10 February 2011

How to Get a Job in International Development

I just spoke on a panel to some Yale undergrads on this very subject, along with some real people, as if I was some kind of real person too! Mainly because about 12 of my more accomplished colleagues couldn’t make it, but I will totally grab almost any opportunity to blather about international development.
My main message was basically “study economics.” Not only is it a fun gratifying subject which will teach you lots about the world, and specifically about the question of why some people are rich and some people are so poor, but it also happens to be quite good for getting jobs.
Specifically, economics degrees can get you jobs with the British Government, the Government of Southern Sudan, and Innovations for Poverty Action, just like me, amongst many other glittering career options.
My other message was, “ok fine, if you don’t want to study economics, then a) learn some kind of useful skill, and b) just go.”
“Just go” sounds a bit scary but I know so many people for whom it has worked out, in all sorts of different jobs, and really what do you have to lose?
Thankfully the panel all pretty much agreed. With perhaps the exception of my passion for economics.
For more good advice, go and read through Dave Algoso’s collection of career advice from smart people like Chris Blattman and Alanna Shaikh.


KH said...

I'm not sure I remember Lee the undergrad using words like "fun" and "gratifying" to describe his courses..

Lee said...

heh, yeah possibly not at the time. But definitely in retrospect. I swear.

Anonymous said...

Also learn Portuguese -- we are always short of portuguese speakers. And I have strugggled a few times to find competent French speaking econometricians/statisticians with expertise in poverty analysis and happy to spend a while in Africa.


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Matt said...

Not so sure about the "just go" mantra, because many of these people just end up as volunteers, and god knows we need more volunteers....

Lee said...

They may have negligible impact but it's a priceless experience for the volunteer. And cross-cultural interaction is probably good for everyone


Boredinpostconflict said...

If your going to "just go". It always helps if you have a Roving Bandit's dining room floor to sleep on......
As for the volunteer argument. You can avoid being a volunteer by avoiding relatively safe (in its broadest meaning) country. Since your putting everything on the line already, why not go to a country that isn't so popular (because people think it has terrible living conditions). That way, organisations are more desperate for workers and you gain unbelievably high valued experience that you would never have got if you had gone somewhere more developed and popular.

I say definitely just go for it. Worst that could happen is that you waste donor money on paying for your incompetence......but that's going to happen anyway.

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