Thursday, April 17, 2008

Field Jobs: How to get a job in International Development

Ian Howard today blogged about an interview he did with some names in International Development at University of Toronto. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I'm particularly quoting the last couple of Q&A's because they have the most relevance to a previous post (Why getting hired by an International NGO is so hard):
Q: Your thoughts on the developing trends in the field of International Development?

[IH] I will talk about two things: what I think you should know and what you want to know.

First, in my opinion you should read at least these books if you are interested in this field:
  1. Prahalad – The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid
  2. De Soto – The Mystery of Capital
  3. Sachs – The End of Poverty
  4. Easterly – The White Man's Burden
  5. Collier – The Bottom Billion
  6. Stiglitz – Globalization and its Discontents
  7. you should also listen to the CBC Massey lectures by Steven Lewis on AIDs
Second, now how to get work in this field. This is the classic chicken and the egg problem. You need experience to get the job and you need the job to get experience. Fortunately there are many groups that are there to give you the egg, if you give them your time. Here in Canada we have CUSO, NetCorps, CIDA, IDRC...
type “volunteer international development” and the first link is to CIDA – they have a great page about how to get this experience. Go, be brave spend some time over there. What you will learn will be invaluable so don't worry about not making money it will pay off in time, whether you work in development or not.

Q: Where you see the greatest impacts happening?

[IH] In my opinion the greatest impacts are made when people make long term concerted efforts. Groups like PaM who commit to people for the long haul. These are the stories we don't hear as much about because their work is slow and incremental and is hard to fit into a sound bite or a quick clip.

Q: What advice you would give someone who is just beginning their career in the field now?

[IH] I will share what a wise old man in a dusty rural town in South Western Mali told me, “you come here thinking that you can teach Africa, but in the end it is Africa that teaches you” he was quite right. Do not forget that you have much to learn and that one of the best things that you will do for Africa is to educate your family and friends about it and to take care of your adopted family who you will meet there when you come home.

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