How to Get a Job in International Development


International development is an amazing field. It gathers some of the smartest, most diverse workers, people willing to move to far-flung corners of the world to alleviate poverty. Working in this field is my life – I believe in what we do and want to see the best people work to achieve our goals.

I know, though, that getting a foot in the door in international development is hard. When I was in university, I didn’t even know that this kind of work existed.

And when I started to see how I could find a job, I found that there was no clear path to start out. Twenty years later, though, I now know the multiple paths to enter international development: I understand who does well in our field, and I would like to help those who would do well have happy, successful careers.

This is where this guide comes in. In a guide such as this one, it is impossible to describe every path into a field. Every experience is different, and the background of every applicant makes it necessary for each person to tailor their own job search.

However, this guide aims to provide you with step-by-step guidance from an insider. The guide aims to provide you with what I find is the most successful approach to entering the field of international development, while at the same time developing a strong network that you can be in touch with for years to come.

Who is this guide for?

If you’ve read this far, this guide is probably for you.

This guide is for people from any country in the world who are at the initial stages of a career in international development. The guide is both for those of you who have just started to look for work, and for those that have applied everywhere and gotten a lukewarm response. The guide is meant for those who are at the beginning of their career, and who either have never had a job or internship in the field, or who have worked for 2-4 years and are looking for a way to turn a set of experiences into a career.

Even if you are a bit further into your career, I hope this guide is useful to you.

International Development group

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Myths vs. Realities: What do you need to get a job in international development?
Do you really need to speak several languages?
Do you really need fancy degrees?
Do you need to have experience to work in international development?
Do you need to have worked outside your country?
Chapter 2 – The five-step guide to getting a job you love
Step 1: How do you know which organization is right for you?
Narrow geographically
Narrow by technical specialty or technical area of interest
Narrow by organization type
Field or HQ
Focus on organizations with a good reputation
Step 2: Meet the people you want to work with
Your network is already broader than you think.
Who is most likely to give you good information?
How do you identify the people you want to reach?
Once you’re reached out to people, what do you talk to them about?
How do you maintain a network of people you’ve only briefly spoken to?
Step 3: How do you get the attention of hiring managers?
Why does a hiring manager want to talk to you?
How do you reach hiring managers?
What would you say in your email to the hiring manager?
What should the conversation with the hiring manager be about?
Talking to hiring managers who have job openings
Your social media presence
Step 4: What does a successful application look like?
What is an entry level job in international development?
So-called ‘entry level’ jobs
Your application research
An ID cover letter – more important than your CV
Your CV
Other types of applications
Step 5: How to nail your job interview
Before the Interview
Preparing for the interview – What questions will you get?
During the interview
After the interview
Chapter 3 – Making future job searches easier
Thank you for reading this guide!

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