When you first enter the workforce, whether after graduating from a human rights master degree or after completing a human rights training program, it can be difficult to find a job. There is a complicated catch-22 situation where you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without getting a job. Luckily, there are some ways to still get a job even if you don’t have experience in your field.
Utilize College Placement Resources
If you are just completing college or have just graduated, speak to your advisor/thesis supervisor and ask about potential placement resources – Don’t be shy! Many colleges, including universities, training schools and community colleges, will offer this to their graduates. While they might not guarantee you will get hired, it can help to have their professional reference for various areas of work. This not only proves you have the education required for certain positions but helps to get your foot in the door, which is often one of the most difficult aspects of finding a job.
Start With An (Unpaid) Internship
While you definetly want a job that pays, it isn’t always possible in certain areas without experience from the very beginning. If you want to work in the human rights field, it can be very competitive and hard to get a job with benefits without previous working experience. In this case consider to start with an unpaid internship. Without question this is always some kind of exploitation and unpaid internships should be abolished…but: we aren’t there yet. Internships wether paid or not give you networking opportunities and help you to determine, where your strengths are.
Demand Useful Work
If you managed to get one of the competitive UN internships make sure that you ask for relevant work. Many interns are too shy to ask for duties that suit their expertise and qualifications. If you aren’t sure what type of work to ask for: Try to be helpful to your colleagues. If you come to listen to a conversation regarding a specific task and they have difficulties to get it done (e.g. due to time constraints), intervene and offer to do it. Show that you are ready.
When You Are Done – Move On
Don’t add one unpaid internship after the other. This would be counterproductive for your employability. Focus on paid internships and entry level vacancies instead – even if you think you have no chance. If, after your 400th application, you still don’t get a positive reply (which is nothing unusual today), it might be time to broaden your job search: In fact there are very few human rights jobs that require human rights expertise only. Most human rights jobs require a set of interpersonal, linguistic, leadership, IT, research, psychological, educational etc. skills. If you can’t get your human rights dream job at first, apply for a job that helps you to build skills relevant to your dream job. This will boost your chances when applying for your dream job later.
Be Active. Be Authentic.
Networking is still one of the most effective ways to get a job without experience. That’s why you should take part in some of the local human rights events and get involved. When you are there don’t try to be a boss greeter – it won’t help you get a job nowadays. Better talk to those people you really like and whose company you enjoy without trying to fit in. Being authentic is a very effective way to be successful long term.
Create your own projects
Another possibility is to start your own human rights projects. This way you can follow your passion, learn by yourself and make mistakes without risking too much. The skills and knowledge you gain will be useful for your future human rights job and if your project has some kind of achievments you might also add it to your references.
Don’t take “required experience” too serious
Are you still searching for the entry level jobs that require 0 years of experience? Do those jobs still exist? We rarely see them, if ever. Therefore, especially if you are applying to a human rights NGO, do not take the required years too seriously. If you just finished doing your second internship it is absolutly fine to apply for a job that requires 2 years of experience.