The International Development Job Seekers Thread
I get asked about this all the time so I think it is worthy of our first FAQ (sorta) and sticky. This thread will contain all my advice, wisdom and tricks for career-seekers in international development. My job seeking skills were honed at business school while seeking internships with the two investment banks and three consulting firms that I was told were the only ones worth pursuing. I doubt they even read my CV. Too bad for them. Business school recruiting is just brutal, and slightly absurd.
I cannot imagine what it must have been like to work as a diplomat in remote locations before the advent of the Internet. Naturally, the Internet has made it remarkably easy to learn about what is happening in international development, and make contact with those hiring. For a successful job search, you will need to do both.
A good place to start is the USAID Yellow Book. This lists all the consultancies and NGOs who have been awarded projects by USAID. Even if the Yellow Book tends to always be about 8 years old, it has all the addresses of almost everybody who matters. It’s pretty comprehensive. Read the titles of the awards in the Yellow Book and check out the implementers’ websites. Then call, and send your CV (probably a sticky on Intl. Dev. CV writing to follow). Ask for whoever manages or knows anything about the projects that interest you. It is way easier to work past the receptionists at international development implementers than at investment banks.
I was searching for the Yellow Book online, and I don’t think USAID releases it anymore. It must be a hassle to put together and no longer worth the open disclosure it provided. (wink). Actually, I have posted the link for US Govt. spending on my blog roll. That should tell you who is winning the contracts for USAID and their addresses.
I dig this link for info on vacancies in other organizations.
http://missions.itu.int/~italy/vacancies/vaclinks.htm. I don’t have much advice on getting a job with the UN so I hope this site will attract those who work for the UN to share their knowledge with us. Well, maybe I know more now that I was hired by the UN last year.
http://careers.un.org/lbw/Home.aspx?lang=en-US. This is the location for the UN common recruiting system. Boy oh boy does it ever get tedious filling in virtually the same form for every UN agency.
Below is the link at the US FedBizOps site that lists vacancies and solicitations for projects at USAID. It is sometimes good to send out tickler messages to consultancies and NGOs expressing your interest and qualifications when solicitations come out.
Relief Web is a great development site of the sort this site aspires to. I’d be pretty damn flattered if they’d link to my site. They host current and mostly free international development job listings.
Eldis is another great site for news and info about international development and a few jobs.
The three links below are winners for job listings. DevelopmentEx has some content too. I remember when you had to subscribe to DevNetJobs for more than a hundreds dollars per year to get the paper copy mailed to you at post.
How could I forget OneWorld for jobs?
The Microfinance Gateway has positions in microfinance, or if you don’t know what microfinance is, you can find out there.
So that’s about it. These links are a goldmine for finding positions in international development. They won’t teach how to interview or write CV’s, or give you a Ph.D in conflict studies, but they will give you an idea of what jobs exist.|
This thread seems to be going through the roof in terms of views so I thought I would add to it concerning writing your CVs, resumes, vitas or whatever you want to call them. Please keep in mind that my comments are not the last word in CV writing or getting a job. There are many different styles of CV writing and many different human resources paradigms. It is impossible to say what will please all recruiters. I can share with you what I’ve learned, what has worked for me, and give some insight into what has impressed me when I was hiring people.
1. Neatness, punctuation and grammar count. If you can’t express yourself well in the language in which your CV is written, get someone to proof it. If you can’t, get it as good as you can.
2. Try to keep things as short as you can: one page works unless you are a consultant with tons of short engagements, or an older person whose moved around a lot. In that case, your first paragraph after your contact info might be a summary of what you consult on and one or two major achievements or efforts in which you have been involved.
3. Ask recruiters in the industry of interest what they want to see on a CV or what kinds of experience catches their eye. Ask people who have the jobs you want to see their CV.
4. Think critically not only about what your job function was, but how it fit in the the whole picture of the organization. Express that. Include information as to why your summer internship organizing paperwork contributed to the success of Jeff Sachs’ capital markets project in Russia in the 90’s … OK, well probably not that project, but you get the idea. Even if your part was small or you think it was mundane, you are at least showing the recruiter that you have an awareness of bigger, more complex efforts and the role you played in their success.
5. You job experiences listed on your CV would be best to begin with an action that you performed that led to a result. “I did Y which resulted in Z.”
6. Present yourself in the most attractive light but don’t lie. You’ll probably be called on it, and look really silly. Self-aggrandizement is OK, but making stuff up is not. I can’t tell you how many people have put English fluency on their CV, and then needed me to bring in a translator for their interview. If you have basic notions of a language, say you have basic notions, but don’t say you are fluent.
Those are my thoughts. I may add more to this later. I guess this is leading up to an interviewing thread.
There are thousands of ways to interview people for jobs. In the private sector, case interviews and tests are used frequently. During business school, investment banks and consulting firms could not get enough of the case interview, even though their cases were usually well circulated and tired after the first interview schedule they held. For international development, there are few cases interviews. I have noted and/or used the following tests:
1. Written test in English or another language: Would it be intuitively obvious to say that the interviewer is looking to se how well you write? Do you understand grammar? Do you have a decent vocabulary? More important than these are logic, persuasiveness and organization.
2. Case test: yes, I’ve used them to test people’s ability to reason, be creative and analyze a problem. I have also used these to test a candidate’s familiarity with the subject matter of the position.
3. Translation: To determine if the candidate is as proficient as they say they are at a language.
My top interview tips are as follows:
1. Know the position, the firm and the industry. In international development, that means keeping up with world events, the activities of donors and other organizations and trends in the industry. Use the Internet to research, but also pick up the phone and call people. Ask for an information interview or meeting with people who have the jobs you want.
2. Know the geography of the area in which the job will be performed. Know the political, social and ethnic history.
3. Be enthusiastic. Know why you want the job and be able to express it. Be able to explain the logic behind why your job search and this job in particular makes sense.
4. Answer questions as directly as possible. Do not lie or try to finesse the interviewer. You will usually wind up creating doubt as to your honesty or competence. †If you do not know the answer to a question, it is not a crime to say so. Nothing irritates me more than having to ask the same question 5 times because an interviewee doesn’t know the answer or doesn’t want to answer. This is a sure deal breaker and usually I’ll end the interview.
5. Demonstrate a full understanding of the job’s responsibilities and try to walk the interviewer through how you would fulfill them. Show them that you understand the day to day of the job. Don’t just say “the job requires project management skills. I can manage projects.” Tell them how you would manage the project with enough detail to demonstrate an understanding of the industry and the important issues.
I’ll write more later.
Corporate social responsibility is the new frontier. Companies, even those that do a decent job at it like AngloAmerican and Microsoft, will tell you they have no idea what they are doing in this area. If they are active in emerging markets or developing economies, they can benefit from hiring those of us whose skills and experiences straddle both worlds.Anglo gets major respect for widespread HIV/AIDS testing at its operations. It is clearly profit limiting when employees have to deal with infectious disease, but they did an excellent job as the impact of the testing and education programs had a positive impact on employee friends, family and communities. Coca Cola is also at the top. This should not be a surprise as Coke is the most pervasive multinational brand. Their team in Sub-Saharan Africa is very, very strong: understands the markets, understands consumers, understands logistics. I can get a Coke in Kisangani or anywhere else in the Democratic Republic of Congo any day of the week, but you may still have to smoke Sportman cigs (Kenya’s best) because Marlboro stockouts are frequent.
But I digress, Coca Cola has been active in CSR in low-resource countries forever. The diversity of CSR activities with which they’ve been involved is huge. The killer app for Coke is its distribution network. You can do anything with it: use it to push microcredit, sell and get payments for utilities, banking schemes, community mobilization, voting… The possibilities are endless. Microsoft, Cisco, and Oracle are experiencing some overlap in ideas: getting hardware into the hands of educators, health workers and other key social positions through loan programs and other PC sharing schemes. They also have shown interest in contests for software, application and entrepreneurial development.