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Jobs in development communication

Development communication is an extraordinarily broad field. It covers a wide range of topics, from the traditional themes of agriculture, health and public awareness, to newer areas such as governance, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), urban development, youth, and so on.

Communication uses a wide range of approaches, from "social marketing" (which draws on advertising and marketing to promote development goals) to participatory approaches that work with local people and help them communicate their needs and opinions to others. It covers lobbying and advocacy, mass marketing and highly targeted campaigns.

Communication can serve various audiences: farmers, villagers, herders, teachers, students, women, policy makers, extension workers, scientists, unemployed youths, prostitutes, health workers, suicidal teenagers, small businesspeople, fisherfolk, government officials, treaty negotiators, donors, ethnic minorities... the list is long. Determining the correct audience is a vital part of a successful communication intervention.

Communication uses many different types of media: mass media such as radio, television and the press; electronic media such as emails and websites; interpersonal media such as training courses, meetings and face-to-face contact; narrowcast media such as posters, flyers and handouts. click here for a longer list.

Jobs in development communication fall into several categories:

  • Full-time, long-term: e.g., information officer for a major international NGO.
  • Part-time, long-term: e.g, monitoring, evaluation and communication officer for an NGO.
  • University: e.g., professor of journalism specializing in development communication
  • Long-term consulting
  • Short-term consulting

Applying for a job

Emphasize overseas experience, any country skills and the languages you speak. Donors and host governments are (quite rightly) increasingly insisting that consultants speak the local language. The development banks have a points system for evaluating proposed consultancy teams: so-and-so many points for a PhD, so-and-so many for ability in the local language, etc.

Provide your curriculum vita (CV) in the right format. It's a good idea to keep several versions of your CV:

  • EU format. This has full listing of all the jobs you have done, in the format required by the European Union.
  • Other formats required by major donors (such as USAID, FAO or ADB)
  • A one-pager. This is a one-page CV, with your contact details and a summary of your education, skills and experience.
  • A "bioblurb" - a paragraph (or paragraphs, up to half a page) describing your skills and experience. You can prepare several such paragraphs, each stressing different aspects of your work, then pull out sections from each one to suit the particular job you are applying for.

Keep the various versions updated so you can send them out at short notice. Consulting firms work to tight deadlines when preparing project proposals. Be ready to provide extra information or corrections to your CV at short notice as a deadline nears.

Consider creating a website of your own, describing your work and experience, and including your CV to download. There are risks in this - you may become the target of spam (unwanted emails), for example. Do not put any sensitive personal information on your website.

Sign up to LinkedIn, a popular professional social networking site that allows you to post your CV. An increasing number of organizations check LinkedIn for the profile of candidates during the hiring process.


Where to look for jobs

Newspapers and magazines

  • The Economist (a British weekly news magazine)
  • The Guardian Weekly (a British weekly newspaper)
  • The Herald Tribune
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post (all US newspapers)

Consultancy firms

Consultancy firms generally have databases of CVs. Search for the names of these firms (the newspapers and magazines are a good place to start), and visit their websites to find out how to submit your CV to them. Many firms require CVs in a particular format - which mean lots of form-filling - all the formats are different!

USA

There is a group of consultancy firms based around Washington DC, called the 'Beltway Bandits'. Among these are:

  • Abt Associates
  • Academy for Educational Development
  • Chemonics
  • Development Alternatives
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Louis Berger
  • Macro
  • Sheladia
  • Winrock International

Big engineering firms (Bechtel) and management consultancies (KPMG, Accenture, Cap Gemini) are also into "emerging markets", though mainly in financial management (which pays more).

Europe

  • Agristudio
  • Agriconsulting
  • BDPA
  • Cardno Agrisystems
  • DHV
  • ECA
  • GFA
  • Hassall
  • HTSPE
  • IMC Consulting
  • Jules Van Lancker
  • LTS
  • Masdar
  • Mott MacMillian Euroconsult
  • MRAG
  • Orgut
  • Scott Wilson

Australia

  • Cardno ACIL

Donors

Donors employ their own staff, as well as some consultants directly, to do things like design and evaluate projects. They also hire consultancy firms to do some of this work for them. Working for a donor directly means you can may a higher payment rate than if you do the same job through a firm (which must charge for overhead).

The development banks have consultants' registers: Asian Development Bank, World Bank, African Development Bank, Interamerican Development Bank, etc. So do UN institutions (WHO, UNOPS, UNAIDS, etc.).

Each of the main donor countries has its own development agency: BMZ (Germany), CIDA (Canada), DEZA (Netherlands), DFID (UK), Finnida (Finland), JICA (Japan), NORAD (Norway), SDC (Switzerland), SIDA (Sweden), USAID (USA). The larger projects are managed by headquarters; individual country embassies has smaller pots of money they use to support projects in that country.

The European Union likes to hire Europeans, and USAID has a similar rule for US citizens. So if you're a US citizen, you're not likely to get work from Europe.

Other employers

  • Universities also do consulting, often in research rather than project implementation. Many US universities are members of consortia which bid for USAID and other projects. These include the Midwest Universities Consortium for International Activities (MUCIA) and others. These consortia employ mainly their own faculty, but you might get lucky, especially if you have a niche specialty they don't have anyone on staff for.
  • International NGOs often need people to do things like project design and evaluation. They include: CAFOD, CARE, CRS, Evangelische Entwicklungsdient, GIZ, Lutheran World Federation, Misereor, Oxfam Novib,and a whole lot more.
  • Think tanks do their own research and policy work. They include the Natural Resources Institute, Overseas Development Institute (both in the UK), ETC, Royal Tropical Institute (both in the Netherlands).
  • International agricultural research centres include the CGIAR, a network of a dozen or so research centres covering rice (IRRI, AfricaRice), maize & wheat (CIMMYT), fisheries (WorldFish), genetic resources (IBPGRI), agroforestry (ICRAF), forestry (CIFOR), potatoes (CIP), dry areas (ICARDA), semi-arid tropics (ICRISAT), vegetables, tropics (IITA, CIAT), food policy (IFPRI), livestock (ILRI), water (IWMI). Similar research institutes not in the CGIAR cover fertilizers (IFDC) and vegetables (AVRDC).

Personal contacts

Many jobs are still filled through personal contacts. When a personnel manager or proposal writer wants to fill a vacancy, he or she may use different ways to find a suitable person. These methods include advertising in the media (print or electronic), and calling or emailing contacts to ask if they know someone with the right qualifications.

Cultivate your contacts, let them know that you're looking for a job, and if appropriate, send them a copy of your cv so they know what you've been doing recently.


Referees

If an employer does not already know you, they may want to ask your previous employers about you. Have a list of three or four referees (along with their names and contact information) ready to send out. These should be people who know you well, have worked with you fairly recently, and who you think will tell the prospective employer good things about you and your work. Try to give the name of previous employers if you can (though if you want to switch from your current job, you may not wish to give the name of your current employer!).

Ask these individuals beforehand if it's OK to put them on your list of referees. It's best to ask them again each time you name them as a referee for a particular job application. (You can send them information about the job you're applying for as well, so they can judge whether you'd be a good candidate for the job.) Or you can send them a note to say you have named them as a referee for a particular job.


Payment rates

Rates depend on various factors:

  • Your qualifications and experience
  • Where you are resident (employers seem to be prepared to pay more for people who live in high-cost countries)
  • The topic area and job requirements (more for rare types of expertise and for senior positions such as team leader)
  • The location (more for dangerous or expensive places)
  • The donor and employer (bilateral donors, for example, tend to have more money than NGOs)
  • The project budget (some are generous, others stingy)
  • The length of the assignment (less per day for longer assignments)
  • The urgency of the assignment (employers sometimes need to hire someone at short notice, and are prepared to pay more for the right person).

Some employers (such as UN agencies and USAID) have strict rules governing how much they will pay for certain jobs. They look in particular at your qualifications and experience, then set a rate accordingly. Once you have been assigned a rate, it's difficult to increase it.

It's important to build up a salary history so you show a new employer that you have been paid a particular rate by others.

Some people set a fixed salary rate for all employers; others vary their rates from job to job.


Contracts

Some employers have elaborate, multi-page contracts full of legalese. Others make do with a simple letter or email. Make sure you keep a signed copy of the contract in your files. Make an extra copy to submit to the tax authorities.

When negotiating your contract, make sure that it covers the following:

  • Tax. Who is responsible for paying tax? Check the rules for income tax and value-added tax. Some countries may charge you income tax even though you also pay tax in your home country. You may be liable to income tax or VAT, depending on where you do the work, where the funds are sourced from, whether you and the employer are VAT-registered, and how long you are abroad.
  • Timing of payments. Do you get paid some of the fee up front, or halfway through the job (for example, when you submit the first draft of a document)? Or do you have to wait until the job is completed before you can submit your overall invoice?
  • Per diem. If you must travel, are your hotel and other costs covered? Most employers provide a perdiem (more for expensive locations or for hardship postings) to cover things like accommodation, food and local travel. Others offer free food and accommodation in their own guesthouses - which vary in quality.
  • Expenses. Who pays for things like visa expenses, stationery, mailing, telecommunications, etc? Are these covered by the perdiem, or can you charge them separately to the employer?
  • Travel. Some employers like to buy you the air ticket themselves. Or you can buy your own ticket and ask to be reimbursed (this gives you more flexibility in terms of airlines and connections, but means you have to wait for payment).
  • Insurance and health care. What happens if you have an accident or fall ill while on assignment? Employers may require a medical certificate stating you are in good health. They may also require you to cover your own health insurance. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Pension contributions. Employers do not cover pension contributions for short-term jobs. For longer-term assignments, make sure they are covered.
  • Family. If you take your family with you on a long-term job, does the employer cover housing, transport, schooling, medical coverage, etc?
  • Rights to materials. Who has the rights to the information materials (reports, publications, training materials, videos) that you gather and produce? Are you allowed to use them for other purposes after the end of the contract? Are you allowed to pass them on to someone else? Many employers will retain all rights, but they may allow you to make certain types of information public. For example, you might be able to use training materials you have developed in subsequent jobs, or post a copy of a publication you have developed on your own website.

Employers usually have several candidates for a job. One of these will be their preferred candidate (the person who has the best qualifications and experience), but if he or she turns out to be too expensive or fussy, the employer may choose someone else. It's worth asking if there are other candidates for the position, and if so, whether you are the preferred candidate.

Sometimes employers have already chosen the person they want, but have to invite other applicants in order to conform to their own required procedures. (This is probably illegal, but happens anyway.) You may find yourself applying for a job you have no chance of getting. It is hard to tell without inside knowledge what the actual situation is.


Availability

Tell potential employers whether you are available long-term (over 1 year), medium-term (3 months to 1 year) or short-term (less than 3 months), and where you would be (un)willing to work (e.g., not in areas with a security risk).

  • Long-term jobs provide stability and financial security
  • Shorter-term jobs give variety and flexibility but more risk of unemployment in the gaps between jobs, as well as a shorter time horizon: it can be disconcerting not to know if you have an income in the next month.

Consultancy firms may ask you to sign a Statement of Availability. This commits you to being available for a job if the firm wins the contract through a competitive bidding process.

You should not agree to be on two competing bids. The firm may also ask you to sign a Statement of Exclusivity. This means you may not be on a competing firm's bid for the same contract. Doing so may disqualify both bids.

The bidding process for consultancy contracts is fraught with uncertainties and delays. Try to avoid overlaps in potential commitments, but it may be impossible to do so. Keep all potential employers informed about the dates of your various commitments (it's not necessary to name the employers) so they can plan accordingly.


Job opportunity mailing lists and websites

Assortis

Cinfo

Communication Initiative

  • This is the main site for devcomm types of all stripes. There's a classifieds section with job opportunities and a regular email newsletter called DrumBeat. www.comminit.com

Developmentaid.org

  • An extensive list of jobs in the development sector, with a free weekly email jobs newsletter and database of CVs. www.developmentaid.org

Devjobs

DevNetJobs

EPO.de

  • Has a listing of German and European jobs. www.epo.de

Jobs4Development

  • Filterable list of development jobs. Register for free job alerts or follow via personalised RSS job feed. Post your CV online. www.jobs4development.com/

KM4Dev

ReliefWeb

UN job list


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