1. Educate Yourself – Unless you have extensive volunteer experience, a master’s degree is a ‘must’ for the NGO world. Although a master’s degree doesn’t have to be completely aimed at a humanitarian crisis skill like food security, it should work on something applicable, either through a course of study or dissertation.
2. Volunteer – Even with a master’s degree, it is close to impossible to land your first job without some internship experience on your CV. Regrettably for do-gooders everywhere, unpaid internships are the norm for NGOs.
3. Look Local – If you don’t have the resources to volunteer abroad for a few months or work an unpaid internship, volunteer with a small, local NGO where you are living. It will give you some experience in the meantime and might end up opening doors in the future. An added bonus is that you can keep your day job while volunteering, ensuring that you have a steady paycheck. Sites like Idealist.com can help match you with organizations to volunteer with, depending on your interests.
4. Bring a Skill – Having skills like nutrition, finance or nursing can also be an easy way to fast-track your career with a humanitarian organization.
5. Plan Ahead – What areas of the world interest you? Research conflicts in the region and see how your abilities align. Although this strategy won’t work for an emergency response to something like an earthquake, try to get to the crisis earlier than most so that you are on the ground at the beginning of the humanitarian efforts.
6. Own the Head Office – A year’s stint at the head office of an international humanitarian organization could be your ticket to the world, connecting you to the right people for the next two, three, even four jobs down the line. If your peers or superiors notice your work, they are more likely to connect you with the right people and support your long-term career goals.
7. Scour the Web – Once you’ve got the skills and experience, it’s time to hit the world wide web looking for job opportunities. Search sites like Reliefweb.int, Trust.org or DevNetJobs.org for international postings. Passionate about a particular organization like Doctor’s Without Borders or One Acre Fund? Check their website regularly for new positions.
[Read full Forbes article, by Alexandra Talty]