How volunteering can jumpstart your global development career

By Emma Smith 20 March 2017

An EU aid volunteer talks to local residents. Photo by: Leah Cowan / European Commission DG ECHO / CC BY-ND

When it comes to global development jobs, entry-level positions, and even internships, are highly competitive and there are often hundreds of applications for any one position. If you are new to the job market — or transitioning from another sector — your lack of relevant work experience may hold you back. Additionally, you may still be trying to decide what kind of global development positions are best for you.

Volunteering can help jumpstart your global development career. Not only can you gain the experience and skills to better stand out against other applicants, but you can also learn more about the different roles within the sector.

Deciding where you fit in well in global development

While you may have decided that you want to work in global development and in a role that will allow you to have a positive impact on the people and communities you work with, you might not have figured out yet exactly where you fit into the sector. Many global development jobs involve extensive travel or lengthy stints in the field. Volunteering, particularly spending time overseas, can help you discover if this is something you are suited to or if you are better placed supporting field staff from home offices.

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Tania Bernath, a veteran humanitarian aid worker, says that volunteering is critical for a couple of reasons, but primarily for the person to figure out their interests and what kind of work they will enjoy. For example, Bernath believes fieldwork is the crux of humanitarian aid. If you want to pursue this path, significant time in the field will likely be necessary.

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About the author

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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.


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