Nina Oduro is the founder and President of AfricanDevJobs, a platform for Africa-based development job opportunities and career advice. The site offers insights into African development careers with a focus on highlighting the contributions of Africans and the African diaspora in the field.
Tips for Young Professionals on Finding an Africa-focused Job
Many young people come out of college with a desire to land a job working at Africa-focused organizations, but such careers are often difficult to break into, especially in international development. As a young professional it is important to know that your passion and enthusiasm for African Affairs is not enough to get your foot in the door. Employers see a lot of candidates with passion, but what makes someone stand out is a combination of passion and skill. So how do you find a position that will help you shape your Africa-focused career? Here are tips for young professionals.
When seeking a job, you should have an idea of what sector is of interest to you. Too often, I meet young people who say “I want to work on Africa.” This vague desire lacks clarity and ultimately gives the impression that you are not clear on what you want or that you are simply exploring the field. Even if you are on a journey of exploration, you should define your areas of interest, whether it’s health, business, energy, or education. Narrowing which region, country, or community on the continent which you seek to impact will allow you to narrow your search for opportunities.
Once you have narrowed your focus, the search process begins. If you are able to search for jobs domestically as well as internationally, you will come across more opportunities. Looking for international opportunities requires you to think about factors such as living arrangements and cost of international relocation, which you would not consider otherwise. While working outside of your home country is not for everyone, it can present unique opportunities for professional and personal growth. If you are keen on moving to an African country, going there while searching for a job is beneficial. In-person interactions are important on the continent, therefore setting up informational interviews with professionals at key organizations while there could lead to job opportunities. If your search is mostly online, using job search platforms like AfricanDevJobs can help you search for jobs that are specifically in Africa and focus on development.
Work on your resume
Resumes give employers their first impression of you. Therefore, it is important to invest significant time crafting a resume that reflects your potential and highlights your experience in African Affairs. Since young professionals often have minimal internship and work experience, it’s important to capitalize on your leadership experience by highlighting your leadership skills that are relevant to the position. Remember, your resume tells a story about your professional background—where you have been and your professional potential.
Join an Africa-focused professional network
When trying to enter a field, it is important to figure out how that field works. Professional networks are great for meeting and building relationships with African Affairs professionals. It also provides a space where you can meet mentors and connect with other young professionals. But, selecting the right network is not easy. Don’t just join the first one you find. Rather, research a variety of organizations and find out who is involved, how members support one another, and what young professionals can gain as members. An organization such as the Diaspora African Women’s Network focuses on supporting next generation women in African Affairs, therefore they offer a space where women in African Affairs can connect and support one another in Africa-focused careers.
Network online and offline
Finding a job is not just a means of applying and sitting back. It is essential to network both online and offline. Online, your social media profiles are important. Complete your LinkedIn profile and brand yourself on Twitter with the Africa-focused area or issue you wish to work on. You will find that professionals with similar interests will connect with you, which opens doors of communication with professionals at organizations where you might be interested in working. Offline, attending Africa-focused professional events are critical. From conferences to meet-ups, you will be able to connect with a wide array of professionals who are established in the field. But, just meeting them is not enough. You must follow up within a few days of meeting them with an email asking to meet for career insights and advice.
Build skills while searching
While you are actively searching for opportunities, you should take advantage of opportunities to build your skills. Volunteering or taking an internship while you look for a fulltime opportunity helps you get skills and experience that will help you build your resume. It also helps you meet people that are working on Africa-focused projects and, furthermore, strengthens your networks.
Photo credit: www.rockefellerfoundation.org