ict4d work experience

Where Can I Get Early Career Experience in Digital Development?

Question 15: Where do I get early career experience?

I’ve recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Management Information Systems but I’m finding that many ICT4D jobs require several years of experience. Where do I job search if I’m just starting my career?

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The Classic Experience Conundrum

Entry-level international development jobs often require 3-5 years of experience, but it’s hard to get that experience when entry-level jobs demand work experience. This is true even with a Master’s Degrees.

So how does one get experience when every job demands existing experience? Volunteer.

Three Ways to Volunteer for Experience

For better or worse, you will need to volunteer to get your initial experience in international development. Volunteering doesn’t have to be unpaid work. In fact, most volunteers receive a small stipend, though nothing close to a real salary.

Whichever of these options you choose, be sure to work hard in your role and network like mad. The whole point of a volunteering role is to show the organization you’re working with (or their competitors!) that you’re an amazing catch they should hire today.

Here are three ways to volunteer for experience:

– Government Programs (Peace Corps)

The USA government runs the Peace Corps for US citizens, and multiple other countries have similar programs for their citizens. This can be an effective way to get 2-3 years of work experience that is essentially all-expenses-paid.

– Organization-Specific Programs

Many organizations have internships, fellowships, and volunteering opportunities where you can showcase your programmatic work skills and have real impact on constituents while you’re networking with potential peers and employers.

– Choose Your Own Adventure

You don’t need to join an established program – you can create your own experience if you propose a project that will have real impact, and trade your time for exposure and connections. This can be one of the most effective ways to network your way into your specific dream job, though its the hardest of the three options.

Good luck!

software developer age ict4d

Am I Too Old to Start a Digital Development Career?

Question 14: Am I too old to start a development career?

I have over a decade of experience in software development and data journalism. I am now 37 years old. Am I too old to start a career in international development?

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Development Needs Many Viewpoints

International development is like any industry, it constantly needs new viewpoints to see and develop innovation and move the industry forward. These viewpoints come at different stages – be they views from early career, mid-career, senior career, or even retired professionals.

At 37 years old with over a decade of software development and data journalism experience, you would have very relevant skills and abilities that many international development employers would highly value.

you are not too old

In fact, you could be at a great age to make the move into development. You probably have the enthusiasm to develop new ideas and the maturity to mold them into practical solutions. Check out our jobs newsletter – one could be just for you.

international ict4d job

How Do I Get an International Job in Digital Development?

Question 13: How Do I Get an International Job?

Do international organizations ever hire someone for an international role, or its it always a local hire? How can I get a job in another country in humanitarian relief?

Different International Jobs

This question has many meanings as the concept of an international job has many meanings as well. Generally, a company wants to hire someone local to that country.

Be it Botswana or Belgium, the person from that local context will know the culture, rules, and expectations of that culture better than someone from somewhere else.

Still, there are cases when the company will hire someone from one country to work in another, and generally these people are called expats if they are from the headquarters country, or Third-Country Nationals if they are from one country and now working in another.

Which International Jobs Are For You?

So yes, development organizations do hire people for international jobs. However, it is not common, and of the two types, TCNs are more common than expats.

It’s very rare for an international organization based in a wealthy country to hire from that country for a job in another country, mainly due to the great expense involved. TCNs are usually also paid better than local hires, so they have a greater cost to the organization too, though less than HQ expats.

Either way, good luck if you’re offered a role in a different country. It is an amazing opportunity, when it works out. When it doesn’t work out, it can be a major failure.

ict4d job digital development career

Companies Are Still Hiring Digital Development Experts

Most economists are predicting that we are about to enter into one of the largest recessions ever. This is a scary time for anyone – regardless of how secure you feel you job.

One touch of good news is that companies are still hiring. You can see our newsletter where there are new openings for you to review. There will be more competition for each job, so you’ll need to have a strong application game.

Having a strong network is the core to any good application game. Be sure you are doing informational interviews now. Follow up to those you’ve already talked with. And keep at your networking, every day.

Then establish and grown your professional presence. Everything from LinkedIn comments to (virtual) conference presentations, make sure you’re known as an expert is your niche. This will help grow your network, which will also improve your presence.

Finally, this is the time to focus on what you are good at and known for, not for jumping into a new role or niche. Build on your strengths and work at it. New jobs are there, you could get one.

ict4d skills ict support

What Training Do I Need for Digital Development Careers?

Question 11: What training do I need?

I’ve worked in ICT Support for 4 years and I am looking to gain more skills, education and experience in ICT4D. What training can I take or what formal education programs can position me for promotion? I don’t know where to start.

Ask a different question

Instead of asking what training you need, you may want to start with asking where you want to be in 3-5 years. Once you’ve identified what you want to be doing, where you want to be working, and at what level, you can then start seeking out people who have the job you desire.

Then comes the hard part – asking for informational interviews with them to understand what their day is like, where they see the profession going, and crucially, how they got their position.

In an informational interview, you want to be learning from your interviewee, not selling them on hiring you. You want to learn what they believe are the prerequisites for your dream role.

Once you know prerequisites..

If you ask 20 people and all of them say you need a Masters Degree in artificial intelligence or a doctorate in public health, then you know what your next step is. However, they will most likely say that its a mix of education and experience that is best for promotion – not education or training alone.

Training courses

I am a big fan of TechChange courses for practical, hands-on learning of key concepts for digital development project management. However, if you need hard-core software development skills, you made want to join one of the many software development boot camps. Overall, I would look for well-known organizations that utilize facilitators that you can Google-trace to their classroom and alumni.


Since you already have a job, you can volunteer for new roles within your organization to get additional experience. Be the person who always says, “yes” to new projects that interest you, and work more and harder to succeed with those projects. This is the easiest way to get more experience.

Another way is to seek out organizations working in your desired areas and find out what their needs are. Then suggest a volunteer consultancy – that is a consulting engagement that is just as rigorous as a paid engagement, but trade exposure and connections for your time, instead of money.

Switching careers is hard

There is no way around the central problem in your question: you wan to switch careers from IT support to ICT4D. It is not impossible, but like any career switch, there will be work and pain involved, and it may take you a year or more to make the transition. However, if you really think it will make you happier with your work life, then its a worthy sacrifice.

It took me two years to make the transition from dotcoms to ICT4D and every minute of the pain (and several rounds of crying over rejections) was worth it for me. I love my work, every minute of it.

Good luck!