How to get your global development career off to a good start

United Nations volunteers and Haitian citizens unload food supplies delivered by a U.S. helicopter. Photo by: USAID / CC BY-SA

Landing a job in global development is tough, and the first few years of your career may also be very challenging as you learn what it means to work in this particular sector. Paths to a career in this competitive sector often involve balancing a weekend job with a full-time internship before spending months, or even years, overseas to gain the field experience that will allow you to specialize or move up the career ladder.

While this career can be quite demanding, it can also be very rewarding. We spoke with early career development professionals to hear their advice for others trying to get their development career off to a good start.

Be willing to work for free

Getting your foot in the door in global development can be tough, and before you land an entry-level position with any organization, chances are you will have to prove your worth volunteering or interning for little or no money. Almost everyone in the global development sector has served their time as an intern, either working in the home office or overseas.

While there is no guarantee of a job at the end of it, many employers will try to use this opportunity to assess your fit within the organization and start training you for a future role. Be prepared to work for free — but see it as a worthwhile investment of your time that could lead you to an entry-level position.

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About the author

  • Emma smith

    Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a reporting and communications associate at Devex, based in Barcelona. She focuses on bringing the latest career and hiring trends, tips, and insights to our global development community. Emma has a background in journalism and, in addition to writing for news publications, has worked with organizations focusing on child rights and women’s rights in sustainable development.