Getting into International Development

What does NGO mean to you?

a)     Not Going Out?
b)     No Graduate Opportunities?
c)     Non Government Organisation?

If you answered c) you’re probably interested in working in International Development and are just one of many students scrambling to find a toehold in the foothills of this increasingly crowded area.  Currently international development bears a strong resemblance to Brighton beach in August – hot, popular and hugely oversubscribed.  How do you push ahead of the massed hordes who are jostling for elbow room?

Step 1: do your research.  Dig beneath the surface.  What does the sector consist of?  Who are the movers and shakers?  What job possibilities exist? See http://www.prospects.ac.uk/charities_voluntary_sector.htm

Step 2: have an angle. Define what you want to do. Aid worker? Fundraiser? Desk officer? Disaster co-ordinator? Or one of the many other possibilities?

Step 3: embrace experience. This is non negotiable and, alas, may be unpaid.  But it often leads to salaried work and is essential for your CV and your credibility.

Step 4: think strategically. Most wannabes aim for high profile NGOs. The canny QMUL student may well do the same, but will also investigate smaller organisations – less likely to have waiting lists or swarms of applicants.

Step 5: consider a Master’s. It’s not mandatory and can be costly.  But it might be useful, depending on what specialism you want to follow. BEWARE: without relevant experience, a Master’s may not get you as far as you hope.

Step 6: go global. At the very least, think about acquiring another language, but ideally have some background in travelling, studying, working or living abroad.

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