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News & Features - January 2013

So You Think You Want to be a Relief Worker?

Friday 4th January 2013

RedRThinking about a career in the humanitarian sector but don’t know where to start?

The first thing to know is that humanitarian work is not the same as development work. Humanitarian relief work is the immediate response within hours or days of a disaster taking place that aims to save lives and restore human dignity. Development work follows on from humanitarian responses, is longer term and tries to tackle the underlying causes of poverty.

So once, you know it’s humanitarianism you’re interested in, the next thing you’ll need to think about are your own motivations for wanting to do this kind of work, and the type of challenges associated. You may want to do meaningful work, help others, or travel to different countries and cultures. That’s great, but the work and environment can be demanding, dangerous and very different to, and far from, home.

Next, it’s key to know the kind of roles that are available in the sector. You may already have a technical or professional skill that can be transferred to the sector, such as medical, engineering or financial expertise. You may have soft skills that are useful in the sector, such as project or people management. Or you may just be starting out, and need to know the options and what you’re aiming for as you gather skills and experience.

Which leads us nicely on to gaining skills and experience. This is what many people consider the tricky bit – how to get experience, when you don’t have any experience! Our advice is to remember that job descriptions detail the organisation’s dream employee. Gather relevant experience where you can and don’t be afraid to include it on your CV. For example, if you’ve spent a summer volunteering in a school in Tanzania, include it on your CV. Look for volunteer positions in NGO head offices. All these experiences will add up to show your commitment to working in this sector.

Finally, how do you get a job? By visiting sites like NGO jobs, by keeping in touch with contacts you made in your volunteer positions, and through perseverance. Good luck!

To find out more about what the agencies want, the roles that exist in the sector, and how to tailor your CV book a place on our one-day So You Think You Want to be a Relief Worker course. The course is held in London on a Saturday and is running seven times this year.

For more information and to book your place, visit our website.

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