Becoming an International Humanitarian Aid Worker

Becoming an International Humanitarian Aid Worker

1st Edition - October 16, 2016

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  • Authors: Chen Reis, Tania Bernath
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128043851
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128043141

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Becoming an International Humanitarian Aid Worker draws on the experiences of those currently working and those hiring people to work in humanitarian aid today, and an analysis of job postings over a 9-month period. It provides relevant information and advice to help jobseekers make more informed decisions about what steps to take. It first pushes prospective job seekers to reflect on whether this is the right career path for them. It then provides tried and tested strategies for preparing for a humanitarian career and being competitive in the humanitarian job market, serving as a comprehensive guide for those thinking about a career in international humanitarian aid.

Key Features

  • Features advice drawn from an analysis of humanitarian jobs, a survey of aid workers, and interviews with human resource staff and humanitarian professionals
  • Written in a conversational style with anecdotes, advice and stories from people working in the industry today
  • Features useful tips and exercises in every chapter to help you put your best foot forward
  • Provides links to useful and relevant internet resources through a dedicated web page


Professionals seeking to enter the humanitarian aid field. Undergraduates and graduate students interested in breaking into the international humanitarian aid sector after graduation

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

    • Key Terms
    • How we Collected the Data for This Book
    • Features of the Book
    • Structure of the Book
    • Exercise
    • Feedback

    Part I: Background Information

    • Chapter 1. International Humanitarian Aid Today
      • Abstract
      • 1.1 Background
      • 1.2 Changes to Humanitarian Work
      • 1.3 Move Toward Increased Hiring of National Staff
      • 1.4 Accountability
      • 1.5 Innovation
      • 1.6 Professionalization
      • 1.7 Resources
      • 1.8 Exercise
    • Chapter 2. Humanitarian Organizations and Jobs
      • Abstract
      • 2.1 Types of Organizations
      • 2.2 Coordination Structures
      • 2.3 Donors and Funding Agencies
      • 2.4 Nontraditional Partners in Humanitarian Action
      • 2.5 Job Categories
      • 2.6 Skills and Functions
      • 2.7 Salary Expectations
      • 2.8 Conclusion
      • 2.9 Resources
      • 2.10 Exercise
    • Chapter 3. The Reality of Working in Humanitarian Aid
      • Abstract
      • 3.1 Motivation
      • 3.2 The Field Experience
      • 3.3 Headquarters Jobs
      • 3.4 Conclusion
      • 3.5 Resources
      • 3.6 Exercise

    Part II: Preparing to Work in Humanitarian Aid

    • Part II. Preparing to Work in Humanitarian Aid
    • Chapter 4. Core Competencies in Humanitarian Action: Soft Skills
      • Abstract
      • 4.1 Core Humanitarian Behaviors: Essential Qualities, Traits, and Skills
      • 4.2 Resources
      • 4.3 Exercise
    • Chapter 5. Core Competencies in Humanitarian Action: Hard Skills
      • Abstract
      • 5.1 Generalist Skills
      • 5.2 Niche Skills
      • 5.3 Knowledge of the Humanitarian Sector
      • 5.4 Resources
      • 5.5 Exercise
    • Chapter 6. Experiences
      • Abstract
      • 6.1 Education and Training
      • 6.2 Work Experience
      • 6.3 Field Experience
      • 6.4 Funding Options for Students and Job Seekers
      • 6.5 Conclusion
      • 6.6 Resources
      • 6.7 Exercise
    • Chapter 7. Networks
      • Abstract
      • 7.1 Starting Your Network From Scratch
      • 7.2 Use Your Preexisting Networks
      • 7.3 Seize Every Opportunity to Meet Practitioners
      • 7.4 In-Office Opportunities
      • 7.5 Key Networking Tips
      • 7.6 Conclusion
      • 7.7 Resources
      • 7.8 Exercise

    Part III: Searching for Jobs and What You Need to Know When You Have an Offer

    • Chapter 8. Job Search
      • Abstract
      • 8.1 Step 1: Get into the Right Frame of Mind
      • 8.2 Step 2: Be Strategic
      • 8.3 Step 3: Be Systematic
      • 8.4 Some Strategies for Getting a Humanitarian Job
      • 8.5 The Application Process
      • 8.6 Application Materials
      • 8.7 Staying Positive
      • 8.8 Resources
      • 8.9 Exercise
    • Chapter 9. After the Job Offer
      • Abstract
      • 9.1 You Have the Offer, Now What?
      • 9.2 Security Arrangements
      • 9.3 Mental Health Support in the Field
      • 9.4 Sexual Harassment and Assault
      • 9.5 Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
      • 9.6 Salary
      • 9.7 What to Expect Once You Accept the Offer
      • 9.8 Taking Care of Your Health
      • 9.9 Food
      • 9.10 Living Arrangements
      • 9.11 First Impressions When Arriving in the Field
      • 9.12 Making Self-Care Central to Your Life
      • 9.13 Exercise
      • 9.14 Taking Time Off to Recharge
      • 9.15 Sleep
      • 9.16 Work-Related Situations
      • 9.17 Having Realistic Expectations
      • 9.18 What to Avoid
      • 9.19 Maintaining Social Ties
      • 9.20 Getting Professional Support
      • 9.21 Socializing
      • 9.22 Relationships
      • 9.23 Knowing When to Leave a Job
      • 9.24 Knowing When to Stop/Step Away From the Profession Itself
      • 9.25 Conclusion
      • 9.26 Resources

Product details

  • No. of pages: 142
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Butterworth-Heinemann 2016
  • Published: October 16, 2016
  • Imprint: Butterworth-Heinemann
  • eBook ISBN: 9780128043851
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780128043141

About the Authors

Chen Reis

Chen Reis JD, MPH is a Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the Humanitarian Assistance Program at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, where she teaches courses related to humanitarian assistance and advises students seeking to enter humanitarian professions. She was previously a technical officer at the World Health Organization with appointments in the departments of Gender and Women’s Health and Health Action in Crises. Ms. Reis also served as a Senior Research Associate with Physicians for Human Rights (USA) where her work included studies on sexual violence, HIV & AIDS, conflict & health, women’s rights and children’s rights. Ms. Reis is an expert on sexual violence in humanitarian settings and on humanitarian policy.

Affiliations and Expertise

Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the Humanitarian Assistance Program at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, CO, USA

Tania Bernath

Tania Bernath has worked in the international humanitarian aid field for over twenty years and holds an MA and a certificate in the Advanced Study of Evaluation. She has worked with and for a wide array of organizations as both staff and a consultant, including UN agencies such as UNOCHA, UNICEF, UNDP; donors such as UKAID and USAID; consulting firms such as Overseas Strategic Consulting and Avenir Analytics; and international organizations including Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, Medica Mondiale, Lutheran World Service, Save the Children, and the Norwegian Refugee Council. She has worked in both the international humanitarian aid and human rights sector in post conflict and emergency settings. The range of countries she has worked in includes: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Rwanda, Myanmar, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Burundi, Afghanistan, and more.

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