A long time ago, when I was applying for jobs as an entry level candidate, I would look through every single good jobs listing site (see devex.com, devnetjobs.org, reliefweb.int, or idealist.org). I would open almost every single job ad and go straight to the requirements section, hoping to find jobs that required little to no experience. I would then apply to everything that required two years of less of experience, and anxiously wait for an answer. I would refresh my email time and time again, hoping for answers, and every once in a while, I’d get an automatic response from one organization or another, telling me that my application had been received.
It was quite frustrating, to say the least. I didn’t know whether my application was even considered. I didn’t know whether I had any chance for any of the jobs and I didn’t know whether my applications were any good.
I was spending about 40 hours a week doing this – the equivalent of a full-time job, and sometimes I wouldn’t get any answers in weeks!
And I was one of the lucky ones. The times I took on this impossible task, I was able to get a job. Once, it took me just three months. Another time, it took me eight months. And really… I was lucky.
We all know, or at least we think we know, that jobs go to people who have good networks. So why do we bother applying in the first place?
I think the reason is simple: we are less afraid of being rejected by a website than by an actual live person. Sending applications in through a website makes us feel productive. And because we never wrote to an actual person, we can make up stories in our heads about our applications getting lost, or recruiters being too busy to read our amazing application. When we try to get to know someone new and send them an email, and they don’t answer us, the rejection hurts more. It feels more personal. After all, we wrote to them directly.
But in fact, a rejection is a rejection either way. The difference is that if you apply to a job in an organization where you don’t know anyone, your chances of hearing back are close to 0. If you write a short email to someone whose work you find interesting, asking them for a quick call, skype, or coffee to hear about their work, your chances, if your email is good, are probably closer to 30%. And it takes a lot less time to write short networking emails than applications!
And the fact is that even though many people complain that jobs should go to those with the best skills and knowledge, and that a more ‘fair’ process of application, where decisions are based on qualifications is more ethical, the skills that are most needed in international development are people skills! The best international development practitioners can work well across cultures, talk to people who are very different from themselves, they can recognize potential in people, they listen to the people they work with … and it is virtually impossible to gauge whether people have those skills in an application.
So those smart hiring managers, those who want people who are great technically but also have the people skills to succeed, meet with job-seekers often, making mental note of who seems to be a great candidate (and who wouldn’t be). They want you, the great candidate, to keep in touch. They want to know about your progress in your job search, about your new job, if you get one, and about your goals for the future. Then, when they have the perfect job for you, they will remember you, and your chances of getting the job will be 100x greater than if you had applied cold.
That’s why my advice to you, is that if you want to get a job faster, and to get a job where you are surrounded by competent, committed professionals with good people skills, you really need to network.
In my guide on How to Get a Job in International Development I show you some ways that you can network successfully. If you don’t have the guide, you can find it here: https://www.internationaldevelopmentguide.com/howto
And if you want a great list of organizations in international development, their visa requirements, countries of operation, and entry level requirements, you can find that when you sign up to get the PDF version of the guide.
In my next post, I will also dissect emails that successfully and unsuccessfully try to ask for networking meetings. If you have any examples that you’d like me to look at specifically, please do send them along! And if you want to share your experiences networking, I’d love to hear from you as well.
I look forward to getting your thoughts!
P.S. I’ve gotten a few emails asking me if I offer coaching. If you’d be interested in talking to me about coaching, please let me know and we can arrange a call.
Culled from International Development Guide