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If you have a question for our Career Coach, e-mail Helen at careers@ReConnectAfrica.com

ImageDear Helen

I graduated with a Masters in International Relations last year.  I’m really struggling to find a job and I keep being rejected because I don’t have experience.  But if no-one gives me a job, how am I supposed to get that experience?! I’m getting very discouraged and I would really like some advice.

Rahimah, London

Hi Rahimah

I understand that you must be feeling very frustrated by the negative feedback you have been getting but try not to take the rejections personally and instead re-visit your job search strategy. 

Bear in mind that the international development sector is extremely competitive, with many graduates from development related fields looking for entry level positions.  It’s also worth appreciating that a number of the large international charities and development organisations are going through organisational changes, with many shifting their focus and resources away from heavily staffed headquarters to field operations, while also developing new strategies and approaches to fundraising. 

As with other areas of work, job opportunities in this field will tend to arise in general Management categories, fundraising, PR, Marketing, Finance, Field/Project work and across specialist areas such as Legal, Human Resources and Training.

  • Do your research to find out the types of skills needed for the job roles that you want and learn as much as you can about the way in which you will need to use those skills.

  • Be clear about what you have to offer: make a personal skills audit and highlight the skills you have gained through academic, voluntary or temporary work.

  • Refresh your CV by ensuring that you have customised it to address the skills and competencies that the job role you are targeting will require.  If you have seen advertisements for jobs that you would be suitable for, note the tasks and qualifications/requirements sought and make sure that you reflect these in your CV as much as possible.

  • One way to break the ‘no job, no experience’ cycle is to invest in some voluntary work or internships as a way to get some hands-on experience and to extend your network.  Look out for internship programmes offered by international organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations.

  • Visit sites such as Eldis (www.eldis.org) and World Service Enquiry (www.wse.org.uk) for information about international development agencies and charities.

  • Use your University alumni network to explore possible links into the international development sector.

Finally, consider your Plan B.  You should give some thought to applying to other sectors to gain further experience in the skills that will make you more marketable for international development.  Experience gained in fundraising, marketing and promotions in the private sector will make you much more valuable to an international development organisation.

If you would like more detailed careers advice and coaching,  contact us to arrange a one-to-one session.

All the best


Voted Candace Business Woman of the Year 1997, Helen Dupigny is a Director and co-founder of Working Plus, (www.working-plus.com) a Careers Management and Diversity consultancy and creator of the award-winning ‘Six Steps Career and Personal Development Programme' . A Sierra Leonean based in London, Helen is also the author of ‘Vicissitude’, a guide to making life and career changes.

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