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How To Accelerate Your Humanitarian Career: 5 Tips

Tuesday, Apr 11, 2017
by Humanitarian Institute

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"Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them." William Arthur Ward

Accelerating your international development career requires hard work!

If you want to drive your humanitarian career you need to commit to your passion, explore everything, take control of your own destiny, and challenge yourself. Here are five tips from us that will jump-start your global career.

Construct and stand by your self-directed action plan

If you wish to accelerate your humanitarian career, you must be willing to put in the extra time beyond the standard work hours. Make sure you’ve constructed an effective and efficient self-directed action plan and commit to it. It’s important to manage your time efficiently to make the most of your opportunities to build your profile in the international development sector.

Your action plan must include actionable and concrete tasks that you implement on a regular basis - tasks such as networking, volunteering, research, and commenting. These are but a few - the key is to be accountable for your actions.

Find an aid organisation which uses skilled volunteers

Skilled volunteering is an important aspect of accelerating your humanitarian career, particularly for those new to the sector or considering a career change. In order to begin a skilled volunteer placement, you must first find a humanitarian agency that strategically uses skilled volunteers. As a skilled volunteer you are provided with all the necessary resources for the role, however, you are expected to able to perform as an employee, that is, professionally and efficiently complete your assigned tasks. Be sure you are thoroughly prepared before you begin!

Practice doing interviews

Before undertaking that first interview with a development organisation, practice by undertaking mock interview(s). There is no secret that completing practice interviews will refine your messaging, examples and demonstrate areas of weakness you need to improve. Thinking ahead, you’ll give yourself every opportunity to succeed at the interview.

Ideally when doing practice interviews it’s a good idea to recreate an interview-like situation; for example, give yourself the same amount of time; recruit a friend or family member to ‘act’ as the interviewer, and hold the  interview  in a place with little or no distractions - to keep it real try facilitating the practice over phone or Skype.

Talk to people who have gone through a humanitarian recruitment process and learn from them

If you do find yourself looking to advance your humanitarian career, it’s a good idea to talk to someone who has gone through the process before, preferably someone who performed well, got the job and has built a career in the humanitarian sector. This offers you the chance to navigate around all the nuances and intricacies that make international development recruitment procedures difficult.

Explore everything

When determining your humanitarian career goals don’t limit yourself based on misunderstanding or a lack of awareness about the broader development  sector - learn to know what you don’t know!. If you find humanitarian sector interesting, explore it and don’t stop until you’re satisfied.

There’s always new and interesting information and facts to discover. Try it out and if you like it, keep going; and if you don’t, move on. You’re in charge of your career journey, take control and challenge yourself!

Get informed! And get skilled!


While it’s important to apply some pressure on yourself to ensure you’re performing at your best, if you continually put yourself in stressful circumstances it can take away from the fun and passion you have for humanitarianism. Remember, it’s the career development tasks  you enjoy the most that are the one’s you excel at, so, make sure those align with your goals, and accelerating will become easier and easier.

Career acceleration is not for everyone, and how far and fast your humanitarian career progresses can depend on your goals. If you follow the above steps, you’ll give yourself every opportunity to reach beyond your highest expectations.

For more hints, tips and insights from Humanitarian Institute about developing your humanitarian career visit our free career resources.

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