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Best Advice You Need Before Starting a Career in International Development - with Katharina Ahrens

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Produced by Lucy Lu Erin Eldridge

🎙 Our guest mentor is Localised Humanitarian Assistance Expert Katharina Ahrens, Programs Quality Director at Violet Organization for Relief and Development.

📻 In this podcast:

Katharina shares the most candid advice on finding filed work opportunities, getting started in the ID industry, maintaining motivation during challenging times. She also spoke on skills and character traits she look for when she hires new team members. Tune in to listen to her truth bomb for students and young professionals who wish to build a career in the international Development industry.

☁️About Katharina:

Originally from Germany with a Master’s in Humanitarian Action, Katharina has worked with local and international organisations in the Middle East and North Africa region for over 5 years, focusing on locally led humanitarian assistance and quality programming. She is currently the Programs Quality Director for the Violet Organisation for Relief and Development.

Here is a skip time for you:

[00:47] Would you first give us a brief introduction about who you are and what you do?

[01:18] As a localization expert, where do you think foreign EXPATs can best add value in a localized development model/humanitarian response?

[02:47] Now that more and more international organizations are starting to localize, there are less and less opportunities available for foreign students to work in the field. What advice would you give people who would like to gain some hands on field experience? Where can they find such opportunities?

[05:07] And what are some things they need to especially be aware of when working in the field?

[06:49] Could you speak more on the cultural sock many Western students/young professionals may face when first starting the field work? Ie. especially on how to appropriately engaged with the locals.

[08:34] We all know that the ID and humanitarian sectors face criticism for unpaid internships. It for sure is a barrier that prevents those who don't have financial means to gain the experience they need to break into the industry. What do you think one can do to gain that experience without an unpaid internship?

[11:29] As someone who leads a big team, what are some key skills (soft & hard) you look for when you hire someone to be on your team?

[13:39] "follow up question" What are some highly valued hard skills for a career in ID and humanitarian work?

[15:04] As a WIAN mentor what’s the most common question you get from your mentee? Do you mind sharing your answer to their questions?

[17:05] Katharina's Advise on CV/Cover letter writing

[20:24] What is the best piece of career advice you would give your younger self?

[22:43] Any final thoughts?


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Why should you join the RE:Project Community?

Our mission is to re-think, re-skill, and re-imagine the future of work for those in social science-related fields, with a focus on International Affairs and Development. We believe that technological changes have radically altered the way we work by disrupting skills requirements, creating challenges for young social scientists who largely rely on soft skills. Therefore, those pursuing generalist or qualitative disciplines will have to re-skill in an oversaturated job market favoring STEM and tech.

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At our core, we seek to reduce growing unemployment among young social scientists in an increasingly technologised job market. Our cutting-edge content allows our community members to stay current and learn from experts at the forefront of their industry.

In the short-run, we offer tailored career support by creating curated real-life, authentic content generated by real people of the millennial generation working the industries. Practitioners with 4–7 years of experience can offer as many insights (or more!) as 50-year-old CEOs and Directors about how to break into the industry.

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