How to get a job in international development

As Andy Flannagan mentioned in our recent podcast, justice is not an optional extra for Christians. Pursuing Jesus means pursuing justice. While that can (and must) be done through all different walks of life, for some it may become a vocation. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the non-profit sector like international development, here’s some top tips for you.

Get equipped with knowledge

Development isn’t the most talked about career path, so it can be difficult to know what you even need to know! It’s a pretty wide open field, but subjects like human geography, politics, international relations and of course, international development, will all come in handy. Studying will also help you figure out what particular aspect you want to get involved in as well.

There’s no set path into working in the non-profit sector. People come from all different backgrounds and walks of life. A lot of companies will require a relevant degree, but most importantly you need to demonstrate a genuine interest, a decent level of understanding and the desire to learn more (because there will always be more to learn!) Keep up to date with what’s happening in the sector by curating your social media feed and regularly checking websites like Bond, as well as We Are Tearfund of course. Additionally programmes like Emerging Influencers are great for opening up future opportunities down the road.

Volunteer and intern

There’s a general principle that it’s not always what you know, but who you know. This applies in international development as well. It doesn’t guarantee you a job, but it does mean your potential interviewer may already have a good idea of your skills. Non-profit organisations are usually littered with volunteering opportunities, so make use of them, even if it’s not the specific area you want to work in. While being able to afford volunteering and unpaid / low-paying internships is definitely a privilege, see if you can squeeze in a day or evening a week alongside a job that keeps the bills paid.

Volunteering and interning is also a great way to learn about an organisation – from their staff culture, to their methods of poverty alleviation. Every organisation is different, so by spending time on the inside you’ll be privy to knowledge you won’t be able to learn anywhere else. This is a massive advantage when it comes to the interview. Plus volunteering or interning may give you a better idea of what area in an organisation you’d like to work in.

Develop your soft and hard skills

Hard skills are measurable things you can learn like video editing, accounting, writing etc. Whereas soft skills are transferable across different roles, e.g. communication, team work, leadership etc. Most jobs require a healthy dose of both, so make sure you take every opportunity to develop them all.

Whether you want to be working on the frontline or behind the scenes, you’ll likely bring a unique set of skills and experience to your role that helps achieve the overall goal. As a church-goer it’s likely you’ve been helped out in various activities that will come of surprisingly good use. Don’t neglect the random things you’re good at and enjoy doing – you never know what random skills may become a key part of your job.

Ultimately, whatever your career path, the most important thing you can do is pray and commit your path to God. It can be frustrating not knowing what’s waiting ahead, but take it step by step with God and you’ll find your way.

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