Emerging Practitioner: Build your Humanitarian career  Online course

3 Tips To Get THAT 1st Humanitarian Gig

Thursday, Aug 24, 2017
by Emily Robertson


Is it easy? Nope. Should it be easy? Nope. 

For what comes easy won’t last, and what lasts won’t come easy. 

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.” Saadi.

Our top actionable tips to help expedite your pathway into a dream Humanitarian career. 

1. Find your niche

“I want to work in International Development”. 


But what does that mean? 

The holistic Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation industry is incredibly diverse. Each sector and sub-sector requires different soft and technical skills to facilitate sustainable results. 

You need to be specific! 

What are the unique skillsets you offer and how can they be applied to your niche area of interest to support change?

“I want to work on literacy and numeracy projects for young women within a mid-sized Non-Government Organisation in country X, Y and Z.” 

Now we’re getting there. Hopefully you get the idea - get specific. This demonstrates your industry awareness and understanding of the complexities of facilitating change in challenging environments. 

Keeping it broad smacks of ignorance.


2. Bottom up

As a country or community (or an individual for that matter) develops, their needs change and the solutions required differ in scale and scope. For a newbie this means that your employment strategy should be bottom up. 

That is, your first assignments will be in countries at the lower end of the socio-economic rankings.

Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Chad, Mali, Niger, Haiti, PNG and so on. 

These are pretty challenging locations, with equalling complex needs and solutions. They’re also great locations to get your foot in the door. There are a plethora of organisations working in-country and less competition for the innumerable vacancies.


These are difficult places to operate. You need not only the core Humanitarian technical skills but you must have the psychological and emotional maturity to work and live effectively under pressure.

Are they for everyone? No. But they are also beautiful, friendly, amazing locations - don’t judge books by their covers… and don’t make professional choices based on misinformation! 

Being informed can be a huge competitive advantage.

And when did hard ever mean impossible?


3. Be proactive

Every manager has dreams of a seamless recruitment process resulting in a dream employee. However... 

Hiring can be a painful process. Reviewing atrocious Resumes and Cover Letters then interviewing your top 3, reference checks and so on. Time. Most Humanitarian managers have very little of this commodity.

It’s easier to tap your networks and find someone through the grapevine who comes recommended. 

Thus your job is to access this hidden jobs market. Reach out. Present yourself professionally, driven and focused. Clearly articulate your career goals and value add. Use multiple channels - LinkedIn, networking events, email, conferences and so on.

By building your professional profile through networks job opportunities will arise. Probably not tomorrow - this is about playing the long game.

Are you struggling to find your niche? Too nervous to begin your outreach? Humanitarian Institute gives you the plans and skills to do all of these.

Contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION to discuss your career options.

[email protected]

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