Almost every job you apply for wants a minimum of several years experience. And though you have an interesting, diverse background, you’re worried that it’s still not enough.

How long does it even take, on average, to get a job in development?

You’ve heard conflicting advice about field experience. Some have likened it to cultural tourism and others say its invaluable if you want to get your foot in the door.

You’re willing to go anywhere and do just about anything, if only to get your foot in the door. You’ve applied to at least a dozen jobs, but have gotten NO replies! It feel’s like you’ll never get to do what you love.

It’s really depressing when you get excited about a position and consider it and then you get rejected.You check the websites, you apply to the jobs I like, you write a new CV and cover letter for each job.


You just want to make a difference, to contribute the skills you have and also do good work, gain some experience.


I was the same way.

Hi, I'm Malaika

Back in college, my roommate had a globe in her room. We’d spin it around, and I’d point to various places in Africa where I’d like to work. In our junior year, we both applied for and were selected for a Human Rights fellowship to do an internship anywhere in the world. I chose to go to Madagascar.

Rice fields surrounding the town in which I lived
Rice fields surrounding the town in which I lived

Several months later, I was living in a small town in the highlands of a country that felt like being in another world, working at a microfinance that served over 800,000 rice farmers, many of whom couldn’t really read.

That summer broke down every assumption I had about Africa, about third-world countries (despite growing up in India), and about working in development. But I loved it.

When I came home, I knew I wanted to work in international development.

I loved the idea of being able to work in a number of different locations, for people who, because of a lack of resources or education, often can’t help themselves.

But once I got home, I felt paralysed, not sure where to begin. Working in international development was brand new to me, and I didn’t know where to start looking for jobs in the field. I sent off literally hundreds of application forms to human rights and international development organisations, all of which got me no closer to getting a job, or even an interview. And after weeks of nothing, I thought, have I picked the wrong industry? Will I ever get to do the work I am passionate about? I kept thinking, something will come up. But nothing did, until I changed my strategy, and began implementing a set of tips and tricks that landed me interview after interview, which then turned into job offers filling my inbox every morning for months.

Through years of trial and error, I figured it out. The next year, I moved to Ecuador, flown out to work on a USAID project through a fellowship for young professionals, nested within the valleys of the Andes. Two years after that, I was ready for change, and landed a plum offer in the centre of the Caribbean, working at an NGO in Haiti. When I wanted to transition out of that role, I quickly received a job offer in Germany,  working on a project in West Africa. And from there, to a UN role managing a multi-million dollar project in four countries.

On this blog, you’ll find the exact strategies I used over the last ten years to get paid internships and full-time jobs at international organisations, grassroots-level NGOs, development consulting companies, and U.N. projects.


Start here. Start now.