For many, spending their lives working to bring positive change to impoverished countries and underprivileged communities is the most rewarding job in the world. Being an aid worker is an incredible, though challenging, position that allows people to physically promote change in the world. While lots of people hold romanticized ideas about travelling the world as an aid worker, it is important to keep in mind that the job isn’t always going to fulfill idealized expectations. It’s hard work, but the reward is far greater. In order to become a relief or aid worker there are some steps to follow and some things to keep in mind.
First, evaluate your motives for wanting to be an aid worker. Think about what humanitarian skills you have that prompt you to want to enter this field. This, undoubtedly, will be a question that resurfaces as you talk to aid agencies so it’s important to have a good grasp on what your skills and motives are. Again, romanticized ideals about leaving a comfortable living to go live in a war zone, or region marred by poverty won’t go far in a serious interview. There need to be deeper motives that can be expressed in a way that the interviewer can understand and believe to be genuine.
Participate in aid work training and heavily research the humanitarian field. Experience in any and every aspect of aid work is very important when preparing to make it a career. Some aid agencies offer workshops or various training services that can help you prepare for the field. Always keep up to date with the latest news in the humanitarian field, paying close attention to the standards required by certain agencies when employing aid or relief workers. This will give you a better edge to market your abilities to particular agencies. Technical positions such as engineers, medics, linguistics, and environmentalists are almost always in high demand. It’s important to know what agencies are looking for in order to tailor your training and capabilities accordingly.
The cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” still holds significant value especially in the case of becoming an aid worker. It is crucial to network as much as possible so that when opportunities do present themselves, you have a contact to better your chances. Meet people who are already working in the relief field, ask them questions, learn from their experience. Aid agencies have a tendency to hire people that they trust, and this comes from having prior knowledge or relationship with the person.
International travel is a great way to gain the necessary experience to become an aid worker. Agencies are going to be looking at where you have travelled, what you did there, and how long you stayed. Stay involved in volunteer opportunities; it will show agencies how committed you are to the humanitarian field, automatically making you a more reliable candidate.
Once you feel like you have a good grasp on each of these steps, you’re ready to get in touch with an agency and apply for a position. Some of the best resources to find agencies to work for are listed below. Good luck!
· Aid Workers Network
· Reuters AlterNet
· DevNet Jobs
· Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
– Chante Owens