The peer career advice you didn't know you needed

By Kate Warren 18 August 2015

From applying to multiple jobs to handling burnout: Learn from your peers in the Devex community on how they tackle six common career career conundrums. Photo by: Het Nieuwe Instituut / CC BY

The Devex community includes more than 700,000 of the most experienced and informed global development professionals working today. With such a wealth of experience among our members, we couldn’t think of anyone better to share their advice with our readers.

This week, I’ve handed over Career Matters to Devex members, who offer their take on how to tackle six common career conundrums — from job-hopping to managing burnout.

1. On the danger of job hopping, particularly early in your career.

“One thing I also want to flag that I'm seeing a lot with this generation is frequent job hopping — in particular ‘org hopping.’ It's completely understandable for a young professional to have a few distinct positions early in their careers, such as internships, fellowships, consultancies that were maybe a part of their master’s program, etc.

“But for those with a couple of years experience, doing a job at org A, then org B, then org C... for me if I see a year or less as a pattern, it says to me that the candidate hasn't shown themselves as someone for an organization to retain. Hiring managers have brought this up to me as well. It brings up questions like, ‘Why didn't org A keep this person and give her a follow-on position or promotion?’ This is related to your third point about always asking, ‘how will this benefit me?’ It would seem that org hopping, while probably lucrative for getting small salary bumps, can have diminishing returns on the way you're perceived by recruiters and hiring managers.

“It looks a lot better when people are retained or called back to their employer, like a consultant being used multiple times with the same [organizations], or given new responsibilities or positions, and where it's clear that they're earning their promotions and valued by their employer.

“Of course those people are often busy, happy and passive candidates for recruiters, not as active in the job market and in need of advice!”

— Scott W.

2. On millennials using jargon in interviews.

“One other issue that I have noted with the millennials is the use of jargon during interviews. It is common for these young, tech savvy individuals to use “text messaging language,” which sometimes makes them look disrespectful. You find a millennial using a shortened version of words …”

— Apollo E.

3. On whether to invest your time in learning a foreign language or other skills.

“[It’s] better to spend time and bandwidth deepening a hard technical skill, which is essential to have credibility within your organization (particularly if you have management ambitions) and, more importantly, with your clients. Being inclusive and emotionally intelligent is necessary, but not sufficient unless you see your life being fulfilled by being a project manager on a government contract.”

— Paul C.

4. On applying to multiple jobs with the same employer.

“I've been a recruiter at two NGOs where there are those serial applicants that apply to literally everything — and it's true, we stop taking them seriously, usually very quickly too. The 80 percent rule is a good one: Make sure you're at least partly qualified. I see many serial applicants that apply based on the job title and not the core “required” qualifications — so they miss that you need French or another specific requirement, and I move them to the ‘unconsidered’ file.”

— Scott W.

5. On why working in business development can be a great career move.

“This sector is often ignored by professionals while making career decisions, whereas no other sector can offer you such diverse and deep learning other than this. With educational background in management sciences, once I stepped into development ... I knew nothing about this sector. After working on [a] couple of [U.K. Department for International Development] and EU proposals, today I feel more confident than anyone else. It indeed offers a promising career path and I would highly recommend all beginners to opt for it.”

— Alina R.

“I have worked in public health business development for over 10 years and I love it. It certainly takes a certain personality and work style to thrive in the fast-paced and quick-turnaround world of proposals, but it is satisfying work. For people who are detail-oriented, enjoy working on the small pieces of a whole, and like collaborating to deliver a finished product, it is a great career path.”

— Lanre W.

6. On dealing with job burnout.

“I was lucky that my organization let me take my leave, and then an additional two months leave without pay. It had never been done before and hopefully it was a wake up call for all, as having been in country full time for seven years, some better organizational practices were needed to ensure that key staff were supported. It was the best decision I ever made, and it clarified that in general I need to change my job for something a little less intense for a while.

“Also the world did not stop whilst I was away on my break. Whilst I lived and breathed my job, I loved it so much, it was time for a change so I could continue giving the best of me to improve the lives of others. The joy I found was in enjoying some delicious bread, walking free in the streets of my home country and generally looking in amazement at the choice of items in the supermarket. It’s the little things, and now I have been able to achieve better balance, all because I listen to my own advice and sought some help and talked to people and started putting some limits on what are often endless expectations.”

— Anonymous

If you have a questions about managing your career in global development, please tweet me @DevexCareers. Check out more career advice stories online, and subscribe to Doing Good to receive top international development career and recruitment news.

About the author

Warren kate 1
Kate Warren@DevexCareers

Kate Warren is the senior director and editor of careers and recruiting content at Devex. With more than a decade of international development recruitment experience working with international NGOs, consulting firms and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.


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