Every opportunity I have had—whether it was to study in my undergrad or to take a year off and travel or then to go and do an internship or whatever—I have managed, at first through luck and then through conscious decision, to incorporate language into that. And I think that's really gotten me far. I grew up speaking just one language to the age of near 20, and now I speak four language at near enough to fluency, if not full fluency, that I am able to work efficiently in them. Importantly, for the career that I have since I got into, I did a lot of extracurricular things. I wrote papers on a given human rights topic, or something that I was learning about in my studies. I knew people who were organizing a conference on different human rights issues at a more theoretical, abstract level, but I talked to them, interested them in what I was interested in, and I managed to get to spot on a panel speaking about it. I worked as a research assistant and teaching assistant to a professor, and in that way I was also able to delve more into issues of constitutional law, Indigenous law, things that ultimately gave me valuable experience to put on a CV. I that this, more than my studies themselves, more than my work at the Department of Justice, really highlighted an interest of mine that was ultimately flagged by my first real job. People would actually just come to our office and say, "Yesterday, there was fighting near my farm, and it caught fire and half of it burned down, and we had to flee, and now we're here and we have nowhere to sleep and can you please help us?" We would talk, and explain what we can do, what we can’t do. As much as the language opens doors, anyone who finds themselves working in a language that is their second language—a language that they did not grow up with, but learned as an adult— at some points you will find yourself, or feel yourself, to be handicapped by this. At times, you are "the rich guy" to a population that makes a dollar a day, no matter how much you want to just go and grab a beer with them. It's just hard to get over that—more so, I think, than the culture language itself in terms of making friends. These are not things that one can deal with alone, I think, or at least not easily. And so, having friends at home, even if they have no real idea of the kind of the day-to-day reality you're living, but who you can still reach out to... that's a big thing. It’s a fine line. I did I have, and continue to see, colleagues who I think have crossed the line and to kind of de-sensitivity towards this kind of thing— people who have seen it too often, and their way of dealing with it has become to just stop caring. I think for those who have stopped caring, there's no more reason to work in this field of work, and they shouldn't, and I don't think it's healthy. I'd say, those are the two best: internship programs, and programs in UNV. Otherwise, like I said, motivation and general knowledge of the field definitely do help. So, if you're able to get involved locally with NGOs, with a nonprofit or Red Cross, for example. Red Cross, recruit volunteers all the time. Do I think of graduate studies as being necessary? Yes, at least for the work that I do, involvement in the ICRC period, or work in the United Nations in any substantive and rewarding way. And, for that matter, I think it is necessary even with more the more respected and known NGOs, such as Doctors Without Borders, or Norwegian Refugee Council—having a master's degree is a minimum. Unless you have perhaps a decade or two of very relevant experience, the door will be closed to the majority of really interesting positions in the humanitarian sphere, at least internationally. Networking while it is omnipresent in every sector, it is less important, I think, than in most private sectors. What people will get through contacts is they'll get put on the right track with the right advice. That is where networking will really help you, at least in my experience in this sphere of work.

When job-hunting in international development, NGOs and governments are obvious places to look—but don't overlook the private sector and social enterprises.

While humanitarian aid and international development are often talked about together, there are some important differences that are vital to understand if you are considering entering these fields.

Careers for Globetrotters: Meet Victor Mings, Software developer in the Netherlands

Careers for Globetrotters: Meet Doug Lau, Public Health Consultant for UN-Habitat in East Africa

Relevant degrees, hard skills, soft skills and global competencies, and international experience are all important elements to succeeding in international business

Careers for Globetrotters: Meet Sahar Ghadhban - Foreign Service Officer in Canada & Russia

Sahar is the third in our upcoming series of profiles in our new Careers for Globetrotters column.  We'll be taking a look into the lives and backgrounds of people who are living their dream of working abroad - and find out the steps they took to get there.Sahar tells about the seven-year path she took from her first internship in Algeria to getting hired as a foreign service officer. Find out why quitting her job at Global Affairs was the best thing she could have done to get her dream job, what she did after she didn’t pass her first post-secondary public service exam, and what it takes to get paid to learn Russian.Watch her series of videos below.

Doing this will beat sending an email over LinkedIn every single time.

Sahar breaks down the four streams you can work in as a foreign service officer.
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