HarvardOCS

Harvard FAS Office of Career Services

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One of our bloggers reports from the recent Careers in Africa panel, sharing nine tips for work in Africa—and beyond! Panelists included Freeman Awindaogo, MPH ’14; Lydia Hsu, EdM ’14; Laura Melle, MPP ’15; Seni Sulyman, MBA ’14; and Kerry Williams, MPA ’14.

Here are nine things you must know if you want to go into a career in Africa: 

1. School is just a toolkit

A diversity of degrees is good for any post-graduate career. But don’t forget the other skills that can be even more important — can you learn quickly? Can you work well with other people? Can you think on your feet?

2. Have a vision

It’s critical to have a general vision of what you want to accomplish in your career. With a vision you can basically sway in the wind. You can take different skills from different jobs and apply them to get to where you want to be.

3. Embrace the awkward

In Africa, it’s going to be awkward to begin to assimilate to an entirely new culture. Don’t shy away from that. Use the language barrier to your advantage. Ask questions that push the boundaries, think of everything as a cultural exchange. Go in with an open mind.

4. Be flexible

For those considering fellowships, there is a lot of flexibility and opportunity to structure your time the way you want it. You’ll have the opportunity to meet so many people outside of your bubble. Enjoy this flexibility, even if you don’t necessarily have a plan.

5. Explore beyond the city

Sometimes, living in a smaller community outside of the city can be a better expatriate experience because you can work more directly with members of the community. Living outside the city is often a better way to integrate into the culture.

6. Be aware of your impact

If you’re going out in the world to “do good,” be aware that your good intentions might have unintended consequences. Spend time listening and looking at what’s going on around you.

7. Watch out for corruption

Be extremely careful about the company or organization you’re working for, and who runs it. Make sure you do your research before you start because corruption can be a huge issue.

8. Don’t stick to your plan

You’ll find out that it’s not about having a plan, but it’s about life’s plan for you. If you try to follow a path, you’ll just fall off of it. Branch out. Expect the unexpected.

9. Write home

Even if your work is based in Africa, you have a responsibility to educate people in the United States about what’s happening in these countries. Help spread awareness of what you’re working on.

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OCS adviser Loredana George welcomes guest panelists.

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Regional cuisine enjoyed during the event.

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Julia Eger, ’14

Careers in Africa was cosponsored by: The Office of Career Services, The Committee on African Studies, Harvard Africa Business Investment Club (HABIC), and Harvard African Student Association (HASA).



Katrina Deutsch, Peace Corps recruiter for the Metro Boston area with professional experience in international education and international volunteer management and support, sat down to answer five key questions about working in international development. This post originally appeared in the Harvard Student / Alumni Advice Forum on LinkedIn

Q: What advice do you have for Harvard seniors looking to break into your field? 

If you want to get a job in international development overseas, consider finding fellowships or other programs to start. Programs such as the Peace Corps, WorldTeach, Fulbright, or university sponsored fellowships offer an opportunity to gain grassroots international experience without having years of professional experience. Another way to get started is being willing to move overseas for an internship or unpaid volunteer-work position with an organization in order to gain experience for your resume to get a good paying job overseas. In addition, organizations such as USAID and the UN have junior officer positions for those with less work experience, and applications are usually open annually.

Q: How has your concentration come into play (…or not come into play) in your work? 

My concentration from my undergraduate career no longer plays a role in my work. I majored in English and communication studies in college, hoping to go into a career in publishing, and am now a recruiter for the Peace Corps. My experiences overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer (something I did right after college) led me to pursue a master’s degree in international education policy, which is what my career has focused on. It is important to have a college degree, but it is definitely not a defining factor in a career once you have a couple of years work experience. I always use my brother as an example: he has a degree in sports management, but has worked in advertising and now data analytics, and is pursuing his MBA. 

Q: How do students find out about jobs/internships in your field? 

The Office of Career Services is a great place to start. There are also many listservs that send weekly job openings, including BNID (the Boston Network for International Development), Devex, DevNetJobs, the Foreign Policy Association, and even LinkedIn! The more specialized and up to date your LinkedIn profile is, the more relevant the job openings they email you will be. 

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OCS recently held a workshop on careers in international development focused on education. Panelists talked about their initial contact with international education and elaborated on the missions of their organizations.

The road to international education

The path taken to a career in international education varied from panelist to panelist. For Katrina Deutsch, current recruiter for the Peace Corps in Boston, an interest in education started immediately after graduating from college. In the summer following her senior year, she decided to join the Peace Corps and was assigned to teach English in Nicaragua. From there, she went on to become a curriculum developer for WorldTeach and later returned to the Peace Corps.

As for Josh Nathan of Bridge International Academies, his work with Teach For America took him to Cameroon after college where he taught English to elementary school children. Through Bridge, he is currently working on building 250 private schools in Kenya. With organizations such as Cultural Agents Initiative, World Teach, Peace Corps—all geared toward education—one has to wonder, what is the mission of each organization?

Mission-driven organizations

Gustavo Payan, project director at the Education Development Center, explained how his organization is focused on improving the quality of education. “The main domain is education. It’s great being able to work with local governments and schools. We specialize in teacher training, curriculum development  and work with municipalities and other forms of government,” he said. Similarly, Josh’s organization is developing the level of education that lower income children in Kenya receive by focusing on maximizing scores on standardized tests, as this is the benchmark that students in Kenya need to achieve in order progress onto higher education. With funds from the federal government, the Peace Corps’ mission is centered on “not going to milk 100 cows and leave, but rather, teaching other people how to milk the cow as well,” said Katrina.

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Eliza Pan ‘15
UK Houses of Parliament
London, England 2013

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On my first day of work as an intern for Member of Parliament Rachel Reeves, my manager treated me to the grand tour of my workplace for the summer: the UK Houses of Parliament.

I soon discovered that for all its imposing grandeur, there are many quirks to the Parliament buildings, or the Palace of Westminster, as it is formally known. At its core is the Central Lobby, with four archways, each of which is crowned by a mosaic depicting the patron saint of one of the four constituent countries of the UK: St. George for England above the entrance to the luxurious House of Lords, St. David for Wales above the entrance to the modest House of Commons, St. Andrew for Scotland above the entrance to the restaurants and bars, and St. Patrick for Northern Ireland above the main exit.

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Jiayun Fang ‘16
Jana Care Solutions
Bangalore, India 2013

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Incredible India. It’s the slogan of the Indian Tourism Office that’s slapped on vivid posters of iconic Indian monuments. It’s the popular hashtag on Twitter for all the random, bizarre, and unique things that happen in India. It’s the India I came to know this summer at my three-month internship in Bangalore at Jana Care Solutions. Jana Care is a small start-up born out of the MIT Media Lab that focuses on creating a web and mobile application for diabetics to manage their glucose levels, food intake, and exercise. I worked with members of the team from India and the US to enhance the web component as well as prototype a mobile application for community health workers to use when screening for anemia and diabetes.

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Some assume that finding international internships can be difficult; not only is it hard to look for them, but often, having limited funding for an international experience can deter students from looking for opportunities beyond the US border. This past week, the OCS held a workshop on how to find and fund internships in Africa.

What internships are available? How do you obtain funding to pursue such internships? These questions were answered by panelists who all spent summer on the African continent. Their activities ranged from interning at one of Kenya’s biggest banks, to being a teacher assistant in a grade 3 classroom in an underprivileged community in Cape Town, South Africa.

How did the students find out about these opportunities?

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Careers in International Development

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Morgan Brown ‘06 and Erinn Wattie ‘06

Have you always wanted to work in a career facing the challenge of alleviating poverty across the world? At OCS this past Thursday, Erinn Wattie ‘06 and Morgan Brown ‘06 discussed their different experiences working in international development. Having collectively worked at organizations like Oxfam America, the United Nations, the World Bank and more, these alumni answered general questions about the field, where to start, and how to distinguish yourself from others trying to break into the field.

What’s out there?

There is no “track” to follow in international development. The sector ranges from social enterprise, private sector companies and humanitarian assistance, to disaster relief and more. Sector specialists work in specific areas like infrastructure, irrigation, water/sanitation, public health, and food distribution. Management and administration positions focus on broader tasks like project direction, coordination with donor agency/local government, project reporting, financial management. Alternatively, research positions exist in international development and are typically at think-tanks, non-profits, or universities. 

Because of the breadth of the field, there are opportunities here for all areas of skills and interest. “For example, if you like language, humanitarian linguistics is a great way to get things done on the ground,” Morgan said. “There are lots of doctors in the field. If you’re a media entertainment person, working for a news station as someone who tells the development success stories could be great.”

Making the leap

It’s not easy to decide to leave home or the country to pursue a career in the field. But after receiving a Rockefeller grant and traveling for a year post-graduation, Morgan’s decision to deviate from a “typical” Harvard graduate’s path was instinctive.

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Spotlight on electronic resources.
Going Global
Pros: 400,000+ company profiles and 16 million+ openings, informative country guides with tips on local etiquette, and H1B visa database (useful for international students).
Heads Up: Type “intern” in keyword search to find internships.
Where: www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/students/jobs_goingglobal.htm Login required.

Spotlight on electronic resources.

Going Global

Pros: 400,000+ company profiles and 16 million+ openings, informative country guides with tips on local etiquette, and H1B visa database (useful for international students).

Heads Up: Type “intern” in keyword search to find internships.

Where: www.ocs.fas.harvard.edu/students/jobs_goingglobal.htm Login required.

Explore Careers in Africa

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“If you really want to reach your full potential and do more than you think you can, then you have to hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself,” said Okendo Lewis-Gayle at OCS’s popular “Exploring Careers in Africa” event this past Wednesday. With panelists from all backgrounds, the discussion offered advice on particular aspects of working both in social enterprise and in Africa.

Go with the flow

Richard Rowe, who has always been concerned with establishing a pathway to make the world more viable for marginalized children, currently serves as the CEO of the Open Learning Exchange, which is an organization committed to universal access to education. Having spent a lot of time in the social enterprise sphere, he admitted that his trajectory has come with a lot of surprises. “My career path has been a journey of confronting barriers and seeing doors open that I didn’t expect. It’s a constant journey of learning and sometimes regretting—or sometimes being ecstatic—over choices I’ve made along the way.”

Be irrational

What makes you excited to wake up every morning to work on your social enterprise? For Richard, it’s about being “irrational.” “You can’t do anything we are doing by being a totally rational person. We’re talking about systemic change, not putting a band-aid on the problem,” Richard Rowe said. “It’s something that is long and hard and painful, not only for you but for the people whose lives you’re trying to change. You have to be empathetic about the fact that even the thing that is going to improve their life is going to be a hard transition for them. It is something that gives me joy because I know that I’m doing the best that I can.”

Be brave

When you’re getting started in social enterprise, don’t underestimate yourself. “Every contribution matters – you’re not too young or too inexperienced. Whatever you can bring to the table will bring a lot. Curiosity means a lot. Just do something,” said Aminata Kane, who works to give local affordable and fashionable clothing for Senegalese professional.

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Last night, we celebrated international travel, study, work, service, and research at the 9th Annual International Photo Contest.

This year, over 450 photos were submitted. The photos were judged across four categories by Michelle Lamuniere, the Fogg Museum’s Assistant Curator of Photography. In addition, fourteen international centers and offices, including OCS, awarded special prizes. View the complete gallery of winners here.
Featured above: Emily Bigelow’s By the Roadside, Rukungiri, Uganda, awarded the Special Prize, Office of Career Services; Special Prize, Committee on African Studies; and Honorable Mention, Let’s Go.

Last night, we celebrated international travel, study, work, service, and research at the 9th Annual International Photo Contest.

This year, over 450 photos were submitted. The photos were judged across four categories by Michelle Lamuniere, the Fogg Museum’s Assistant Curator of Photography. In addition, fourteen international centers and offices, including OCS, awarded special prizes. View the complete gallery of winners here.

Featured above: Emily Bigelow’s By the Roadside, Rukungiri, Uganda, awarded the Special Prize, Office of Career Services; Special Prize, Committee on African Studies; and Honorable Mention, Let’s Go.

How to Find Teaching Jobs Abroad: Summer and Full-Time

Are you interested in teaching as well as a genuine international experience? Working in education overseas could be the career choice for you.

For Jason Dillon, a current student at the Harvard Kennedy School, teaching abroad allowed him financial and professional opportunities that would have been much more difficult to achieve in the United States. After working as a special education teacher in California, his journey started when he found a book in the library called How to Travel for Free. His experience in independent international schools spans from Venezuela to Beijing, and granted him opportunities to be a leader in the expatriate community in which he worked – even serving as the international school principal in Venezuela after only a short time working at the school.

“The best decision I ever made was to go overseas,” Jason said. “International schools are really good at providing you with a safe environment, and they work hard to orient you in a foreign country. As a teacher you get to explore but you don’t feel like a tourist, and there’s a core group of expatriates there with you doing the same thing.” While a lot of schools are great for professional development, they also carry financial perks. “As far as salary benefits, this is the best deal you’re going to get as a teacher,” he said. “You don’t pay United States’ taxes, and your housing is provided in most cases.”

Before trying to find a job at an international school, Jason mentioned the importance of having a teacher certification, and two years of teaching experience in the United States. “Schools don’t prioritize applicants who haven’t taught before, because having teachers in their first year of teaching as well as their first year in a foreign country is tough.”

Jamie Bruce, the current director of education for WorldTeach, told a different story of how she ended up abroad. She decided to go into education overseas because she wanted to “get dirty with the world’s problems.” After finding an ESL (English as a Second Language) program in Egypt as an alternative to the PeaceCorps, she discovered that her “bossy nature” was instinctive in the classroom. In her position at a language school in Cairo, she was paid a comfortable salary that enabled her to travel as much as she wanted. Although she had not completed the recommended two years of teaching experience in the United States, she was able to work overseas because the jobs happened to be completely in flux. “A last minute job opened and I sort of slipped through the cracks,” she said. Later, she received a job in Djibouti through an NGO.

While even a two-year contract abroad can seem like a long time, Jamie stressed the importance of its duration. “You don’t realize how much culture affects you until you’re separated from it,” she said. “Signing a two-year contract sounds huge, but it takes a while to carve out a life. It takes a little while to acclimate yourself.”


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Julia Eger, ’14

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Ever thought of going to Africa but never knew exactly where to get started? This past Thursday, undergraduates at the College sat on a panel at OCS to discuss their experiences finding and funding opportunities in Africa. The panel included students Chuma Nwachukwu ‘14, Alissa Changala ‘13, Tre Hunt ‘15, Harald Oswin ‘15, and Theresa Gebert ‘15.

While each of these students had different experiences in various African countries – ranging from working at a solar technology company to teaching with WorldTeach – each student recognized the issue of funding for a summer adventure abroad.

Chuma was a recipient of the Weissman International Internship, a grant program that selects 45 students each year to fund in their endeavors abroad. “The Weissman program created a nice sense of community for me,” Chuma said. “Their family hosts a reception with everyone once we were all accepted, and we all kept in contact over the summer and updated each other on what we were doing.”

Besides grant programs like the Weissman internship, there are several other resources to look for international funding as well. “When you’re looking for grants and funding, go in with low expectations and definitely start early,” said Harald, a native of Swaziland. There are two routes one can take when looking for international funding: applying to an internship and a grant at the same time, or to make your own summer itinerary and then apply to a program like the Weissman program once you have it all planned out. OCS suggests structured programs are better for those who are going abroad alone for the first time.

The Committee on African Studies is an important resource for students heading to Africa, as they create a Harvard network by compiling a list of Harvard students in Africa for the summer. “They were also really helpful in giving me things like safety tips and a list of required immunizations, too,” Chuma said.

Don’t wait to get started! Visit the Funding Sources Database or OCS Summer Funding pages to begin. If you’re not sure what you want to do, come to OCS drop-in hours, every day from 1-4pm.


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Julia Eger, ’14

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As students at Harvard in the midst of a busy spring semester, sometimes it’s too easy to feel that our campus is all there is: suddenly, trying Widener instead of Lamont is an adventure, and trekking to Annenberg breakfast is a cross-cultural journey. “Thinking Outside the Yard: International Professionals in Today’s World” challenged this Harvard-centric sentiment, as panelists spoke about experiences not only outside Harvard, but outside the United States.

As the program made clear, there is an immense world outside Cambridge that is waiting for us Harvard students to explore and understand. The real question: how do we prepare? Francisco Marmolejo Sr., a director and assistant vice president at University of Arizona, argued that learning foreign languages is the answer. “Only 45% of pages on the internet are in English, and by 2050, Madarin and Hindi are going to be the most spoken languages,” he projected. “Since speech is so important for becoming a successful professional, learning two or three languages is almost imperative.” Other panelists echoed the impact of foreign language study: Snezhana Zlatinova ‘07, an HBS student, unexpectedly used the German, French, and Mandarin she studied at Harvard in her first jobs as a business analyst overseas. “I was always using languages in unexpected places, and it had such a huge effect on my plans and career,” she explained.

However, not all of us can glean so much from a few Harvard language classes, which is why Professor Benedict Gross, a mathematics scholar and former Dean of Harvard College, suggested the only true and fast way to learn a foreign language is to travel to the country itself. “If you really want to learn a specific language, travel alone to where it’s spoken. People who travel in groups don’t actually get the full experience.” Francisco also encouraged the audience to persevere with learning difficult foreign languages. “Don’t worry too much about the mistakes you make,” he said.

Not only did panelists motivate the students in the audience to pursue experiences abroad, but some suggested that working internationally was actually a responsibility of the educated. Professor Max Essex, Chair of the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative and the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute in Botswana, spoke from the standpoint of the research on infectious diseases. “These diseases do not have borders. They are spread across nations,” he explained. “It is irresponsible for the developed world not to have an interest or presence in developing countries to help solve the problem of these diseases.”

In any experience abroad, the panelists encouraged students to “stay loose” since it is really impossible to predict what will or will not work out in a foreign adventure. Stay relaxed, challenge yourself, and stay alert. And as Francisco put it, “There’s nothing you can learn more out of international experience than humility.”

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Julia Eger, ’14

Explore Careers in Africa

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Like Eritrean food and friendly faces? Hopefully you made it to the Explore Careers in Africa panel last week, because those were key ingredients. As students packed into the room, panelists discussed their varied experiences in Africa and doled out some pearls of wisdom for how to go about finding the right career in this country.

How does one get involved in this career field? Chris Golden ’05, an ecologist and epidemiologist who has been working in Madagascar for 12 years, stressed the importance of reaching out to people. “It really doesn’t hurt to send an email,” he explained. “You spend 15 minutes writing a few emails, and if you get an email back, you’ve won. Put yourself out there as much as possible.” Panelist Hugo Van Vuuren ’07, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design who was born and raised in Africa, suggested his audience try to connect with Harvard alumni living in Africa who could provide housing or, in his case, a “free scooter.”

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Working in any foreign country comes with the potential for cultural shock, and this remains the case in several African nations as well. All panelists agreed that taking the effort to learn the local language is one of the most important things one can do to combat culture shock and get the most of his or her experience abroad. “Learning the local dialect shows your allegiance to that culture,” Hugo rationalized. Similarly, Dr. Vanessa Kerry, a director at the Harvard Medical School, expounded on the impact of deference towards a culture’s customs. “It’s incredibly important, regardless of the context you’re working in, to listen and observe and understand the culture before beginning your work,” she emphasized. “Take cues from the people you are with. Get assimilated.”

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Finding a “career in Africa” covers quite a broad – and daunting – spectrum of opportunity, but Vanessa put any uncertain members of her audience at ease. “It’s great if you have a sense of what you want to do, but also great if you just have a cloudy concept of what you want to do in mind,” she assuaged. “The job process is a journey, especially in this field, and it’s probably going to take a while to find what you really want to do. Personally, I am still on this journey.” Chris spoke to this concept of uncertainty as well. Rather than worry about the “right” career choices, Chris encouraged his audience to take chances. “Do something totally random for a summer,” he urged. “Summers are your opportunity to explore.”

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Julia Eger, ’14


This program was cosponsored by: The Office of Career Services, The Committee on African Studies (CAS), Harvard Africa Business Investment Club (HABIC), Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA), and Harvard Africa Student Association (HASA).



Africa Resources

with Contributions from the Harvard African Student Association (HASA)

This is just a sampling of the many resources related to opportunities in Africa. Note that some organizations may charge a program fee, and it is your responsibility to check the range of services that they provide. For additional resources and information, visit the OCS website.


OFFICE OF CAREER SERVICES (OCS) WEB RESOURCES

 

GENERAL WEB/PRINT RESOURCES

HARVARD RESOURCES

 

INTERNSHIP/VOLUNTEER & JOB RESOURCES


COUNTRY CAREER GUIDES

Country career guides provide information about job resources, cost of living, employment trends, interviewing advice, work permits, local industries, and current events. Websites that offer information about Africa and/or business include:


EXPATRIATE RESOURCES

Expatriates are a great resource – learn directly from those who are there are or have been there. These expatriate websites offer tips and current information for a number of countries in Africa:

 

The Inside Scoop on Who Gets Hired in International Development

“The world is flat,” wrote New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman in 2005. Now, more than ever, his tales of rapid globalization ring true for students – and prospective employees – around the world. Indeed, students interested in international development are more empowered than their historical counterparts to access all corners of the globe and to aid communities in rebuilding and renewing their strength.

To help Harvard students take advantage of the opportunities available to them, the Office of Career Services invited Laura Retzler, director of recruitment for FHI 360, to give “the inside scoop” on who, in fact, does get hired in the field of international development. With a budget of $735 million, offices in 60 developing countries, and a workforce of 6,600, Retzler knows quite well what recruiters and search committees look for in potential applicants. Certainly, applicants must be familiar with a wide range of fields and challenges. FHI 360 alone addresses all aspects of development, from education and civil society to the environment and food/water security.

Moreover, Retzler outlined five steps to a success application:

1.      Articulate your accomplishments. “People remember your stories, not your platitudes,” quipped Retzler. “Tell stories that illustrate your best qualities.” To do this, of course, you need to know those qualities and the strengths and skills that define them.

2.      Identify what you want. “Demonstrate a match between you want and what THEY want,” Retlzer emphasized. In making a match, you may want to consider the mission of the organization, the people who work there, and the organizational culture. Not sure how to begin? Try analyzing your past jobs, enumerating what you liked and didn’t like. Or, draw up your “dream” (or “nightmare”) job ad!

3.      Build your network. Retzler admits that this step “might be counterintuitive,” but it is arguably the most important. Begin by identifying your top 20 organizations, and learn about them: history, size, scope, and niche. Informational interviews can be very important in this process by bringing organizations to life and helping you discover job opportunities, among other things.

4.      Tailor your resume.

5.      Volunteer strategically. “It has to be related to the job search,” Retzler explained. Look for volunteer opportunities with your top 20 organizations, or with an organization that deals specifically with your interests.

The following organizations will also be helpful for students in the field:

·         American Public Health Association (www.apha.org)

·         American Society for Tropical Medicine & Health (www.astmh.org)

·         International AIDS Society (www.iasociety.org)

·         Development Executive Group (www.devex.com)

·         Global Health Council (www.globalhealth.org)

·         Society for International Development (www.sidw.org)

And be sure to create a LinkedIn profile! Visit OCS for assistance.

Happy hunting!

—Nicandro Iannacci, ’13