Common mistakes we make when applying for NGO jobs.


Looking for an NGO Job? 
This advice applies to those with NGO experience and those who want to make a career switch from the competitive and man eat man corporate Kenya.

As usual, our advice falls along the lines of 'what not to do.'


Specialization

NGO's are looking for specialists in a particular field. Just because you have worked in the corporate sector does not mean your skills will translate into the humanitarian sector. You've run a software company? You've run a law office? You've worked in a HR office? You've run a marketing firm? That's nice, but none of that experience means you are automatically ready to work for an NGO.

To find a job with an NGO, you also need to have the exact skills and experience being asked for in a job.

For instance, if the job posting says, "fluency in French", then the organisation wants applicants who can do the job interview entirely in French, not someone who has had a few years of French classes.

If it’s an accounting position and they are looking for a candidate with donor reporting skills, your CV better have this.

If the job posting says candidates who have set up HIV/AIDS education programs for teens, then you had better have your experience setting up such a program in your CV. If the program says you have to manage field staff, your CV needs to note when you have managed field staff.

If they job posting says, "A minimum of ten years of progressively responsible experience in human rights, political affairs, international relations, development, economics, program management or related area," they really mean that!
 
Many of us are vague when it comes to relating how our experience fits into what an NGO job advert requires. Unfortunately, until you do this, you'll continue sending applications without a response. It’s not enough to have that degree or professional certifications.

Languages
Even if you are a native English speaker, how good are your written and verbal skills? Not only does your CV have to impeccable, with perfect spelling and English, your emails must be as well.

As noted earlier, if a job posting says, "Fluency in French", then they want applicants who can do the job interview in French, not someone who has had a few years of French classes. If the job posting says, "ability to work in French" (or another language), you can expect at least a bit of your interview to be in that language. 

Your CV
Your CV needs to be explicit about your experience. Just because you worked at a refugee centre say Daadab with many other nationalities, for instance, don't assume multicultural experience is implied; spell it out! Just because you have worked as a firefighter, don't assume emergency response experience is assumed; SAY IT.

If you want a job that requires providing policy and technical guidance, spell out when you have done this. If the job you want is to develop, coordinate, implement, monitor and evaluate anything, show when you have done this, explicitly; NGO's don't want to know you can do it, and they won't assume you can do it unless they can see on your CV that you have done it.

As was stated earlier: if the job posting says candidates who have set up HIV/AIDS education programs for teens are what's wanted, then you had better have your experience setting up such a program in your CV. If the program says you have to manage a staff, your CV needs to note when you have managed a staff.

If the job posting says, "A minimum of ten years of progressively responsible experience in human rights, political affairs, international relations, development, economics, program management or related area," they really mean that!

Emphasize on what they asking for.

Networking

Many NGO jobs in Kenya are never advertised. The jobs just float among the networks. And there is where many of us in the corporate world accuse the NGO's of operating like a members club where they only assist each other. The reality is that NGO are always looking to cost cut and thus advertising or engaging in lengthy recruitment is shunned. They prefer to headhunt or have their employees recommend their friends.

And that's why if you need an NGO job your ears must be on the ground by associating yourself with those currently working in such environment. This is what is called networking ama kujuana.

A key to finding a job in ANY profession is networking: meeting people who can influence hiring decisions where you want to work, and will better ensure your candidacy is better ensured. You want these people to know you and what your areas of specialization are. However, note that there's absolutely no guarantee that meeting someone at an organization, even the CEO, will land you a job there.

Networking is a long-term strategy. It takes months, even years, not days or weeks. Networking also involves building your professional reputation, so that when connected people hear your name, they know who you are and that affirms your expertise. 

Applying for Jobs
The more NGO jobs you apply for, the less time you have to spend on each application. The more jobs you apply for, the weaker each application. Only apply for jobs where you have a chance, where you meet at least most of the criteria for the job.

Some people try to imply in their applications that because they want to work for an NGO and because they care and have good hearts, they should be given a job. It really isn’t like that.

As one of the NGO managers said to me, "If I had to choose between a person who cares passionately about poverty etc but is not focused and doesn’t present well and a person who can get a job done dispassionately, without being very concerned about the bigger picture I would nearly always choose the latter." Work hard on selling your skills and abilities, not your desire to help.

A well written professional CV is your ticket to a job you seek. We know exactly what employers are looking for and how to make your CV to prove your worth.


Source: corporatestaffing

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