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?

Have a job search or career growth question? Ask me!

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!

ict4d travel jobs

A Joy of ICT4D Employment: International Travel

Greetings from 35,000FT

As you read this, I am enjoying a miracle of modern life: international airlines. I am on the 10th longest commercial passenger flight – Johannesburg to Atlanta – and I’m in awe that we’ve figured out how to get 300+ people over 8,000 miles in just 15 hours.

Only a lifetime ago, this trip would only be possible by boat, and even then much more perilous than flying. Still, every takeoff I pray, and every inflight bump I fear, even after a a lifetime of air travel.

I am blessed

One of the reasons I write this newsletter to 4000+ subscribers is that I want more people to live the blessed life I have. I fly around the world – I just visited country #86 – and help people live better lives, using digital technology.

Of course, digital technology has its issues, hence the Digital Principles, DHIRT, and other resources to keep us working for good. Also, I certainly have carbon guilt with all these flights. However, I am convinced that the world is a better place thanks to my small inputs contributing to larger social movements.

Join me!

Please look at the IntraHealth job openings, and sign up for our newsletter. However, you don’t have to wait for a dream digital development job to effect change around the world. I started my ICT4D career with my own self-funded trip to East Africa back in 2002. That experience led to the career I enjoy now.

Actually, I could make a decent case that my Peace Corps Moscow experience in 1997 was my first true development work. I’d still recommend volunteering for the Peace Corps too – it is still the toughest job I ever loved.

However you do it, I’d love to have you in this field too.

Good luck!

phd college degree ict4d

What is the Value of a PhD Advanced Degree in ICT4D?

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

Q8: What is the value of a PhD in ICT4D?

I have a bachelor’s, master’s, and ~10 years experience in digital marketing in health and education, all outside of development. I’m considering a Ph.D. in Information Systems to do research on topics related to ICT4D, but will it pay off in a digital development job?

Education Needs to be Paired with Experience

You may be surprised by the number of people who think that a degree in international development or technology-related field will magically open the door to a rewarding ICT4D career. Sadly, that rarely works.

You have to understand that your competition is someone who has:

  • 3-4 years experience in development jobs,
  • 2 years in the Peace Corps living in developing countries,
  • A masters degree in technology or development.

Key for an employer is the the full mix of employment, exposure, and education. We want to know you’re familiar with development’s issues, the realities of developing countries, and a solid education.

Get Experience Before a PhD

Before spending years and thousands of dollars on a PhD, which in your case will just make you even more expensive with less relevant experience, I would strongly suggest you get experience in the digital development ecosystem.

You should be able to leverage your digital marketing experience to work on social and behavior change communication (SBCC), where we try to engage and motivate people to adopt healthier habits. For example, practicing safer sex, or quitting smoking, or the like.

You can do this with many population groups (Americans need this as much as Angolans) though its best to start thinking about areas of the world you want to work in and focusing on those communities from the start.

Consider a Volunteer Consulting Engagement

Sine you already have a career that showcases your ability, you may want to consider a volunteer consulting engagement to get experience. This is just like a real consulting agreement – you should have objectives, deliverables, and timelines – only you are trading your time for experience versus cash payment.

The international development field is already very familiar with the concept – see Peace Corps – only this way you don’t need to move overseas for two years. However, you will need to work hard, probably harder than you are now, to learn as you perform.

The upside? You’ll be the internal candidate at the next opening.

Good luck!