As the European crisis lingers, the need for top talent in foreign aid is as strong as ever. To help international development organizations identify the people they need to succeed in this environment, Devex is hosting its first-ever career fair in Brussels, Belgium, this Oct. 15.
In association with the European Development Days, Devex will bring together dozens of leading nongovernmental organizations, consulting firms and donor agencies with hundreds of international development professionals and experts for a rare opportunity to network and build connections with the real people behind a job description or a resume. Organized by the European Commission, the European Development Days is Europe’s premier forum on international affairs and development cooperation. EDD brings together heads of state and project managers, Nobel laureates and aid experts, and many more to debate the hottest topics and global challenges shaping the development community today, including climate change, access to water, health care and education, food security, human rights, gender equality, democracy, good governance, natural resources management, free and fair trade, as well as economic and social growth. With so many engaged development professionals congregating in Brussels, we thought what better time to host a career fair for mid-to-senior-level development experts.
The Devex International Development Career Fair in Brussels will be held Monday, Oct. 15, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., the day before the EDD conference kicks off. Like previous career fairs in Washington and London, this event is invite-only and you must apply to attend. To make it a more fruitful event for everyone, attendance is selective and you must have at least seven years of relevant experience. While those looking for home office opportunities are welcome, we encourage those looking for field-based consultancies to apply as this is where the bulk of the hiring need is with our European members. Our members have expressed a particular need for technical experts in the following sectors to provide consulting and project-based work:
Agriculture and rural development.
Banking and finance.
Environment and natural resources.
Information and communication technology.
Media and communications.
The career fair will kick off with a panel discussing consulting and career issues important to the EU development community. Panelists and guest speakers will be announced soon. The panel will be followed by the career fair where participants will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from various employers. Concluding the event will be a networking reception where both job seekers and recruiters are invited to network and mingle in a more relaxed setting.
How to prepare for the career fair
When preparing to attend a career fair, it is important to do your homework beforehand and come up with a clear action plan for the day. Check the Devex event page to see what hiring organizations will be in attendance (this will be updated regularly, so check back often). Make a list of the organizations you’d like to meet with during the event. Look at each of their websites, or check out their career profiles in the Devex directory of organizations, so you have a good understanding of who they are, what they do and if there are current openings for which you are qualified. A recruiter pet peeve is being asked, “So what do you do?” at career fairs; this will likely result in instructions to visit their website or the hand-off of a brochure — neither of which helps make the case for why they should hire you. Don’t think of a career fair as a venue for organizations to make their pitch to you, but rather for you to make your pitch to them.
Everyone should be prepared with a 2-minute “elevator pitch” to quickly convey your core skills and value as a potential consultant or employee. Your pitch should be focused and make clear what core competencies you offer. Prepare this beforehand and practice in front of a mirror or with a friend so you feel comfortable and look natural in your delivery.
Dress professionally. This is a professional event and while the NGO and international development community can often trend to the more casual, your appearance is often the first thing someone may judge you on. When in doubt, err on the side of more formal. For men, this means a suit and for women a suit or professional dress and/or slacks and jacket. But make sure you choose clothing that is comfortable — especially shoes — as the day can be long with lots of time on your feet.
Finally, be prepared with copies of your CV to show recruiters but don’t go to the trouble of creating expensive and bulky document portfolios. These will most likely end up in the trash. And since so much of the hiring process is done online these days, don’t be surprised if a recruiter would prefer you to email your CV instead of leaving a hard copy. This often makes it easier for them to file and find it later.
For more advice on how to prepare for and maximize your career fair experience, check out the following Devex articles: