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Roelle Ann Santa Maria

March 16th, 2021

How to successfully prepare for a career in international development

1 comment | 18 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Roelle Ann Santa Maria

March 16th, 2021

How to successfully prepare for a career in international development

1 comment | 18 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

This term, as part of Discover International Development, we learnt more about working in the broad field of international development through a range of panels. In this blog we summarise some of the key themes and insights which emerged.

Entering any job market as a student may seem intimidating, but you might be surprised at how familiar the process actually is — so don’t panic!

Is there such a thing as a perfect opportunity?

Yes and no. There’s no linear pathway to your goals, we all need to set our own pace and not let our fears and others dictate our pacing. 

You might end up getting your dream job, but it’s also okay to admit that it might not have been what you’re looking for  — nothing is set in stone. It’s all about what resonates with you and how you plan your career ahead of time!

If you’re unsure, try doing an internship. Put yourself in a situation where you get to scout out different channels in the organisation. What’s important is getting your foot in the door and using it as leverage.

Worried about unrelated experiences?

Don’t be afraid of coaster jobs while looking for a position in development consulting. Your work experience may have transferable skills that’ll help your application stand out or ease the process. 

It’s all about storytelling and branding yourself. Ask yourself: how do you take those past experiences to help you adapt to that position? Use those unique skills and experience to your advantage to make your narrative stronger! 

In the beginning, your cover letter may be your strongest chance of breaking into the field. CVs and cover letters aid in your storytelling and we have a lot of resources to help you write a compelling story. 

However, it doesn’t mean you should stop there. Always learn skills that are related to the job. For instance, maybe learn a new language. Being able to speak multiple languages is highly desirable, it won’t guarantee the job, but it’ll pique some interest.  

Capitalise on your degree, relevant or not!

We all tend to worry about whether we have the right credentials for a job or a field of work. However, all that matters is the discipline and theoretical knowledge that you’ve gained. You don’t need to have a development degree to work in development. 

Forge your own career path, it is not a linear process. In this space, you can take the more unconventional routes. The field is quite varied and often times having a unique degree helps you stand out from an ocean of applications with similar credentials. 

Note: The LSE name and degree is reputable and highly regarded, so use it to your advantage! 

What should you look for in a role or organisation? Does the size and type of your internship organisation matter?

Reflect and ask yourself if this is the right sector for you. You aren’t just looking for a job, you’re looking at a lifestyle. If the organisation’s mission resonates with you, the size doesn’t matter, and instead, the experience does. 

There is always value to your experiences

That being said it’s inevitable that some of us will get offers from small or big organisations, private or public organisations, all of which have their value and advantages. 

In a big organisation, there is a wider range of sectors you can dip your toes into. There’s also the plus of being in a big company meaning that you’re more likely to meet new people.

In smaller organisations, you can receive more opportunities to be creative, develop new skills, and start projects with your team. A smaller team also mean developing closer relationships. 

Getting a good manager and mentor is important. When some people quit jobs, sometimes they don’t leave the organisation, they leave people.

So, where do I look? 

In development consulting, there are many channels and platforms you can look into. Some of these include:  

LinkedIn: start getting connected with other professionals. Utilise it! 

DevEx: Media platform for the global development community 

ReliefWeb and CharityJobs: use these sites to find names of small organisations and then reach out to these organisations and check their websites directly. 

Or look into more specific sites such as UNDP and WFP for consultancies roles and more. 

Job hunting and searching 

This step requires a lot of patience, not only writing applications but the application process itself. The process can take months and even up to a year, some organisations take between 6 to 12 months to reply. If you see a position that you absolutely want but your timing doesn’t work, just apply to plant the seed and have people know your application is in the pile. 

Staying motivated 

Job hunting is a job in itself, it’s more effective to send fewer high-quality applications instead of trying a numbers game; do some research instead of writing a thousand applications.   

Don’t be discouraged if they ask for lots of experience. Consider whether the role is for more experienced candidates. You can’t skip steps. Get those internships to fill in those requirements, or work on your application to convince them that you are more than qualified. 

Be realistic and manage your expectations. Most of us think that just having an LSE degree means that we’ll have job offers right away. It equally takes time and patience to become the right person for the job and to find the perfect company that resonates with your goals. 

Getting into the right mindset

Winding down from that riveting read. The less often asked question in these sorts of panels, but equally important one is: What characteristics are best suited in working in a development consultancy?

In other words: why you want to be in development consulting and what do you seek to achieve in that sector?

Social and interpersonal skills are important. The ability to connect and overcome cultural barriers with specific country project teams and to adapt to any situation while maintaining integrity, ethic, and standard in one’s work is important.

This blog covers key insights from our Lent Term Discover ID programme. If you’re interested in finding out more about the international development sector have a read of our sector guide and register your interest in future events. 


About the author

Roelle Ann Santa Maria

Posted In: Career planning | Discover ID | International development | LSE Careers


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