In four years of working in development, I have not applied for a single position. I have always been approached by people working in the area who have then offered me positions which have then led to others. Investing in some ‘field time’ or volunteer work early on in your career path can be an excellent way to build these networks.
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.
The more I work towards attaining experience in the development sector, the more important my contacts and networks have become to me. I would say that networks are important, but demonstrating that you merit those contacts is also important.
Networking is what you make of it. If you are the sort of person who is happy to meet new people, chat with them and keep in contact with them, then acting in that way would be second nature, and for me that is largely what networking is about.
Pursue volunteering opportunities – they don’t always lead to paid work, but they’re still a great foot in the door and a way to build your resume while doing something meaningful in your community.
I believe that every skill acquired, no matter the job… is a valuable skill, because all of them will teach you a little more about yourself; about which are your strengths, which are your best qualities, and most importantly, which are your weak areas that need improvement and dedication.
It is important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of this industry before committing to it and know at least where you stand on these issues. It is possible to have a career in this industry without living in war-zones, and if that’s what you want, then you need to know which path to take.
Do your research on… the specific organisation, on the department you are applying to, and if you are contacting an officer directly, take interest in the work that they are involved in. This will help you to write a strong application.