LSE Careers recently hosted a human rights careers networking evening for the Centre for the Study of Human Rights. Alumni talked about their roles and career paths but also shared their top tips for getting started. With many LSE alumni from across a range of programmes moving into what might be broadly classed a rights based field, we thought their insights might be helpful:
Try things out. Get as much experience as possible. There are so many different aspects to a career in this field it’s important to try things out to find out what you are passionate about.
Think laterally. Just because a job doesn’t say ‘rights’ in the title does not mean it is not human rights based work. A couple of examples might include working for a housing association or an MP campaigning on particular issues.
Think who needs help. There are lots of small organisations out there who need intermediaries. Find someone you can be helpful to.
Don’t underestimate your skills. It’s a myth that NGOs don’t value private sector experience, they do! For many roles you need to have a commercial outlook. Unrelated part-time jobs can also be incredibly useful when applying for role in the rights field.
Be realistic. Your perfect job probably doesn’t exist at this stage so don’t have idealistic expectations. Be realistic about entry point and get experience in different roles. Multi-task and be flexible to get as much experience as possible and to demonstrate your value to the organisation.
Look for ‘stepping stones’. Do internships and volunteer at organisations you would like to work for, as roles can often convert into permanent positions. Working at the organisation you also get to hear about roles before anyone else and have insider knowledge.
Establish contacts in different areas. Reach out to people such as contacts, friends and LSE alumni to ask for information and advice. Make sure you do you research though and don’t send out general communications. Look for shared connections, be targeted, and give them a reason to want to meet you.
Hustle. Don’t take no for an answer – don’t pester but be persistent. Call or write to people to see if they have any opportunities coming up.
Be flexible. Be prepared to go overseas and work for a small organisation you may have never heard of. You’ll get a breadth of experience and level of responsibility you might not get elsewhere.
Use creative job search methods. Don’t rely on advertised roles and using websites like Third Sector and Charity Jobs. Useful as they are, any advertised jobs will attract large numbers of applications. Go directly to organisations’ websites, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to RSS feeds, and make connections with people working there.
Stay positive. Be confident in your abilities even when you are finding it tough. It can be challenging and take a while to get started. Keep networking and stay active and passionate about your interests. Keep positive and don’t lose sight of what led you to want to work in this area in the first place!