Emerging Practitioner: Build your Humanitarian career  Online course

Do you have what it takes to be an Aid Worker? 30 questions to ask yourself.

Monday, Dec 11, 2017
by Humanitarian Institute

Humanitarian Aid Worker

Working and living conditions in the field vary considerably from deployment to deployment - tents in South Sudan to a sweet apartment in Hanoi.

Depending on the circumstances Aid Workers often live and work without the comforts, networks and infrastructure which we may have grown up with in the developed world.

Sure it can sound adventurous, romantic, challenging and exciting but week after week, month after month… are you emotionally and physically prepared?

These questions are by no means definitive, and many may not ring true for all deployments, but they should help you assess your readiness to become an Aid Worker.

Be honest with yourself!

  • Can I put my personal life ‘on hold’ to work offshore?

  • Am I prepared to have little to no contact with friends and family for lengthy periods?

  • Do my family and friends support my decision?

  • What are my family and friends concerns?

  • Do I have a healthy motivation for engaging in aid work?

  • Am I trying to run away from issues that I should really stay at home and deal with? 

  • How is my mental and physical health? Could I withstand the rigors of a stressful environment and potentially poor living conditions?

  • How’s my eating, fitness, and sleep routines?

  • What are my coping mechanisms for stress?


  • Am I resilient and flexible?

  • Am I comfortable living in isolated areas?

  • Can I live in shared accommodation with those I work with? (No escaping ‘that colleague!)

  • How is my cross-cultural skill set?

  • How comfortable am I if I can’t access the internet for extended periods?

  • How do I feel about living and working in insecure areas where I may be at risk?

  • Am I willing to follow strict security rules and procedures?

  • Can I adapt my daily routines to situations where movement is limited?

  • Do I understand that I will need time to re-adjust upon return, and that my perspectives may change?

  • Do I have professional qualifications and work experience?

  • Can I work and live with people whose background, values, and beliefs etc. are different from mine?

  • Do I set SMART goals?

  • Can I handle failure (and success)?

  • Can I focus on the tasks at hand when faced with other unmet and compelling needs?

  • Am I able to work independently and make decisions in ambiguous situations?

  • Do I work well and cooperatively in a team?

  • Do I have the ability to work long hours?

  • Can I adapt quickly to fast-paced, changing environments?

  • Do I have an understanding of the principles of humanitarian work, such as neutrality and impartiality?

  • Do I have personal, religious, or political beliefs that might conflict with humanitarian principles?

  • Can I put my personal beliefs aside?

50% of Aid Workers are worried about high levels of exhaustion and stress, and rightly so as recent research suggests that between 12-15% of humanitarians return home with some form of a psychological problem. Preparation is one of many steps that professional Aid Workers must implement to ensure they are effective in the work they do, but also to look after themselves emotionally, psychologically and physically.

International Aid Work is popular and demand for skilled staff is rising, but stress related illnesses are also increasing - be realistic and be prepared.

Humanitarian preparation programs ENROLLING NOW.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Thomas A. Edison

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