Recruiter insights: Here's how to transition into global development

Devex asks recruiters what advice they have for career transitioners. Via YouTube.

Global development increasingly demands expertise and skills from other sectors. Yet for many professionals, it is still tricky to career transition and get started in this space — professionals from other sectors often lack the hands-on experience that employers look for, or aren’t familiar with the specific language and norms of the sector.

Devex asked global development recruiters about their advice for professionals looking to break into the sector. Two key takeaways from the video are:

Get to know the sector

Attend industry events and conferences to build up your understanding of the sector and to find hiring and funding priorities. Informational interviews are also a great way to learn more about the sector’s employers and figure out where you might fit in.

Hillary Jenkins, leadership recruiter at World Vision International, recommended setting up as many of these conversations as possible, and using them to figure out how your previous experience translates to global development.

Volunteering can also be helpful for those from other sectors. It builds knowledge of the development context in addition to networking opportunities, while gaining that all important hands-on experience for the volunteer.

17 international (no cost) volunteer programs

A list of no-cost volunteer opportunities that provide worthwhile assistance to the communities hosting them.

There are a lot of international volunteer programs that give individuals the opportunity to work directly with communities around the world and can help jump-start a career in global development. Look for opportunities that allow you to build the skills and technical expertise to leverage a job in the sector.  

Make sure you are speaking the language

Global development has a lot of very specific terminology and acronyms, some of which vary between donors and regions. Where a candidate is qualified but still struggling to break into the sector, it’s often because of the language they are using, explained Julie Smallwood, senior proposal recruiter at Intrahealth International.

Advice for career transitioners: How to translate your experience

Georgetown University's Anne Steen discusses the importance of transferable skills in a career transition and shares tips for translating your experience for global development organizations.

There are a lot of skills, for example in project management and cross-cultural communications, which are very important and transferable to global development, she continued, so it’s just about translating that experience into a language that makes sense to the sector’s employers.

Watch the video for more recruiter takeaways on transitioning into global development.

About the author

  • Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a Reporter at Devex. She covers all things related to careers and hiring in the global development community as well as mental health within the sector — from tips on supporting humanitarian staff to designing mental health programs for refugees. Emma has reported from key development hubs in Europe and co-produced Devex’s DevProWomen2030 podcast series. She holds a degree in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University and a master's in media and international conflict. In addition to writing for regional news publications, she has worked with organizations focused on child and women’s rights.