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How to get humanitarian jobs with a UK development agency

Working in the humanitarian field in the UK is a challenging but rewarding career. Humanitarian jobs in a UK development agency can involve simply working with those in need in the United Kingdom, or working with a UK humanitarian organisation overseas. The better jobs, and those requiring more overseas work are, of course, highly competitive and far more difficult to obtain. But, you can give yourself an advantage in your job hunt by following these simple tips.

Volunteer - Most jobs in humanitarian agencies in the UK, or working overseas, require past experience. That's why, if you don't have any, you should immediately start to volunteer with a local non-profit.

Look at volunteer jobs working with indigent clients - the homeless, the hungry, the elderly, the terminally ill. Make sure the work you do is varied and hands-on, and volunteer to do some of the messiest jobs, as this is what humanitarian agencies look for when hiring - someone who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty.

Do volunteer work with charities like Oxfam GB (oxfam.org.uk), Plan International (plan-uk.org), Islamic Relief (islamic-relief.org.uk) or Save the Children (savethechildren.org). These are all agencies that do disaster relief all over the world, and great places for you to make contacts and get your foot in the door, while also doing good.

Read Everything You Can - The humanitarian world changes daily with national and international crises and disasters popping up constantly. To be able to get into the humanitarian field, you should know everything there is to know about the industry.

What types of humanitarian work goes on in the UK? Which are the world's most affected countries requiring the most humanitarian aid? What natural disasters are common there? What's the impact of political and social problems on needed humanitarian aid? Which agencies work where? What's the UN's role in all this and how effective are they?

The Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (CBHA) has some excellent resources (thecbha.org/resources). Read everything they have and then go to the United Nations website and read everything there too (un.org/en).

Get a Development Degree - Few humanitarian agencies will take you seriously if you don't have a degree in the field. Look at Aid Workers Network (aidworkers.net). They have listings of various UK and international universities that offer degrees in Humanitarian and Development Assistance.

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