Five employers participated to the YPARD and Agrinatura Career Fair, held on 16, September 2014, on the sideline of the Tropentag at CULS (Czech University of Life Sciences), Prague. They were representing different stakeholders: the Czech NGO: "people in need", the GRET, Myelen: a microfinance/microcredit agency, Superior: a seed company in Serbia, IFAD: the International Fund for agricultural development. They mentioned about their own background and what they expect from Young Professionals (YPs). Here is some of their feedback.
“There is not such a thing like one general ideal profile.” The HR officer of “people in need” started. Combination of technical skills and understanding of the economic, political and sociologic environment is key, particularly in the context of NGOs. Go away from the perception of a crowd of Hippies having no idea of the context with the broad dream to “make a change”, her colleague added. “Years ago, the perception was that going on the field in Africa could "spoil" their CV; it ends up being useful experience.” Technical skills aren't enough - project management skills are crucial. For junior level, language, writing skills, text editing, proposal writing for donors and information research, such as project cycle management with knowledge of budget and administration are necessary. Being familiar to security issues are also a plus. Understanding of the context in which you work is a must – be it local or global. We search for a type of uniqueness; someone with practical knowledge or ability.
“Gain experience: don't be picky.”, the Micro Finance entrepreneur advised. Find jobs both in developing sector and in banking, for example, if you want to work in micro-finance. MF is baby finance. Diversify your experiences. Don't be afraid of being a "chaotic, disorganized Punk" – adopt different perspectives. All these experiences lead somewhere. In some context, you don't need any technical knowledge when you leave university; you need a set of soft skills you may not be able to learn at university - Be a team player, take care of people (like a nurse in a hospital). Have a strategy. Gather experience as soon as you can. Get connected to people. Make use of local knowledge if you focus on a specific geographic area. "Just do it!"
“Go to the field as soon as possible.” IFAD officer says. She is the Technical advisor to Country Managers to support youth programs in their national portfolios and better information & Knowledge management around young people empowerment. “PhD can be seen as a way of not entering the job market. Go out your comfort zone. Show a lot of flexibility: geographic mobility, in the type of work you can handle, in the thematic you are interested in. Sometimes, it is hard to know what you want to do; but know what you DON'T want to do. Soft skills are important: adapt to the cultural environment. Handle different languages; don't be shy - you can learn as you go. Stay open to opportunities.
Also, take time to be with family, she added. What makes a good professional is a happy professional. Family enables this, especially for women, IFAD officer says. Practice for your interviews. Be yourself. What makes a difference is you! Believe in Luck. It is also about being at the good place at the good moment. Believe in yourself. We often perceive ourselves weaker than we are. Be a visionary, a decision maker, a negotiator, a project manager; be innovative, be facilitator of change. Don't hesitate to mention your passions or experience you gain outside professional experiences on your CV. Go for bigger experiences; gain management experience in the field.”
Picture credit: Business man modified, by Henk L.