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How to find your ideal job in the human rights field

United States Mission Geneva Human Rights CC 2.0 Council Chamber: Photo Taken During Urgent Debate on Syria
United States Mission Geneva Human Rights CC 2.0 Council Chamber: Photo Taken During Urgent Debate on Syria

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably considering a career in human rights. Within this field, there are countless positions and opportunities available, however, finding the one that suits you can be a challenge, especially if you haven’t worked in the field before. The Human Rights field isn’t easy but is incredibly rewarding. So, here are some helpful guidelines to follow when looking for Human Rights positions.

Understand what Humans Rights are
The term “Human Rights” covers so many Human Rights activities such as civil, economic, cultural, political, social, LGBT, and women’s rights. You’re at a great start right now, knowing that you’re interested in working in a field that is dedicated to helping humankind. However, to make your search easier, go through the areas of Human Rights and read what they focus on and represent. Do they interest you? If so, write down which ones you’re interested in pursuing and then you can focus your job hunt.

What kind of role are you interested in?
Take the time to really look at yourself and what kind of person you are. The role you choose to adopt will determine the type of work you’ll be doing. Where do you want to live, what kind of hours do you want to work, what voice do you want to have and what influence do you want to have. These factors can greatly affect the job you’re looking for. Here are some examples of the various roles within the human rights field.

This can be an individual or organization publicly supporting a Human Rights cause or policy. Advocacy work is usually carried out by solicitor, barrister social or community workers. They represent the cause or policy and publicly argue for it. In this area, you could be an advocacy coordinator, solicitor, or a public representative.

This area is focused on research, education, training and development of various areas within Human Rights. For example, there are many universities which have their own research centers focusing on a specific area, such as the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in South Africa or the center for Human Rights Education and Corporate and Social Responsibility. Depending on the organization you apply for, they may also have their own research facilities. Positions in this area can be a research assistant or researcher.

Field work
Field work comprises of individuals directly working on the ground, delivering service to individuals or communities. On a local level, field work would be working with refugees in your state, socio-economically disadvantaged youth, etc. On an international level, field work could be teaching in developing countries, being a doctor or nurse, or environmental engineer overseas. However, you will need the proper qualifications and experience required for these professions.

Essentially, this area is made up of lobbying and campaign organizations, and political parties, which try to create awareness in the community and influence the government and lawmakers to address or create legislation, supporting their Human Rights issue. For example, the equal treatment for the LGBT community, or women’s reproductive rights. They work directly with the government in an attempt to connect government with the issue at hand.

Management Services
This area is the backbone of all Human Rights organizations. This covers administration, marketing, legal service, human resources – the components that keep the organizations functioning. Positions in this area would be administrative assistant, accountant, business manager, human resource officer.

It’s important to note, that just because you may not have the qualifications or experience in an area that you find interesting, doesn’t mean there is no hope of finding a job. You may be able to apply your work and educational background to your desired role. In this case, we recommend you directly speaking to the organization which you would like to work with and they will be able to give you specific details on how you can reach your goal.

Look at what level of job entry you can obtain
So, you figured out what area in Human Rights you’d like to work in and the role you’d like to take on. However, there will some cases where you won’t be able to get that position right away. For example, your ideal role may be to do field work on an international level, however, you may be missing some credentials or requirements needed for the particular position. Though you may not be able to start off with the desired position, you can start at a lower level and work your way up. Now, there are two types of jobs available in the Human Rights field.

Entry level jobs
Though contrary to popular belief, entry-level positions are usually hard to obtain since the competition is quite high for them. Most of these positions require you to have a University degree and/or experience in the related field.

The best way to making yourself stand out in amongst the rest is to have an internship or volunteer experience under your belt. Internships and volunteer experience should be related to Human Rights, so applying for internships with organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNICEF, or the Red Cross will look impressive on your CV. You can also teach abroad or work in orphanages – these are great ways to not only gain experience but to also see if this is what you’d like to do.
Entry level positions usually start with an annual salary of 10-25k.

Professional level jobs
This level is intended for individuals who have already obtained their qualifications of their professions and already have work experience. For example, a person who has completed medical school with experience working in a hospital and now would like to apply their profession in an NGO environment. In these cases, the positions may be easier to obtain because their more specific in qualifications and requirements.

However, at the end of the day, to get into the Human Rights field there’s equation or path that must be taken. The best way to enter into the field, for any position, is to have a strong skillset and a rich background of work and/or volunteer experience. Another huge asset is having fluency in a second language as many international Human Rights positions require such.
Do be afraid to email an organization you’re interested in, in order to gain more information about a position you would like to apply for.
Now, polish up your CV and go get that job!

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