So you want a career in global development. What does that mean to you? It’s an extremely competitive field, especially in Washington State, so whether you are a soon-to-be-graduate, recent graduate, or someone trying to make a change in career fields, here are five golden tips to make sure you end up in the right place for you and are getting the most out of your efforts.
1. Define your goals and interest (BE SPECIFIC) and write down what skills you can bring to the table.
When I say be specific, I mean, REALLY specific. Saying you are “interested” in said organization with nothing to follow up with, makes you look unknowledgeable and can possibly be insulting to your potential employer. Think of a specific story or experience you can share that ties your passion to their mission. Don’t go for a job you don’t care about, especially in nonprofit. It will be obvious and you will be fighting a sea of other people who will truly standout simply because of their passion alone. They’re the ones willing to put in the long extra hours without a second thought.
2. Network – Network – Network
LinkedIn: Now that you know what you want, what makes you unique, and what skills you have, you’re ready to tell the world! Have you connected with your friends, family, former coworkers, and classmates on LinkedIn? You would be surprised someone you know might have an “in” with your dream organization. You’ll also be surprised who is willing to help connect you with someone, even if you haven’t spoken in years. Consider following organizations you are interested in on LinkedIn and join discussions. You’ll receive more helpful job tip information that way. This goes without saying, but make sure your account is up to date and take the opportunity to make your resume look more attractive with your profile. Simply setting up a basic account won’t cut it in this job market, as some companies only allow you to apply by using your LinkedIn account.
Join a club: Consider joining a networking organization that lines up with what you want most. One great organization that focus on careers in global development are Young Professionals International Network (YPIN). YPIN offers fun events that allow you to connect with like-minded individuals and by sharing a positive experience with them, you’re already one step ahead of the game by avoiding a stuffy formal interview. The Society for International Development is an example of another organization that connects you to like minded people, but without the social pressure. If you can, try to attend events that you need to pay to get into. It’s annoying to think that this money might not pay out with a job, but consider it a worthwhile investment. Ticketed events are likely to have more people who are actually employed, and more likely to be able to help find you a job. Open events can be fun and helpful, but you’ll likely be fighting the sea of other jobseekers. Attending a ticketed event also shows you are serious about the field of work you are trying to get into and that you’re not just looking to collect business cards.
3. Volunteer or Intern
How much time do you have to spare? If possible, look for volunteer opportunities with organizations you are looking at. This will give you a better idea of how an organization functions, see if they are the right organization for you, and of course internal networking opportunities. While short term volunteer opportunities are convenient, consider a more long-term opportunity if you can (we know not everyone can afford this luxury). By investing yourself to a long-term commitment, such as an internship, you will likely be given work that makes a difference to an organization, and you’ll get a better feel for the “behind the scenes” work and have something with your name to show for it.
“But I’m too old for an internship!” No sorry, you’re not. You might be someone with 10 years of experience in a high-tech private industry that used to manage teams of people, but even then you’re not too old. The purpose of an internship to provide you with hands on experience in a field you know nothing about. You may be just as old if not older, than your intern supervisor, but don’t let your ego get in the way creating a unique experience for yourself. Your years of professional expertise might make you their first point of contact for roles with more responsibility, which gives you an advantage because now you’re doing more meaningful work, and they’ll remember that if you ever decide to apply for a job with the organization. Be clear in your intentions when discussing the agreement, so that way both you and the organization can benefit from each other.
4. Career Fairs
Make it personal: Career fairs can be daunting. Hundreds of nonprofit agencies sitting or standing around a table, waiting for you to make a case why they should hire you after the red sea of other students part before you make your way to the table. It’s intimidating, especially for students about to graduate. The best way to make an impression is simple. Do some research, find out who is going to be there, and take notes on organizations you are interested in. Do not just stop at researching their mission statement. Look at recent work they’ve done or projects they’re working on. Find out as much as you can and are interested in talking about with the representative. Talk about what matters to you and be sure to ask questions beyond “What does your organization do?” (You should already know this if you’re trying to pass off your resume) This means, picking organizations to talk to that you are truly interested in. It will be obvious who has done their homework, and representatives will take note of that. With that said, don’t linger too long, or force to drag the conversation out longer.
Resumes: Forget handing your resume off and passing it around if you didn’t have more than a ten minute conversation. Not only is it probably going to get lost in the pile of other resumes, but think about how much easier it will be for a representative to forward your resume onto a hiring manager if they have an electronic version of the resume. Make sure to take an e-mail address, and follow up with a reminder of something that you discussed to make you stand out.
Learn: Don’t be afraid to approach a table you don’t have any prior knowledge of. Sometimes, organizations cancel, and another organization fills in at the last minute. There is a way to make yourself sound articulate and genuinely interested even if you haven’t done any research. Try to ask the representatives what brought their attention to the organization and why they’ve chosen to work there.
5. Cover Letters
Now that you’ve made it this far, and you’ve been lucky enough to find the job you’ve been looking for in global development, now you have to write a Cover Letter and submit a resume or CV. The hardest part of a cover letter is making it succinct and unique. Instead of thinking of it as an introduction to you, think of it as the last selling point you have to “seal the deal”. It should compliment your resume but not repeat it and exemplify why you as an individual are the best person for the position. Even if you don’t quite of all of the skills they are looking for, show what other qualities you bring and your voice should reflect enthusiasm for learning and adding more to your skills. Readers will be looking for voice, the way you articulate yourself, and your writing skills. They already have your resume/CV to go over your skills and experience.
If you can copy and paste the body of a letter and change out the organization’s name, then it’s probably not good enough. Your letter will most likely be too vague. Your cover letter will be just as good as the amount of effort you put into it. With that said, sometimes your letter won’t be read. You will have spent ages on this well crafted letter, but there is nothing you can do to force them to read it. Sometimes time is an issue, or perhaps the hiring manager is so impressed with your resume, they didn’t bother to read your letter. But if they do read it, you want it to be special.
All in all…sometimes you can do everything right and jobs don’t work out. Don’t worry though, the right opportunity will present itself to you and now that you’ve read this, you will be ready to take advantage of it! It sounds like a lot of work, but the reward means landing you a job in the right place for you.