Many people have emailed me asking how to get into international development. Though I do not claim to be an expert or particularly successful in this endeavor, here are a few of my tips.
First and foremost, learn French, if you are reading this blog then I presume that you speak, at least to some level, English, which is a good start. However, for rookies and newbies in international development, who can bring little experience to the table, a language skill is a good place to start. And yes I know that colonialism ended many years ago and that there are many places that do not speak French. However, to work in international development you must be, at the very least, bilingual in two of the UN languages (English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, and Mandarin) and many agencies still publish most of their material in English and French. Moreover, to qualify for many of the young professional programs offered by international institutions you are required to be fluent in English or French and have a working knowledge of the other (eg. African Development Bank Young Professionals Programme). This is not to say that languages like Swahili, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Pashto, Dari, Portuguese, Mandarin, etc. are not absolutely key for working in some regions, but as a basic rule go with French, as it will open more doors for you. Note that I do not speak French, but opted for Spanish and Arabic instead, much to my own regret.
I would recommend having a look at Wanderlust’ s series on “Becoming an Aid Worker” part 1-5 – http://bit.ly/FF6jo
As well as, “Better Ways to find Humanitarian Employment” on http://bit.ly/nZsv4R