Three don’ts for finding your first job in international development

flowers in a garden

1 – Don’t sign a lease if you don’t have a job. Also don’t take out a car loan or run up your credit cards. You’re going to be living on savings and broke until you have a paycheck coming in. Committing yourself to monthly payments – on anything – is just going to make you feel panicky while you look for work. Can you live with your parents or with friends? Can you take the bus everywhere? Do that.

2 – Don’t wait for your dream job. And for the love of the flying spaghetti monster, don’t be “selective about where you apply.” You are trying to find an entry-level job. By definition, it’s not going to be magic. Don’t take a job you hate, but don’t hold out for perfect. If someone offers you a good enough job at a good enough salary, jump on that as fast as you can. You only have to stay for two years.

3 – Don’t expect to go overseas. Not in your first job, and definitely not in your first job if you want to get paid a salary. There are a tiny handful of exceptions, mainly fellowships, but for most people their first international development job will be doing paperwork in the HQ office of a donor or international NGO.