Everyone in their first entry-level job is ready to dispense advice on how to get into the aid industry. But at some point the entry-level jobs no longer cut it. Then what?
In response to specific requests, here are my five go-tos for those mid-level, blase, cynical-yet-still-kinda-idealist, over-educated, broke professionals, who maybe indulged in a tad too much job-hopping/dream chasing, and now feel stuck.
None of these are end-all-be-all. They’re tips. They’re what I’ve seen work in the lives and careers of people that I work with. For the sake of this post, I’m assuming that you’re basically qualified for the jobs you’re applying for, have the right level of relevant education, have a solid work ethic, etc. Take it or leave it.
Play well with others. If you read no further, get this one right. There’s always someone on the team or in the team house who knows the answer to everything; who can deftly deconstruct everybody else’s argument; who knows everything that everyone around them is doing wrong and is endlessly in everyone else’s business; who is forever pissed off and intense about something; who flies off the handle at any and every perceived or real injustice. Don’t be that person.
Figure out where in the industry you’re happiest/most effective. Forget about climbing the ladder unless what you actually want to spend your day doing is at the top of the ladder. And forget about trying to move to [SOME COUNTRY], if what you really want to do can be done just as well in [A DIFFERENT COUNTRY].
This takes mental discipline. Strip away title and strip away location. Then ask yourself, which jobs do you actually want to do? Then go for those kinds of jobs, and let those around you say and think what they want.
Invest in understanding the aid/dev/humanitarian industry. You can’t figure out where in the industry you’re happiest, nor can you chart a path to get there if you don’t understand the industry in the first place. Know your context. This is basic.
Professional Communication. You know the adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? The same applies to communication. If you want to be the boss, you need to communicate like a boss. And I don’t mean talk down to others and try to boss them around. I do mean write complete sentences with capitalization and punctuation. I do mean you should componse coherent messages and spell people’s names correctly.
Get good at managing others. Ever been managed by someone who got promoted because of longevity, seniority, or technical ability, but was a terrible manager? Yeah, it happens a lot. Don’t be that person, either