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Tap The Hidden Humanitarian Jobs Market

Thursday, Apr 06, 2017
by Humanitarian Institute

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The ‘hidden humanitarian job market’. Sounds mysterious. It’s not.The humanitarian sector is like many in the sense that the majority of opportunities aren’t even advertised. Think of the hidden jobs market as a path of least resistance for Aid agencies, particularly when filling junior and entry level roles. For example, if an NGO can avoid the time and money of a formal hiring process, and instead employ someone whose work they know, or who has been recommended, they will take advantage of it.

Therefore, if you, as an emerging humanitarian can position yourself in places where this hidden job market exists, it can also be a path of least resistance to getting that first humanitarian gig.


So how can you get access to these positions? Here are 5 ways you can explore this magical space.

Leave the house.

Simple. You can’t expect to meet and converse with professional humanitarians and engage in global development network's if you’re at home browsing job sites in your underwear. Turn up! Make networking a habit. Be willing to make an effort. People will notice. They understand that to get into the humanitarian sector you need to put yourself out there. But remember, networking is about building real relationships… not just asking for favours!

Skilled volunteer or intern.

An internship, in particular, can be challenging to secure outside of industry partnerships. That aside, a day of shadowing, a week of exposure in a Aid agency’s head office, or regular skilled volunteering can help you gain practical work experience and awareness – plus you’ll automatically have more organisational knowledge than other external candidates when a position opens up.


Follow up.

If someone gives you their details, follow up. If you’ve had a mentoring session with someone over coffee, schedule another one a couple of months later. We’re continually amazed by how rarely people reach out and follow up with new contacts. We know it's difficult to write a compelling follow up note or make that call, but be brave… smart people are always interested in meeting talent. However, don’t hassle or stalk humanitarian professionals - but keep yourself in their minds – if they hear of a position, even in another country, they’re more likely to send you an email.

Ask for referrals and intros.

Your network opens up other networks. Someone may not have the time to mentor you regularly, but they may connect you with a relevant contact... and your circle continues to widen. If you don’t ask for links, they may not be offered. Be polite but proactive!

Tell people your aspirations - short and long term.

What sort of work are you looking for now? Tell your friends. Tell former colleagues. Tell your new networks. Be prepared to briefly explain to anyone what you’re after - because you never know who knows whom. We can identify any number of Aid Workers who gained their first roles through referrals, and their career has never looked back.


These points have something in common – they require you to reach out with professional humanitarians in person, not online. While e-channels like LinkedIn are awesome to support your job search, it’s becoming too easy to ignore all the pings in our lives. The nuance of face-to-face conversations has the potential to uncover far more opportunities. Get out there!

There is no ONE way into the humanitarian job market. So make sure you follow every avenue you can. Does it take a bit more confidence and resilience – sure. Is it worth it? Without a doubt.

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