For people who aren’t studying and are maybe looking for a career change, don’t be afraid to take a demotion in order to enter a development role. Your previous experience will most likely allow you to progress quickly, even if you think you may be overqualified for the position.
|Name: Nicholas Bodanac||Current Position: Economist – Research Fellow|
|Main country of residence: Australia||Organisation: Institute for Economics and Peace|
|Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts in Economics (Honours), Master of Economics by research, Master of Economics (Econometrics) in progress.|
|Years of experience: 2.5|
|LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=236010421|
|Languages: English (native), Spanish (working proficiency)|
When did you first start working in development and what was your first role in the sector?
In 2013 I completed a six-month internship at the UNPBSO (UN Peace Building Support Office, Finance for Peacebuilding) as a research and peacebuilding intern. The department specifically focused on a group of 32 post-conflict countries and developed projects that aimed to build their capacity and development, with the future goal of being completely self-sustainable (not reliant on donor aid). While the main office was in New York, there were also regional offices in each country where they operated. However, my specific duties did not involve travel outside of the central office.
How did you obtain your first development role? Did you apply for it, and if so how many applications did you submit to get in? Was the role paid or unpaid?
I applied for around 50 positions and eventually ended up with an internship at the UN in New York which was completely unpaid. While this was an amazing opportunity, living in New York for six months (without a pay cheque) is an enormous financial commitment. A lot of people that I knew didn’t bother applying for international internships like that. I would strongly recommend to those who have some savings to apply for international internships if you are looking to begin a development career. The opportunities are priceless.
Do you consider field experience important for working in development?
Field experience is something that I have yet to experience, but it is extremely important and if given the opportunity I would suggest to anyone to take it. For one, it develops your understanding of the issues implementing development projects and secondly, it increases your credibility.
How important do you consider networking to being successful in your field?
Networking is extremely valuable. Try to make contact with people within certain organisations you wish to work for. My current position came from a meeting 18 months prior to my interview.
What do you see as the main advantages and disadvantages of the work you’re engaged in?
There are many advantages of working within development. The work is rewarding, there are opportunities to travel, you work in extremely diverse workplaces and are able to engage in relevant international policies or initiatives. However, there are a lot of disadvantages too. The pay isn’t fantastic, the hours are long, a lot is expected of you, and you spend a lot of time away from friends and family if you are posted somewhere. You have to take these factors into account, as there will be times where your personal life is put to the side.
What advice would you give to somebody interested in pursuing a career in international development similar to yours?
First of all, if you are studying, make sure you’re doing a degree which gives you a specific skill which can be used in the workforce. Having some sort of a technical background, while not 100% necessary, will be beneficial. For example, quantitative or legal skills are extremely valuable in most organisations. Secondly you need to make sure that you stand out from the competition. Write a blog, try to publish in an academic journal, volunteer, and make sure you have a hard example of your knowledge and passion for the area that isn’t just ‘I want to solve poverty’. Some development work is quite complicated and requires an ability to think strategically, so make sure you can prove you are capable. For people who aren’t studying and are maybe looking for a career change, don’t be afraid to take a demotion in order to enter a development role. Your previous experience will most likely allow you to progress quickly, even if you think you may be overqualified for the position.