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?
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.