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Tricks of the trade…

Many people have emailed me asking for advice on getting into development, I really love what I do and I get a daily thrill from being, living and working in unforeseen and neglected places. However, this is not field for the faint hearted or people who crave job security or a straight forward career path. Below are some of the paths you can try to take, though my best advice is to not be picky and diversify as much as possible (eg. Even though environment is your thing go for a fundraising position, Africa expert, but look at Asia! If you catch my drift!). In short, do whatever it takes to get your foot in the door.


First and foremost- learn to speak French (I have written a blog post on this subject here


Other than that go aboard as much as possible, you should expect to spend the first 2-5 years of your career in development in a developing country and adopt a “beggars can’t be choosers” approach to where you go. As a development newbie, language skills, as well as ability and willingness to travel is were you should sell your self.


As for jobs, your best bet is volunteering with VSO ( – CUSO in North America or with Poverty Action Lab ( or Innovations for Poverty Action (, as they hire people with little or no experience. If you are American you can join the Peace Corps (, if you are Australian you can join AYAD ( If you are German you should look into the Carlo-Schmid-Program (

I would also sign up for: (great email list that only sends you jobs within your experience) (great email list that only sends you jobs within your experience – also have a look at their consultancies) (long ass email every week – very general) (jobs that do not appear anywhere else)

Find out if your government (usually through the Foreign Ministry) has a Junior Professional Officer Program (JPO) with the UN and WB (, most European Countries (not the UK though) and the US (I think its is through the Department of Labor?) do and the Netherlands even allow developing country nationals to apply for their JPO positions. You will have to be less than 32 years of age, and have between 2 and 5 years of experience to apply. I believe that tend to like it if you have worked for your home government as it shows that you have the “support” of your country, so find out if your country as a civil service entry program that you can join after graduation.


Sign up to do the Young Professionals Exam at the UN  ( Have a look at African Development Banks Young Professionals program  (requires a masters and English and French) ( Have a look at Inter-American Development Banks Young Professionals program  (only for member state nationals, requires a masters and English and Spanish, as well as, Portuguese or French)  (,1165.html). Lastly, have a look at the World Bank’s Young Professionals Program

( If you are an EU citizen you can also sign up for EU Concours, a recruitment examination to select staff to all institutions of the European Union and use it to work for the DG for Development (


You can also, have a look at the UNDP jobs section on the UNDP website they have allot of short term contracts that are easier to get than permanent jobs.


Sign up for the UNV roster (, but do not expect to get a job from it. The UNV roster has 80.000 people in it (and only 8000 placements) and is basically a key words database (so make sure you have lots of buzz words in your job titles). Many western governments reserve certain UNV post for their nationals (Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, that I know of), so find out if your home government does this (eg. Foreign Ministry).


I also know a few people who have had great success with simply booking a flight to their developing country of choice and showing up with their CV (think South Sudan, Somaliland, Chad, etc.).


Stalking NGOs also works, eg. Emailing Country Office NGOs and telling them that you exist. Many NGOs need help from native English speakers to write funding proposals and reports, so stressing that you are willing to do this is worth it. Eg. Selling yourself as a cheap consultant! is a great directory of NGOs, organized by country, that you may want to have a look at.



About nonitalu

Cultural and linguistic mishap traveling the world in search of that warm fuzzy feeling called home...

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