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NGOs, Resumes and English

NGOs, Resumes and English

There are no shortage of blog posts and advice about working for a non-profit overseas. Nonprofit or NGOs as the rest of the world refers to them, are always seeking specialists and interns. Some of the best paid and most secure contracts are issued by the UN, ICRC, USAID, and World Bank. When viewing opportunities in conflict-zones or developing nations, you will often see a hardship bonus, completely or partially paid housing, a car, and an allowance for school fees. The current UN base salary scale (excluding previously mentioned benefits) for professional and higher categories as well as field service categories ranges from $43–192,00 per year this number is the same worldwide, however, cost of living allowance vary greatly. Considering some countries do not assess taxes and as an expat, you are tax-exempt up to a certain income, your housing and transport do not come out of your salary, and you may even have a per diem, these postings can be a great opportunity to save money while exploring a new location.

On Idealist, a clearinghouse for volunteer, consultancies and full-time jobs working with international NGOs you will often see 0-3 years experience. If you are a recent graduate or have the means and are looking to change careers or embark on a new adventure do not discount these positions. In many field offices and grassroots NGOs, the expat staff wears many hats. These opportunities give you the chance to work the myriad of projects all while increasing your developing world working skills.

Would you ever think to put you age on your resume? Well, in many parts of the world your CV features not just you age but also your gender, marital status, number of dependents, religion, and nationality. Viewed through an American lens where there is the Equality Opportunity Employment Act, these disclosures seem untenable. Private sector employers overseas may only be able to secure visas for people from certain countries. Others feel an employee who uproots their family is more likely to stay for more than two years. In strict Muslim countries such as Saudi where gender segregation is the norm you will often see calls for female or male only applicants. Throughout the Muslim world you may be asked to disclose your religion. Even if you are agnostic or an atheist we recommend you pick a branch of Christianity—no one will actually check but if you put none you there is a good chance your may be ignored. It can be difficult for single American or Canadian women under the age of 30 to acquire working permits in the Gulf despite their degrees, achievements, or experience. However, these same women will have minimal problems obtaining a relatively high paying job in Haiti or Kenya. Again, the call for people 27-35 will found in the job description. Sadly, much like the USA getting your foot in the door after age 55 can difficult even in managerial positions. This is where you will want to use the Internationality community, work your LinkedIn network and try to find a direct introduction to a position instead of applying from a generic call for applicants.

We at Internationality have written more than one article on language acquisition and programs to learn new languages. This is because unless you are going to the UK every place has a local language or more. From creoles of romance languages to Mandarin the way to immerse yourself in your new country is by learning the language. Although you may be working in a country where English is not one of the official languages there is a strong chance it is one of languages in the office. There is a constant shortage of people who can write well in English in emerging markets. You may not consider yourself a great writer in America but if your writing is grammatically sound there are a host of companies waiting to hire you on a short-term remote basis or full-time in the office.

For those with college degrees, you may also consider the State Department, whose language acquisition programs are some of the best. Depending on your duty station and existing skills you will need to pass a test. If the results are not satisfactory or you don’t speak the local langue then you will be placed in intensive courses. You may request a country or region, but much like the Peace Corps  it is ultimately up to the government where they send you. Please note, if you have strong beliefs about US foreign policy this may not be the best route as your work mandate may change with the policies dictated by the White House and Congress.

We advocate learning at least the basics of one other language. With moderate skills you open yourself up for opportunities in exotic locations. When a company or NGO really wants you they will place you in intensive language classes stateside or in an immersion program upon arrival on site. If you are a real go getter, you may choose to start classes with a tutor from Craigslist, sign up for a USDA language course, take advantage of the offerings on EventBrite, or even spend a vacation volunteering in Central America to learn basic Spanish. 

For more on what to expect and consider before taking a job overseas check out the Expat Info Desk

About The Author

During my educational and professional career, I have lived on five continents; honed my professional communications skills in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese; and learned the importance of cultural considerations in the development of communications materials.

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