1. There are a huge number of different roles
There are so many different opportunities within international development that you can potentially utilise your current skills to break into the sector before moving around in it. From working in policy and research, to fundraising, communications, or even HR and finance roles, you have a range of possibilities to get started.
Have a look at a comprehensive list of potential job roles in international development on our website for more information.
2. You probably won’t be ‘in the field’ immediately
You need a lot of experience to work directly in developing countries. A lot of the time qualified roles will go to local staff, so you’ll need to identify and then build up areas of expertise that will help you contribute in a positive way to field work if that’s what you want to do. This will require a significant amount of research, and then finding the best ways for you to develop. One of the best ways to work on these skills, of course, is to volunteer:
If you volunteer you’ll not only gain much needed experience, but also the attention from people already working within international organisations where you’ll be able to show them just how valuable an asset you could be. You can talk to the Volunteer Centre about this and come along to some of our international development events to see what others have done.
4. Networking is very important
A lot of roles within international development organisations aren’t advertised openly, so one of the best ways to get into the sector is to meet as many people from the sector as possible (and make them like you).
LSE Careers can help with this, as we’re currently running a large number of events with international development organisations. Whether you’re interesting in NGOs, government aid, or international development consulting, we’ve likely got something that could be of interest where you can hear from people already in the business. You can also check One World and the Royal Africa Society for more events and conferences where you can meet people and find out more about the sector.
5. It will be difficult
There’s no way of making it glamorous: getting a job in international development is hard, but the job itself can sometimes be even harder. Generally it’s low pay with long hours that can be stressful and frustrating. If you do go and work in a developing country then there’ll probably be a period where you experience some culture shock and adjust to being away from friends and family as well.
6. …but the rewards make it worth it
Yes, working in international development can be difficult, but if you’re interested in it already then you probably already know that the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Aside from the work itself, which will be varied and very emotionally rewarding, you’ll also get the chance to travel, meet interesting people – including high-end dignitaries – and know that you’re making the world a better place.
7. Not all organisations are the same
There are a huge number of possible organisations you can work for if you’re interested in international development, so you need to make sure that the one you choose is a good fit for you. You should research the differences between different development organisations to have a better idea of what approach works with your ideals. At the end of February we’re running a breakfast with several different development organisations, so if you’re interested you can book in from one week before.
To gain more insight into an organisation you should also talk to people already working there for the best information. We have an assortment of events with international development companies coming up, so you’ll be able to meet representatives there. If you’re interested in a specific company, you can follow them on CareerHub by searching through the ‘Organisations’ tab to receive notifications whenever they post an event or vacancy with us.
8. Wanting to help isn’t enough
While it may sometimes seem frustrating if your applications get turned down, understand that the desire to help is not always enough. Development work can be complicated by many overlapping historical and political issues, so just being willing can sometimes have more of a negative than positive impact. Do some proper research into what skills are required out in the field, and then work on improving those (whether you do this in the development sector or not) for the best chance in.
9. Your first job won’t define you
The first development job you get will probably be quite underwhelming. As you’ll be starting on the bottom rung, you may not feel as challenged as you’d like to, but don’t worry because this job will only be the start. On 2 February we’re running a panel event with four LSE alumni who are in the early stages of their development career where they’ll discuss the first jobs they had.
10. Be flexible and determined
As discussed, international development is a difficult sector to get into. However, with some flexibility and determination you have two of the most important qualities you need to get far within it. Chances are you’ll come across problems that seem unconquerable, but by taking a step back, re-evaluating, and not giving up, you’ll hopefully find that you can excel in the sector.
Find out more about our International Development Events Programme (IDEP) on our website.