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Advice? : Career in International Development/Human Rights. Watch

    • Thread Starter

    I'm going to Uni after the summer (to study History) and having realised after a number of months that I would love to pursue a career within International Development/Human rights/ NGOs, that kind of field.

    Anyone who has experience with this, got any advice on how I should go from here?? Both my firm and insurance Uni offers are about 20/30 mins away from London on the train, which I feel is quite useful as many charity headquarters are based in London.
    What should I do, maybe to get work experience while at Uni?

    I realise this very vague but I have no real idea of how this would work and so any tip and advice would be really appreciated/

    Hi, I thought I'd write because I have a BA in History, and following that I did an MA in Human Rights. I also want to build a career in human rights, but there are very few jobs out there at the moment so I'm finding it quite hard to be honest. I would definitely recommend getting as much experience as possible within a charity or NGO - all voluntary work/internships are competitive so don't be disheartened if you don't find something straight away - so that when you come to job hunting you don't have to spend months interning for free. Good luck

    Does it not occur to you that trying to pursue this kind of path as a career unto itself is the wrong way to go?

    Sure, five or ten years ago when the good times rolled, all you needed was to put on your ballet pumps and hang around Exmouth Market until a charity with burgeoning pockets offered you a job.

    Now, like everyone else, they actually want experience and skills - not a pretty face and some good intentions. It doesn't surprise me at all that it is tough trying to become a "career do-gooder". It occurs to me that these organisations will no longer hand out jobs to clueless graduates.

    Let's take a few examples:

    Body & Soul
    St Mungo's

    Let's say any of those are looking for a caseworker or a someone for their office. They could take a 21 year old English graduate who's very presentable and smart - but ultimately has no experience of anything.

    Or they could take a 21 year old HCA or Army medic or policewoman looking for a career change, who has actual experience of victims of war, or HIV, or the homeless.

    Or they could take a legal executive looking to make a career change - who might have worked immigration or landlord/tenant cases.

    Can you see why these people are so much more attractive than someone who has just spent three years reading George Bernard Shaw?

    This isn't doing down graduates, far from it - but the realities of working in these kind of jobs is really harsh now, and it might be that you need to look to a "coalface" type job initially to make you attractive to your dream employer.

    OP probably wont read this but for anyone who wants advice...

    You need three things. Experience, education (not just a degree), and good references.

    They all tie in together. Your education is what gets you started, but most employers want EXPERIENCE and its hard to find through paid work, so you need to do voluntary work, it doesnt particularly have to be with a human rights group. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or you could do voluntary work for other vulnerable people, for example. disabilities, children, elderly. You can also build experience through working for money in care homes and say you have experience in making sure elderly have their human rights when youre around, its a big deal these days with that group.

    Join a lobby group for free and campaign, etc.

    Then start applying when you have a good years experience and great references from these groups.

    I'm applying for a job as a researcher for the human rights bill in northern ireland, but id not be able to without that experience, my degree, and I got the work experience in the simon community for homeless and nursing homes through paid healthcare agency work filling shifts.

    I work for an NGO abroad and I also did a degree in History. I didn't have any experience when I got my first job, but I did find it when I was 'in country'. It is almost impossible to get an entry level position at an NGO without being in the country you want to work in. E.g. my organisation posted a job on relief web for an entry level position, due to budgeting restraints we were unable to recruit from abroad in the end as we couldn't afford things like relocation costs etc.

    Also it is important to note that nowadays there is a move away from "international development"...local people, and local organisations have proved much more effective at development work than large international organisations. Why employ a foreigner to do a job when you have an equally qualified national that understands the specific country context better?

    I have said this lots of times on here but it is also important to note that a lot of people don't understand the reality of development work. It is not as glamorous as people think. You have to spend long periods of time away from family and friends, hop from contract to contract without any long term job security (unless you are one of the lucky few to be a permanent member of staff at a big organisation), work in very insecure environments with a lack of access to many services, and to top it off earn a very low salary for a considerable amount of time.

    The fields you have described are HUGE and need a variety of skill sets. Most of my colleagues here speak the local language and have experience with a specific issue (e.g. capacity building for youth or humanitarian logistics)

    If I was to start again I would get some charity experience during university time, pick a region to work in, learn the language, and build technical expertise in a specific area of development work.

    Let me know if you have any more questions and good luck!
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Updated: December 28, 2011
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