What's your story? - Why getting published can help your foreign aid job search

Picture this: You make a name for yourself early in your career. You attract attention for your ideas and receive praise for the way you’ve implemented them. Recruiters are interested in talking to you because of the combination of skills, talent and character you could bring to their organization.

I don’t know anyone working in international development who wouldn’t want to be in this position.

How can you jump-start or accelerate the process of building a high-visibility personal brand? Consider publishing.

Even if you’re not a professional writer, and even if you don’t want a communications job, writing for an audience of industry leaders and influencers is an excellent way to get name recognition.

For proof, look no further than Devex. After one guest opinion we published in 2010, for instance, the writer, a senior U.S. consultant, fielded calls from several potential business partners, including one of Pakistan’s largest exporters, within days. The Devex op-ed helped the writer establish himself as a thought leader in an area ripe for innovation and leadership.

Beyond the personal branding benefit, getting a piece published in an established outlet provides you with tangible proof of your writing ability, which could really set you apart in the job application process especially if you’re going for a non-communications job. The truth is that today, most international development jobs require solid writing skills. All those memos, grant proposals and action plans are a heck of a lot more interesting to read if they’re well-written.

Even if you’re not aggressively looking for a new job, publishing an article with your name on it can help you network. If you write something especially thought-provoking or useful, people may email you directly. You can also send your published work to all your industry contacts - a great excuse to get back in touch.

Ready to take the plunge? Think carefully about what message you’d like to get across and what audience you’d like to reach - you’ll have to pitch your idea to an editor, and it’s crucial you help them figure out swiftly whether your story would be a good fit.

Start out by reading a few publications that publish guest articles on development cooperation, humanitarian aid and global health. Pay special attention to those guest op-eds for clues on how to frame your ideas.

Here’s a sampling of my favorite English-language publications that accept guest submissions:

This list focuses on websites backed by media outlets and other organizations. Of course, there are other publishers, as well as a host of outstanding independent blogs that accept guest posts. (If you’re looking for those, check out Owen Barders list.) If you have experience with them or any additional suggestion, please leave a comment below.

And remember: Each publisher has a different focus and style. Devex, for instance, prefers guest contributions that are gutsy and relevant to the everyday work of development professionals around the globe.

A note of caution before you start thinking about publishing an article: Check whether your employer has rules on employees publishing articles. In many cases, you should be able to proceed as long as you include some sort of disclaimer making clear that your views are your own.

Then again, many employers are waking up to the marketing benefits associated with original content. If you identify your employer in your byline and include a link to the organization’s website, it may boost their site traffic - a win! Just make sure they see it this way too.

Jaclyn Schiff’s post is published by Devex in collaboration with the Brazen Life blog. Read last week’s

About the author

  • Jaclyn Schiff

    Jaclyn Schiff is a Washington-based correspondent for Devex. Her focus is on global health and professional development. Jaclyn is also the managing editor of the Brazen Careerist’s blog, and she has written for the U.N. Dispatch, allAfrica.com, CBSNews.com, National Public Radio, PBS MediaShift and other news sources. She is the founder of MediaSchiff, which provides real-time social media services for events and conferences.