Published on October 20, 2014
If you are ambitious and looking to change the world, you've probably thought about working for an NGO. It is the perfect fit for someone motivated but hoping to put their hard work towards a cause and change for the better. Whether you're interested in change on a local or global level, one thing is certain - experience is everything and there is a lot you can learn internationally that you might not learn domestically.
What is an NGO?
A non-governmental organization is an extremely broad category. This term describes organizations that are non-profit, have specific aims and can be organized on a local, national or international level. The UN defines an NGO as any kind of private organization that works independent from government control, which is not-for-profit, non-criminal and not simply an opposition political party. This term covers a wide range of organizations whose focuses vary from malaria prevention to climate change. Here’s some information on how to gain experience and prepare yourself for a career in this sector.
A Competitive Sector
The NGO sector is quickly becoming one of the most competitive sectors for graduates. In terms of recruitment, there is one thing that all NGOs are searching for: experience. NGOs accept applicants from a broad range of degree backgrounds, but experience is much more of a factor when it comes to looking for a job in this competitive sector. It is important to gain as much experience as possible in as many different fields as possible. One way in which you can do this before and after graduating university is by looking for internships with NGOs that interest you. This will give you a greater insight into the sector, will make you a stronger candidate when it comes to applying for long term employment, and will help you develop the necessary skills for your future.
Gaining some international experience will set you apart from other candidates. NGOs function differently depending on the country in which they are based or whether their work is on a local, national or international level. This aspect is particularly important if the NGO aims to bring about policy change. Different political systems in different countries lend themselves to different approaches; this is why picking up as much as experience as possible in as many different countries as possible will turn you into a well-rounded candidate.. During your internship you may be involved in tasks involving publicity, data collecting, fundraising, education, and also grant writing. Even if you decide to work in other sectors in the future, this experience will develop your teamwork skills and demonstrate that you can work well under pressure with a lot of responsibility.
There are also differences between what you will be doing in your internship depending on the city. There are many NGOs working in the UK and London, and larger international NGOs with international programs will most likely base their headquarters in London. Working in the head office can give you a greater understanding of the running of the NGO as a whole as well as an insight into how they focus on a particular city.
The most important thing to do is to find a cause you are passionate about. Genuine passion shines through at an interview and no interviewer will fail to notice this. If you have a strong interest in something, preparation for the interview will come naturally to you, as you will want to stay informed and be up to date with the current situation. There are so many causes out there, so do your research and figure out what speaks to you most.
If this sounds like the sector and destination for you, check out our London Program.
Be sure to also check out our article on NGOs in Melbourne!