There are moments in life when you panic. When things change. When you’re venturing into the unknown. Or when everything you thought you knew, or in some cases had, unravels right before your eyes. And the fact that we only know too well how to rev ourselves up into a state of constant panic and goose-bumps, doesn’t make it a pretty sight. Anyway. Here we are again.
What is it about May? If we were asked to choose the most hectic month, I’d nominate May. Not only because of the alternate meaning of the word ‘may’ – meaning nothing’s guaranteed, everything’s up in the air or hanging in the balance – but because of the significance of that month to many people. And no, I don’t mean birthdays, my dear May babies. Although, if you’re quickly approaching a birthday milestone, you could count yourself in the mix.
Think about it. Graduation, moving up a class, having people move away for the summer, trying something new, starting an internship, a job, etc etc. May is full of change! Oh, and not to mention Mother Nature re-adorning herself with the very best. Change is constant and change is ever present. But goodness, does change have to be so scary every single time?
Anyway. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here. But that seems to be the order of things these days.
Tell me. How, does one and one’s family invest so much in an education. Go ahead to secure that degree, even get one heck of a job experience, only to realize… I don’t know what in heaven’s name I want to do with my life.
For real, this is where I’m at…again. I mean, it seems sometimes you have to go through something to undo all your assumptions about it in the first first. Makes sense in a weird twisted way, doesn’t it?
Ok here’s the deal. For the most part, I’ve had a pretty steady idea of where I want to be academic or career-wise. No two ways about it, development is what I want to immerse myself in.
Now, I come to D.C. – the capital city of everything development – and I find out, along with the rest of the world, that the so-called ‘development experts’ don’t know how to do development. (Unfortunately it took Haiti for us to realize how off the mark we are) And I’m thinking, what about me who graduated barely a year ago? Beats me.
Tips for International Development & Global Career Enthusiasts
Anyway, since I know there are many of us out there looking to eat, live and breathe development, I figured I better share these insights so you guys don’t find yourselves in the same “say, what’s my name again?” situation. Or even if you do, you’ll be better prepared.
1. Passion: To do development work, you need passion. Lots. of. it. While you might get your pay check bi-weekly or monthly, the fruits of your work tend to be bear in the long term rather than the short. You need passion and patience. And like I said, lot’s of it.
2. Skills, man, skills!: Development entails a lot. – education, humanitarian relief, health, environment, diplomacy – basically everything you can think of under the sun. You have to be somewhat of a jack of all trades (understanding the macro issues) yet have a set of specific, refined skills. [I’m thinking of opting out of just a graduate degree in development route and pairing it up with an MBA or something.]
3. What’s Hot?: With the current state of events, here are some specializations you might want to consider if you’re looking at development work.
– Humanitarian relief: so long as there are natural and human disasters, these peeps will be in demand.
– Logistics: The value/ delivery chain systems for delivering humanitarian assistance are far from top-notch.
– Gender specialists: ‘Gender’ is a big thing right now, and will probably be around for a while. The tricky thing is, you need to come to the table w/ extra skills on this one. Whether it’s gender responsive budgeting, microfinance, research, what have you, you need something extra.
–Climate specialists/Environmentalists: Well done humanity, we’ve messed up our earth so bad, we’re gonna be in need of these folks for quite a while to come
–Procurement specialists: Our work is far from done and the big development organizations rely on procurement mechanisms to secure the best goods and services, especially in disaster situations.
– Monitoring & Evaluation Experts: If things finally go the way they should, there’ll be more emphasis on accountability, hence the need for these folks
–Communications/PR/Research: Because we’re gearing towards ‘showing results’, they’ll need people to explain all the mumbo-jumbo in plain layman’s English, French etc.
–Public-private partnership experts: the days of competition are over, it’s all about collaboration now. If you can sniff out a good partnership and make it happen, you’ll find your niche quite easily. Besides, the world is getting smaller.
–Business Folks: More money, means more counting, means more of the business stuff you guys do.
–Technical Assistance experts: Organizations are pushing more towards “country-ownership” and capacity building, so peeps with those hardcore technical skills will be in high demand.
–Agri-Business/Food Security Experts: We’re on the verge of starvation and the development office space (developing countries) relies mainly on the primary sector. We need these guys!
– Technology experts: Anyone hear that the internet is the future? Well, with Google Maps and so on being used to help flood victims around the globe, you can bet your last penny that innovation and technology are here to stay. Aim to be ahead of the pack and you won’t lack in clients.
The Value Chain Called Life
The list above could go on and on, but it ultimately points to one thing: everybody counts. We are more connected now than we were ever before – look at the havoc a volcano all the way in Ireland is causing for the entire world – and unless we start realizing that we are all part of the value chain called life, we’ll be screwed for eternities to come.
I’ll try to do a post on some of the main resume + cover letter + networking tips that I’ve garnered throughout my time as a Devex international development correspondent. Can’t believe this journey is coming to an end already, but it’s been worthwhile :D In the meantime, do check out www.devex.com there’s some pretty valuable information on there.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.