How to find a job at NGOs as an expat in 2021 – that will be the topic of today’s article.
Before introducing this article, if you are interested in our core services which are expat financial, insurance, and mortgages, you can contact me here.
The best time to consider your financial situation is when you are moving to a new country.
NGO means non-governmental organization. Although there is no universally accepted definition of an NGO, it is usually a voluntary group or institution with a social mission that operates independently of government.
NGOs or organizations alike NGO can be found in all parts of the world. And what’s interesting is that what is considered an NGO in one country cannot be considered the same in another one. This is because the legal definitions, permitted activities, monitoring are not the same in all the countries. This term can cover many types of organizations.
While these terms are not necessarily interchangeable, an NGO-like organization may be called a non-profit, charitable, non-profit organization (NPO), civil society organization (CSO), civil sector organization (CSO), social security organization (LSO), human rights organization, voluntary organization, grassroots support organization (GSO) and non-state actor (NSA). Don’t be surprised if your hear the terms such as “independent sector”, “volunteer sector” when discussing NGOs.
But in this article, we will mainly talk about the general idea of NGOs, what they represent themselves, how an expat can find a job in such an organization, what are the benefits of working in NGOs and of course what qualifications and requirements you should have.
Working in development is an attractive option for people all over the world. The sector has grown significantly over the past two decades as organizations have grown larger, more complex, and more professional. Working for an NGO provides an opportunity to change the world for the better, support those in need, and bring positive change in communities around the world.
How to actually get a job with an NGO is a question that is often asked by people considering breaking into the industry. Do I need a degree? Do I need to speak different languages? Do I need to become a volunteer first? What kind of experience do I need? The truth is that there is no one way to enter the sector with people from different walks of life, lengths of service, and experiences looking for work in nonprofit organizations.
Usually, NGOs function just like the same way as any other business. They have employers in the areas of accounting, management, fundraising, and other operations. While larger international development organizations such as UNICEF, OXFAM and Save the Children contain entire departments for marketing, logistics, public relations, business development, human relations, product development, legal affairs, and more.
Tens of thousands of opportunities are advertised in NGOs every year, but the first thing you need to do is decide what exactly you want to do. What do you want to achieve? What kind of changes do you want to reach in the world? Take time to understand what motivates you and what will bring you job satisfaction.
This will help you significantly narrow down the tasks you want to do and the organizations in which you want to work. If you want to work with refugees, animals, children, disabled people, war victims, the elderly or any other problem you can think of, there is an NGO that offers solutions and opportunities.
Working for an NGO is competitive and, like any other organization, it is your personal qualities, skills, knowledge and experience that will determine whether you can get up that first rung of the ladder. Invest in yourself and develop skills that are important to the role you want to play and the organization in which you want to work.
Find jobs that might interest you and mark what skills or experience they are looking for. You can take a look at entry-level jobs to understand the basic requirements, but look at higher-level positions as well to understand what kind of experience and qualities you might need in the future.
For work in the field and in emergencies, there really is no alternative to getting to the site by any means possible. If you can gain at least basic experience in supporting an NGO in a developing country, your chances of finding a job in a similar field will increase significantly.
If you are unable to travel and want to gain experience in your home country or in a foreign country, you should find out if you can volunteer with an organization that supports projects in developing countries. You will still be able to learn a lot and develop knowledge that will set you apart from your competitors.
How to apply for a job at NGO?
Finally we got to the most important part of this article, and we will look at how to apply for a job at an NGO, what you have to do step-by-step.
Understand the competitive environment
The roles of NGOs are as competitive as in other industries, and generally there is considerable interest in job opportunities. It would be wrong to assume that if you have the specific skills outlined in the job description, then the job is done. You really need to put in a lot of effort to convincingly prove that you stand out from other apps.
Do your own research
If you are looking to work for an NGO but are still unsure which one is best for you, the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations offers a huge, comprehensive online database. Then, when you have selected an NGO, you will need to study its website and information about their activities in the news. You will need a good understanding of the organization’s mission and goals, as well as what they have achieved recently. Make sure you agree with the NGO’s code of ethics and beliefs.
Consider volunteer work
Consider volunteering at your local food bank, homeless shelter, and similar organizations, taking on leadership roles if possible, or simply setting aside a day or two a month to help. This kind of charity, while noble, also helps to solidify your resume.
Naturally, this will depend on the geographic location where you want to work, but generally speaking, NGOs value multilingualism simply because of the international nature of their work. A good reason to brush up on your existing language skills or even learn a new one.
Show your empathy for the cause and the NGO
What questions are close to you? Why are they close to your heart? What NGOs are working in these areas? In which countries do they work and what role do they offer? Whether you work in a support role or as a front man, you must be persuasive about:
- Why this particular NGO
- Why this role
- Why this place
Submit your credentials
When applying to an NGO, you will want to share your relevant experience. This may include previous collaboration with NGOs, volunteer organizations and charities. You don’t want it to look like you decided to join an NGO overnight. Instead, your application and your resume should give the impression of previous interest in related fields, even slow progress towards that job over time. Thus, you have an idea of what is expected of you and what problems you will face.
In terms of cover letters, as well as information on work experience and qualifications, you should include a short paragraph on what you can bring to the organization’s mission and why this kind of work is interesting and important for you. The information should be concise and relevant to your skills and goals.
Create a professional resume
When it comes to resume, you need to organize your resume so that volunteer and philanthropic experiences are more visible. If this is usually mentioned at the end, consider bringing it to the fore in the Learn section, or simply expanding this section by adding more information than you usually include. But keep in mind that an NGO will pay attention to your commercial skills outside the NGO just like any other employer, so don’t let this part of your resume overshadow your professional skills and experience. Take a look at our previous series on CV creation for more ideas.
Look out for networking opportunities that will help you establish contacts between NGOs. This could be at conferences and events where NGOs speak or have booths, volunteer with NGOs on weekends, or even connect through LinkedIn.
Get ready for a pay cut
Some NGO roles pay well and do not require significant income adjustments. But most roles in NGOs will not pay as much as their global commercial equivalents. This is the price you may have to pay to start an NGO career. And while this may mean you need to learn how to budget for a couple of years, it shows in your dedication and self-discipline.
What are the benefits of working at NGOs?
Working with an NGO is a different experience; Unlike a corporate company or a startup, in an NGO you work on something that you deeply believe in. Not only monetary benefits, what you earn from an NGO helps you grow as a person. While in college, perhaps on special occasions or every Sunday, you can choose to work for an NGO. You can engage in activities such as educating the disadvantaged, providing health care, or participating in information campaigns. Here are some of the benefits of working with an NGO:
Learning another language: Based on the organization you work in and the role you have there, learning additional language can be a significant plus when applying for a job with an international NGO. The ability to speak and understand other languages is especially appreciated and sometimes required in some development organizations.
Knowledge of foreign languages will allow you to communicate with different groups of clients, government officials, the media and staff, which will allow you to work much more efficiently. For example, if you want to work for the United Nations, you must be fluent in at least one of the official languages of the organization – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish.
Being able to speak a second language isn’t always critical depending on your role and organization. For example, if you plan to work as an accountant for a local NGO, this may not be particularly beneficial. But if you want to work for an NGO in the Middle East, you probably need at least a good command of Arabic. While development organizations that work with grassroots communities are often looking for people to work in the field who can speak indigenous dialects.
Cultural understanding: language skills alone will not be enough for an individual wishing to pursue a career working directly with beneficiaries in NGOs, especially in another country. For this type of career, or any other where you work with different groups of people, it is vital that professionals can demonstrate their ability to adapt, cope with difficult situations, and effectively resolve conflicts. NGO professionals in this area need to be empathetic and able to adapt to different cultural requirements and expectations that require changes in their behavior.
Almost every NGO expects respect for other cultures and lifestyles, but these skills are critical to certain development activities, including relief, rural development, women’s empowerment, and others. For some people, these qualities come quite naturally, for others they are skills that can be developed with the help of appropriate training, knowledge and experience.
Work experience: Organizing work experience not only provides you with valuable experience that can help you land a development job, but it can also provide valuable insight into what type of work you would like to do in an NGO. Some of the larger NGOs offer internship opportunities that often pay off and allow you to learn the basics from the inside out, work alongside experienced professionals, and join a reputable organization. You will be able to easily find internship opportunities posted on the official websites of the NGO. If you see no internship options, you can contact them to discuss how you could help them.
Volunteering: One of most popular options to get experience to work for an NGO is very simple – volunteer for one of them. Even just a few hours a week can have a big impact in the short term, helping you understand your skills and improve your resume. Volunteers put millions of hours a week on work around the world. A lot of NGOs could not be able to survive and obtain their rating without the support of volunteers. This allows NGOs to do certain jobs at a lower cost, usually for free and this leads to the fact that they can spend more money on their development work.
NGOs are always looking for volunteers who are willing to learn and committed to their work. Usually, NGO professionals’ first experience is working through volunteering. Most organizations will be able to offer you a choice of different roles and opportunities, which means that it is important that you choose the opportunity that will be a big advantage for you the most and is connected to your future career.
Growth Opportunities: While working at NGO, growth chances are unprecedented. In a corporate company with people from different backgrounds and fierce competition, you rarely have the opportunity to grow faster at your job. In a corporate company you can work on a maximum of one project, but in an NGO you will also be given the opportunity to work on three projects at the same time.
Multitasking: Job profiles in NGOs are very flexible. Multitasking is inevitable in the prevailing work environment in NGOs. Since the number of employees is smaller, you will have to work in different departments and coordinate activities between different departments. This gives you the opportunity to explore different departments. As a student, working for an NGO will also give you insight into the development of various business skills.
How to find a job?
If you strive to do your share of good in this world and travel is not a problem, working for an NGO might be a great idea for you. In addition to overseeing or helping to run a local NGO office, there are many other overseas NGO jobs that are best suited to your area of interest.
Working for an NGO can be a great opportunity for those who really want to change the world to a better place. But don’t get caught up in the cross-flow of information available on the Internet.
There is still a shortage of qualified employers available for the work that has to be done around the world. Needs vary from country to country and from NGO to country, but the range of jobs available is quite wide.
Ultimately, looking for a job in an NGO is like looking for a job in any other industry. Once you know the role you want to work in and the area in which your chosen organization operates, it’s time to start looking for a job. It is best to search on the Internet, whether on the NGO’s own websites or on a dedicated job site. There are a number of websites offering developer jobs around the world, some of the best are listed below:
Human rights career
Founded in 2015, Human Rights Careers strives to arm, inspire, and educate people to pursue careers in human rights. The platform has also launched a job board where you can search and post jobs related to human rights. HRC is visited by over 500,000 readers every month and is the number one place in the world for finding human rights jobs and career opportunities. HRC is also cheaper than most other platforms and, well, it’s a partner in our network. The job board also contains job alerts, where you can subscribe to receive alerts whenever a relevant job is posted.
Devex is committed to connecting and informing development, health, humanitarian and sustainable development professionals through its platform. The social enterprise and media platform brings the global developer community together through news, business intelligence, funding and international development career opportunities. The website offers free membership to professionals who want to connect to the global developer community by giving them access to published news and job openings. It also sends notifications about the most popular development business. The portal has several unique features such as tracking and analyzing tenders for those seeking grants and subcontracts. You can also work with an expert to write a professional resume for you.
Volunteer services overseas
Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) is one of the world’s leading independent international development organization. Volunteers try to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO usually tries to bring people together who can exchange with their skills and knowledge, and change lives to make the world a more just world for all. The organization’s goal is to built a world without poverty, where people will work together to fulfill their potential.
Idealist offers over 13,000 job listings to those looking to work in the nonprofit sector with an extensive, completely free job database. This website is known for “bringing together idealists – people who want to do good – with opportunities for action and collaboration.” The team works with over 120,000 organizations to attract over 1.4 million visitors monthly for top NGO positions. You can filter jobs by location, the type of job you are looking for, and even by the features you are interested in and your professional level. The organization type and the field of activity is also very important and are determining point that will help you to easily find a suitable job in an NGO.
To sum up all this, we ca say that NGO work may be right for you if you can answer affirmatively to questions about:
- having or willing and able to acquire international work experience
- gaining regional experience or other skills relevant to the work of the NGO you are looking for
- language skills development
- willingness to put up with hardships (perseverance to get a job, resources and possibly wage restrictions, possible emotional losses from certain jobs, possible reduced comfort levels at work and in the living environment, and possible safety issues) of NGO work.