Many graduates start in an NGO; you will find few graduate training schemes, those that exist have early application deadlines. Generally organisations recruit as and when they have vacancies. Most recruiters in this sector are looking for:
- Skills - these may be “hard” technical skills such as to work as a specialist in public health or they may be “soft” skills, such as teamwork and communication. Increasingly, recruiters are placing an emphasis on hard skills, especially for jobs “in the field.”.
- Academic training/intellectual ability - typically a good undergraduate degree (typically 2.1 or better) or, very often today, a master’s degree. You also need to have good written English.
- Relevant work experience - gained through volunteering, internships or paid work. It is advisable to gain development experience before undertaking a master’s degree.
- Fit - will you fit into the department and the organisation to which you are applying?
- Passion and commitment - are you committed to the cause?
The amount and relevance of your work experience gives you a competitive edge. Unless you already have relevant work experience, you should volunteer whilst at LSE or, failing that, directly after you leave.
Things to remember:
- Flexibility and determination are the keys to success.
- Your first job, whilst important, won’t define you for the rest of your career.
- Your first position is a stepping stone.
- Many LSE graduates start off in roles for which they are over-qualified.
- Do not stay too long (no more than two years) in an entry level job, you'll be able to progress into more demanding, interesting roles.
Working "in the field"
For many, one of the major motivations for wanting to work in international development is to spend some time “in the field” (in developing countries). Getting this kind of opportunity is difficult for new graduates especially those without prior experience.
Increasingly posts in the field are filled by local staff and it's mainly higher level jobs or jobs with skills in short supply (such as engineering, for example) that go to non-local staff. Generally employers look for at least a years continuous field experience for a paid position.
For new graduates wishing to gain field experience there are three main options:
- Volunteer with organisations, such as VSO, which offer structured volunteering opportunities of up to two years.
- Arrange your own volunteer position with a local NGO once you are in the country.
- Work in the head office of a development organisation and try to get a secondment to a field programme.
However, field experience is not essential for many jobs in international development (for example, HR, IT, fundraising, communications, finance, etc.). It is very helpful for policy jobs.
International development organisations
Organisations working in this sector have the common aim of trying to alleviate poverty and ill-health in developing countries. However, the way in which they go about achieving this varies considerably. The sector can be broken down into numerous sub-sectors including NGOs, international organisations, national government agencies, think tanks and development consultancies. It is not uncommon to move between different sub-sectors, particularly in the early stages of your career. For more about these sectors and web links see: International Development organisations.
When to apply for jobs
Most NGOs operate a “just-in-time” approach to recruitment; therefore start applying for jobs near to when you are ready to start work.
The exceptions to this are some of the schemes run by international organisations (such as the Young Professional Programme (YPP) at the World Bank and the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) in the UN), government graduate training schemes (e.g., for DfID), and the ODI Fellowship scheme. For example, the deadline for the World Bank’s YPP is in July of the previous year. Keep a note of deadlines in your diary.
Many jobs in this sector are gained through making contacts. Network by:
- Attending conferences.
- Going to talks.
- Undertaking some part-time volunteering.
- Talking to your classmates about opportunities.
- Creating a LinkedIn profile and connecting with employers, e.g. UN Association.
- Writing to people who have written web articles on subjects that interest you.
Events are run by LSE Careers, LSE departments and student societies, but also by other organisations:
Many people get jobs by applying for advertised positions, although if you network at the same time you will substantially increase your chances of success. Main international development job websites: