Panellists at the recent ‘How I got my first job in International Development’ career panel gave some great suggestions on how to get your International Development career kick started. The panel was part of the LSE Careers International Development Events Programme (IDEP). For a full list of events and details, visit the IDEP website.

For those of you who couldn’t make it, don’t worry we’ve picked out the five of the best ones for you here!

Don’t overlook non-academic skills

Several of the panellists emphasised how useful it was to have project management skills – especially in development consultancy. Project management doesn’t have to be a formal course – it could be as simple as being very competent with Excel.

Network in various ways

Several of the panellists emphasised the importance of networking and one recalled the phrase used while they were at university: ‘put down the books and pick up the wine’.  This doesn’t just mean attending formal networking events but thinking about ways to make your extra-circular activities, such as volunteering, work for you. For example, one panellist was President of the International Development society whilst at LSE, meaning they had direct relations with organisations wanting to engage with the society.

Be open minded and strategic

Begin looking at jobs early on to build your understanding of the market place and get an idea of skills often asked for by employers. This will also help increase knowledge of both different areas of employment in the sector.

Make your dissertation work for you

If part of your dissertation research involves meetings or telephone calls to employers, you are already making a network of contacts you can approach when you start to look for a job. If you can create synergies between the topic of your dissertation and your preferred area or specialism of work this can boost your attractiveness to employers. One panellist was confident with their dissertation topic which made the difference to securing their first job in the sector.

Private sector experience can help too

Several panellists mentioned the benefit of private sector knowledge or insight and one panellist has moved across into a private sector to build experience and expertise to then transfer back. It was discussed that NGOs are being forced to change the way they work and operate in a more commercially minded way. One panellists said that being ‘financially aware’ is important and a skill often overlooked by those applying for the sector.