About 7 years ago I was an Intern in a large international office, this was one of the worst periods of life, I was broke, had a ton of student loans, working a second job on the side and had just relocated to city and a country where I knew very few people. Since then, luckily, things have gotten better for me, but now I am working at an office that recruits a good number of interns and that has left me wondering about the effects of internships on peoples careers.
It seems that these days it is “normal” for graduates to do not just one, but several internships before they land a job. The interns that I work with generally speak about a period of 2 years after graduation, as being dead years, meaning that they do not expect to make any money for 2 years.
Katie J.M. Baker has written an excellent piece on Jezebel entitled “Are Interns the New Housewives?” (http://jezebel.com/5973293/are-interns-the-new-housewives). Katie argues that internships cause people to be “flexible, adaptable, enthusiastic, submissive, and obedient”, and that the effects of this “conditioning” during her internships lead her to be “uncomfortable about asserting” herself, even once she had secured a “real job”. Katie references an article by Madeleine Schwartz in Dissent (http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/opportunity-costs-the-true-price-of-internships), Madeleine argues that interns are asked to show “submissiveness and tractability, their willingness to perform work for free, interns also illustrate the flexibility and obedience demanded by contingency” and that by “requiring” young people to learn this behavior at the beginning of their careers has lifelong implications, specifically for women. Katie and Madeleine’s arguments really ring a bell for me, for a long time I have really struggled to convey my ideas. I see this in interview settings, where I struggle to show my achievements, versus the achievements of my team.
Duncan Green from Oxfam has written a great piece on interns on his excellent blog “From Poverty to Power”, (http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?tag=interns). Duncan points out that internships are “not actually unpaid, in the broader sense that interns derive non-pecuniary benefits like skills and experience (which is, after all, why they do them)” and that from an employers perspective internships allows employers to spot good candidates and to try them out in the work environment. While that is all good and well, this strikes me as being something that could be solved with a short term contract, that would most like have the added benefit of adding value and credibility to the employee and making sure that they are covered and protected by labor laws and insurance.
In most of the places that I have worked, the senior management always talks about the difficulty in recruiting good candidates for senior positions. In my opinion, the reason that there are so few good candidates left for in the field of senior level managers is that the entrance to the development field is one that is, by in large, based on unpaid internships, networks, nepotism, and luck.
So, should you do an internship? No, but you will most like have to anyway
I just wanted to draw attention to Rachel Kurzyp’s piece on Why Dev, entitled “8 things I wish I knew before I started working in development”, really good simple piece on some of the things that nobody tells you about working in development.
Visting the Syrian Refugee Camps in Jordan
“We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
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 http://bit.ly/JTna0g)
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 (http://www.vso.org.uk/volunteer/) – CUSO in North America or with Poverty Action Lab (http://www.povertyactionlab.org/jobs) or Innovations for Poverty Action (http://www.poverty-action.org/getinvolved/jobs), as they hire people with little or no experience. If you are American you can join the Peace Corps (www.peacecorps.gov), if you are Australian you can join AYAD (www.ayad.com.au). If you are German you should look into the Carlo-Schmid-Program (www.daad.de).
I would also sign up for:
http://www.eurobrussels.com (great email list that only sends you jobs within your experience)
http://www.unjoblist.org/lists/ (great email list that only sends you jobs within your experience – also have a look at their consultancies)
http://www.devnetjobs.org (long ass email every week – very general)
http://www.eldis.org/go/jobs (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 (http://www.jposc.org/), 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 (www.careers.un.org/YPP). Have a look at African Development Banks Young Professionals program (requires a masters and English and French) (http://www.afdb.org/en/careers/young-professionals-program-ypp/). 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) (http://www.iadb.org/en/careers/careers-at-the-idb,1165.html). Lastly, have a look at the World Bank’s Young Professionals Program
(http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTHRJOBS/Resources/1058432-1304013341703/index.html). 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 (http://europa.eu/epso/index_en.htm)
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 (https://one.unv.org/main/index.php), 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! http://www.devdir.org/ is a great directory of NGOs, organized by country, that you may want to have a look at.
If however you feel frustrated then you are properly doing it right! If you think that sounds odd, then you properly do not actually work in development.
The thing about development is – that it is really complicated. In order to successfully and sustainably develop an area you will need to do everything, health, education, environment, governance, justice, human rights, agriculture, water and sanitation, livelihoods etc. all with a gender/racial/religious equality cross cutting theme! Sounds complicated? Well then add on the usual aspects of lacking human resources, slow procurement, bureaucracy, violence (both actual and structural), access, political ups and downs, donor fatigue, donor fetishes and fads, financial crisis’ etc.
The thing is that almost all NGOs, UN and Donor agencies are essentially trying to do the same thing; make the world a little bit better and sell the idea to the public that this is a possible thing to do. And by doing this we create a disconnect between the complicated situation in the field and the communication to the public. We are selling the idea of development by simplifying complicated situations and making you, the general public, feel good about helping to make the world better. In short, we are making it about you, it is not all about you, development is not and should not be about the donor/contributor/supporter/buyer of campaign t-shirt-bracelet etc.
Development is, however, about people and their communities, and working with them to make a lasting and profound impact and change, and that takes time and lots of it, money, human resources, commitment, patience and will, and it is not easy and most of all a slow and frustrating process.
I have a lot to say about the KONY2012, but after a bit of research I found that most of it had already been said. So instead I would recommend that you start by reading: A reader’s digest of KONY 2012 (http://www.whydev.org/a-readers-digest-of-kony-2012/) and then go to:
and here are the rest (what I read alot!)
and finally the UNs response http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41507&Cr=LRA&Cr1=
lastly, some entertainment http://www.wrongingrights.com/2012/03/the-definitive-kony-2012-drinking-game.html
Also, Uganda is a country in EAST AFRICA, not Central Africa as Invisible Children claims!
Apologies for the relative silence on the blog lately, but I had quite a few problems accessing wordpress in what shall remain an un-named country in the Middle East.
Anyway, following my somewhat dramatic evacuation from the un-named country in the Middle East. I have been busy applying for jobs and rewriting my cv. Therefore, thought that I would share this Wordle (http://www.wordle.net/) word cloud based on the job advertisements that I have applied for over the past month.
There are a few surprises, for example I do not particularly have a gender focus yet the word “women” shows up quite a bit. Moreover, words like implementation and support also show up strong which surprises me, and makes me think that I should rebrand myself from a project coordinator to a project implementor (if that is even a job profession?).
“I estimate about 90% of aid industry dumbassery comes back to the belief that the poor have nothing, and so giving them *anything* helps…”
From the TalesFromthHood Blog (http://talesfromethehood.com/)