I Want to Work in … International Development
- What is Development Work?
- Why work in Development?
- Points to Consider
- How can I gain experience in development?
Many students and graduates see themselves as an aid worker or development worker. However, this role is very diverse and it is important to focus on what your interests, skills and qualifications suit you for within this sector.
Work in international development can include healthcare, education, equality, government, human rights, disaster prevention/relief, infrastructure, economics, sustainability, human rights, migration, security, conflict, agriculture, the environment, small business development, project finance etc.
Jobs may be based in a head office in the developed world or “in the field” and include administration, research, fundraising, training, consultancy, logistics, relief work and professional roles in healthcare, engineering and planning.
For more about the role, see the International Aid/Development worker job description at www.prospects.ac.uk/international_aid_development_worker_job_description.htm
"In the West people have everything, but think they have nothing and in a way it's true: spiritually they are empty.
In the East many people have nothing but they are sometimes much happier."
Everybody will have their own personal reasons for wanting to work in development but, when this question was put to health professionals attending a workshop run by the International Health Exchange (www.bmj.com/content/311/6997/113), two main reasons were put forward:
- Altruism: wanting to help and empower others or share skills;
- Personal development: such as gaining experience of different cultures, career development and adventure and a change.
Whatever your reason you will need to fully research the opportunities open to you, and think about what these opportunities can offer you and what you can offer them. In particular, do you have the qualifications and skills needed for those that interest you? If you don’t, how can you develop them? This may be a medium-term process involving further study, qualifications and work experience so patience, determination and focus will be necessary.
(Jayne Craven, Coyote Communications) www.coyotecommunications.com/stuff/workabroad.shtmlSkill-sharing is a two-way process: the development worker will share their skills and knowledge with a partner organisation and/or with various communities and actors, and in return s/he also acquires and develops new skills and knowledge. A development worker is someone who is clearly committed to development, to fighting poverty and injustice, and has the flexibility and openness to work and live in a different socio-political, cultural and geographical setting.
(Practical Action) http://practicalaction.org/becoming-involved-in-international-development-1
The skills and experience you gain through volunteering abroad can be just as well developed through projects in the British Isles. The head of a highly-regarded Bar Vocational Course (the qualifying course for barristers) once told me that one of his best students had spent their gap year as a volunteer in a hostel for alcohol and drug abusers in Dublin.Students … should remember that their energy and commitment would not be wasted if they chose a UK gap year. Volunteers in the UK support offenders, young people in need and adults with learning difficulties, as well as helping people with physical disabilities lead more independent lives. Not only is the need to pay for this once-in-a-lifetime experience removed, but volunteers are entitled to free accommodation, food and pocket money.
Is Szoneberg, Director of gap year volunteering, Community Service Volunteers www.csv.org.uk/Volunteer
- In a developing country - as a tourist/traveller
- As a volunteer - in a developing country, in the UK or in another developed country
- As an employee - in a developing country, in the UK or in another developed country
The last of these is probably most students' ideal option. It is the least likely for new graduates, however, unless you already have a measure of relevant skills or experience.
The first two are often blurred: “volontourism”, where participants pay around £2000 for a volunteer placement that may be as short as two weeks, often combined with an adventure holiday or more traditional tourist activities, is a thriving business. In 2008, the Tourism and Research Marketing surveyed 300 organizations involved in voluntourism and suggested that the approximate market size was 1.6 million volunteer tourists per annum, and a total yearly value of 1.3 billion pounds www.villas.co.uk/articles/the-evolution-of-voluntourism.html
While there are many responsible organisations involved in this field, there is controversy about the necessity for, and ethics of, “voluntourism”. For discussions of this issue, see:
- The Guardian http://bit.ly/bgr4ov
- Lattitude www.lattitude.org.uk/real-volunteering
- TravelMole www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?news_id=2000330&c=setreg®ion=3&cat=7
Does your home have something other than a dirt floor?
Does your home have a roof, a door, windows and more than one room?
Do you have a refrigerator of any kind?
Do you have a car, a microwave, a T.V., a computer and a video or DVD?
If you answered yes to the first you are in the top 50% of the world's wealthy.
For a list of organisations that work directly with development projects to help volunteers find placements (often at a much lower cost) see the “Work Abroad” section of our “Work Experience” pages www.kent.ac.uk/careers/vacwork.htm
Independent travel in developing countries, undertaken with an open mind and cultural awareness and sensitivity, can be just as beneficial as an organised volunteer programme.
(Sofya Shahab, Christian Aid) www.christianaidcollective.org/blog/ins-and-outs-ethical-voluntourism
In this competitive field, a Masters is likely to be useful and, for some organisations (e.g. the UN and the OECD), is essential. However, even with a Masters, practical experience gained through volunteering or internships, will still be required.“My advice would be to try to get some experience first and then do an MA in a year or two. You will learn more and be more focused and clear about what you want to get out of it”
(Jethro Pettit, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex) www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/jan/19/workandcareers.graduates2“Think about which area of development you are particularly interested in. Getting some overseas voluntary experience can give you exposure to a variety of areas of development work and help you to decide what aspect you are most interested in/best-suited to. This can then help you to decide on which Masters, should you decide to continue studying. The key is to try and identify what area of development you want to work in, and to then build up your experience (academic or professional) in that area”
(Beth Goodey, Restless Development) http://careers.guardian.co.uk/careers-blog/international-development-careers
The Development Studies Association has a list of courses in development studies at www.devstud.org.uk/directories/course
Department for International Development Graduate Development Scheme www.dfid.gov.uk/graduate
Last year (2012) 53 graduates taken through the DFID Graduate Development Scheme and about the same number will be taken on in 2013. The closing date is the 12th of March for 2013. Only a very small number of recruits (two or three) come through the Civil Service Fast Stream. Applicants can apply to both the Graduate Development Scheme and Fast Stream as the applications and programmes are separate.
Roughly half the staff are based in London and half in East Kilbride near Glasgow and you will increase your changes if you apply to both locations. Half of the successful applicants had postgraduate qualifications. There is a chance to meet many high profile people: Bill Clinton, Bob Geldof, Bill Gates have all been in the office.
The scheme lasts 50 weeks and some graduates stay at DFID, some go onto Fast Stream , another popular progression is work within large charities. The DFID recognise that it can be difficult to get experience in international development. The primary aim of the DFID primary aim is the eradication of poverty therefore students should try to get work experience which shows a commitment to this aim e.g. a homeless charity. Work experience in the UK with a charity is often looked upon more favourably than students who have paid lots of money to volunteer abroad for 6 weeks. Students should know about the Millennium Development Goals www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview.html
Information on the recruitment process is available at www.dfid.gov.uk/Work-with-us/Working-for-DFID/Recruitment-process and there is very useful FAQ section on the web site.
Each role has core competencies and these are what you will be asked at interview: students should prepare two examples. Some students when asked to give another example often panic as they think this indicates their first answer wasn’t good enough - this isn’t always the case and can indicate the interview is going well Everyone at an assessment centre is good – try to give examples which show an impact on someone else, for example mentoring, coaching. A typical presentation topic could be "Should DFID be spending public money in the current economic climate?".
Students should use the information on the website to prepare for interview at www.dfid.gov.uk/Work-with-us/Working-for-DFID/Recruitment-process/Assessment-centres/Assessment-centre-exercises
Below are a few links to job and internship listings and organisations which regularly recruit graduates for work in the international development field. More listings can be found in the sites under “Further Information”
- AidJobs http://aidjobs.org
- Bond (British Overseas NGOs for Development) www.bond.org.uk/pages/internships-and-volunteering.html
- Department for International Development (DfID) www.dfid.gov.uk/work-with-us/working-for-dfid/jobs runs an annual graduate scheme
- Job Vacancies and Internship Information from the IDS at Sussex University www.ids.ac.uk/go/alumni/job-vacancies-and-internship-information
- Idealist www.idealist.org thousands of not-for-profit and community organisations worldwide which you can search or browse by name, location, or mission for volunteer opportunities, jobs and internships.
- Oneworld www.oneworldgroup.org/jobs
- Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) www.oecd.org runs a “Young Professionals Programme” for Masters graduates
- Overseas Development Institute (ODI) www.odi.org.ukAnnual Fellowship scheme for postgraduate Economists to work for two years in the public sector of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries
- 2Way Development www.2waydevelopment.com places 100’s of volunteers overseas every year to work alongside development charities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
- Getting Into International Development www.facebook.com/internationaldevelopment forum for those developing careers in International Development, from the Careers Group, University of London
- Guardian Careers – including Q&A sessions with international development experts http://careers.guardian.co.uk/international-development
- Guardian Global Development pages www.guardian.co.uk/global-development
- Personal qualities of a development worker www.progressio.org.uk/content/personal-qualities-development-worker
- Working in International Development - advice from World Service Enquiry www.wse.org.uk/core/wid.htm
- Institute of Development Studies www.eldis.org
- Directory of Development Organisations www.devdir.org free listings by region, country and sector
- Changing Lives http://practicalaction.org/docs/jobs/changing_lives_working_in_int_development.pdf
- Coyote Communications www.coyotecommunications.com useful resources from an international development consultant
- Development in Action www.developmentinaction.org
- Development Worker www.developmentworker.com US site with careers advice and links to organisations
- Experience Development www.experiencedevelopment.org includes links to IGOs and NGOs and also banks and commercial organisations linked to development
- Panos Institute www.panos.org.uk produces information for media on global development issues with a developing world perspective
- Restless Development www.restlessdevelopment.org youth-led development agency
- Think Global www.think-global.org.uk formerly the Development Education Network .
- A Good Place to Start: www.ids.ac.uk/go/agoodplacetostart downloadable list of good places to start your search on over 30 development themes, from the IDS at Sussex University
- I Want to Work In the United Nations www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/internationalorg.htm#un
- Working Abroad www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sitesint.htm
- I Want to Work in Human Rights www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/humanrights.htm
- Volunteering www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/voluntaryWork.htm
Last fully updated 2012