. This means that there is likely to be much more competition for getting choice positions on fewer projects in the future. Therefore, there will be a need for a smarter approach to applying for international development positions.
While some of you may be on my email list and receive my alerts when I am recruiting, this should not be your only or primary method for seeking your next assignment. Here are good approaches to find your next assignments:
First and topmost, the best way to search for jobs or assignments is to go directly to the websites of International Development organizations and search out their vacancies and employment opportunities. The International Development organizations do post all their positions on their websites. Only some of those open positions get posted on the Devex or other international job boards, therefore it is a good idea to check as many websites of your favorite organizations during the periods when you are looking for future work. To find the international development organizations that list vacancies on their websites, go to www.internationalink.net and click on the "Resources" tab. There you will find links to many of the International Development organization and be able to click yourself into their website to browse their open positions. Reviewing your favorite employers' website is the most important and effective job search activity you can do, and you should start doing this many months before your current assignment ends.
The next best method for finding new assignments is to be registered with and check the well known websites that have a jobs board listing multiple positions within the Internationa Development Sectors. Websites like DEVEX (http://www.devex.com), Relief Web (http://reliefweb.int/), and Foreign Policy Association (www.fpa.org), and DevelopmentAid.org are examples of important Career Center sites for those in the Development Sector. There are many others and you can find them in the Resource section of my website. These websites have major jobs boards featuring hundreds of positions that need to filled and these are a source for important career information and advice as well.
Other methods for improving your job search are Networking and Face to Face approaches. There are various job fairs that occur regularly each year within where the International Development sector. These job fairs include exhibits by contractors and also "how to" workshops. There are International Development fairs in Washington DC every October and March/April each year that are organized by DEVEX or the Society for International Development and these can be found on their websites. Other job fairs are offered by various International Offices or Career Development programs of Universities, especially internationally-oriented schools or universities.
Informational interviews with International Development organizations can also be effective methods of making valuable connections for future assignments! But being able to navigate yourself into the organizations, and gain access to a program manager or hiring agent can be a challenge. Don't be afraid to call anyone you know in the organization and ask them to provide a name or introduction to a relevant hiring manager. Meeting anyone on the recruiting staff, the program staff, or someone involved in implementing a foreign project can be invaluable in getting that assignment abroad that will become an important part of your development experience.
Other opportunities for Networking and finding potential foreign assignments can be found within Professional Associations which have international donor funded initiatives. International Development Job fairs, of course, offer good networking opportunities. Connecting with Alumni Networks at your universities or past educational programs will also provide opportunities for gathering information about potential employment opportunities. Finally, there is the new role of social networking on the internet and seeking jobs or joining discussion groups on these networks such as Linked In, Facebook, and other relevant networks, can bring you visibility, valuable contacts, and information.