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!

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.

referral recommendation ict4d job

How Do I Ask for a Referral for a Digital Development Job?

What questions do you have about digital development careers? Click here to ask your question! We’ll answer it in the next newsletter.

Q8: How Do I Ask for a Referral?

I identified an interesting job at the same company where a friend of mine works. How can I get them to vouch for me so I can get the crucial first round interview?

HR is Overloaded with Applications

High quality job opportunities get dozens, if not hundreds of applications. As we’ve discussed previously, its hard to get past Human Resources screenings. They are looking for a very specific person, based on the criteria they are given by the hiring team, and you need to be that unicorn to get the job.

Referrals are Crucial to Get Interviews

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The best ways to get past HR and secure the crucial first round interview is to be the internal candidate. Second best, is to have someone on the hiring team (or adjacent team) put in a good word for you. Their recommendation will pluck your resume out of the sea of applicants and usually get you an initial interview.

How to Ask for a Referral

Referrals are tricky, as the person referring you is putting their reputation on the line for you, so you may want to build your case with them, so they’ll be comfortable making the recommendation.

Tell them about your career aspirations. Show them how this role fits into your dreams and that you’ll succeed in the role. Make sure that they are happy to refer you, and be confident that you’ll be awesome in the role.

How to Accept a Rejection

Also, respect their response, even if they say no. They will have insights on what the hiring team wants, and it may not be you. Don’t take this personally, they just saved you from wasted effort if you’re not the right fit.

Good luck!

ict4d human resources screening

Why Didn’t I Get Past the Initial HR Screening for an ICT4D Job?

What questions do you have about digital development careers? Click here to ask your question! We’ll answer it in the next newsletter.

Q9: Why Didn’t I Get Past HR Screening?

I applied for a job that I was a good fit for, but I learned that I didn’t even get past the initial HR screening. They said I was unqualified for the role, though I know I could do it if given the chance. Why did this happen? How can I get past HR?

You Must Pass HR’s Minimum Requirements

When a team sends a job description to Human Resources for them to recruit for the position, HR coverts the job requirements into a list of attributes for potential applicants.

Some of these can be pass/fail – for example, a Master’s Degree, while others can be a spectrum that is assigned points, like number of years experience.

If you do not meet the minimum requirements, your application will be deemed non-responsive. If you meet the minimum requirements, your application will be scored by points, with the top ones going to the team for review and interviews.

There is a Way Around HR Screening

Sometimes, you may have the skills for the job that don’t show up on your CV, especially if you’re making a career shift into ICT4D. Here is where you need to know the secret of how to get around the HR screening process, and get that crucial first interview. Know someone on the hiring team.

As we’ve discussed before, you always want to be the internal candidate. You wan the hiring team to know you, or at least know of you either directly, or through one of their friends. Ten the hiring team can request your application be included in the interview group.

Now you still need to shine in the interview, and if the team chooses you, they’ll need a strong justification for you, so use this path wisely and only for the roles you really, really want and are competent you can excel in.

The hiring team will be using their valuable political capital to get on board. If you flake or leave early, you’ll have burned a few bridges that may never be repaired.

Not Getting Past HR Can be Good

Not every person is right for every role, and if there is a core requirement that you don’t have, don’t get mad at HR. There could be a very good reason for that requirement – a foreign language is usually one you can’t learn on the job.

Take your rejection as a learning opportunity and try to honestly assess why you were not considered and what you might want to change about your job search, or yourself, that can help you win the next job application contest.

Good luck!