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Working in an NGO – Challenges and Useful Tips

One of the most common ways to have a positive influence on the planet and society is to devote most of your time to trying to find ways to solve issues that affect the world on a daily basis. It’s with this end goal in mind that an increasingly high number of people decide to pursue a career in a Non-governmental organisation.

While at first this path can seem enticing and easily pursuable, there are many challenges that come with choosing such a career.

Although the number of NGOs across the world is very high and there seem to be plenty to choose from, it must be noted that landing a job in an NGO can be very tough. Every non-governmental organisation works just like any other organisation, therefore in their recruitment process they generally look for specialised people in each sector, with a certain set of skills that go along well with the tasks that each particular sector is supposed to carry out.

Setting your priorities and deciding what type of NGO to work for is of crucial importance. It’s very common to be attracted and drawn into this world by the idea of having an impact on society, but that can be very generic as well. So, figuring out the most important cause and focusing your efforts is a necessary step towards landing a job in an NGO.

Having actual skills also helps. Language skills are a huge bonus, and in this case, the more the better. It’s hugely helpful when you’re able to communicate in more than two languages. And especially if you’re stationed in African countries or in the Arabian Peninsula, languages can vary drastically from one neighbourhood to the other, and therefore linguistic adaptability is essential.

On this note, being able to adapt not only to a different language but to a whole different culture is a fundamental trait of any NGO employee. Adapting your projects and your world view to tailor the needs of people who live a completely different life than what you are familiar with is a necessary step on the ladder that leads to your projects and goals success.

When speaking to NGO employees and leaders of projects in various non-profit organisations, what they’ll always stress is the importance of being able to work in a team and enjoy the process of interacting with people from different organisations to pick up interesting ideas and compare the work that’s being done in a particular field.
Good networking and coordination skills are the main traits of a great NGO worker and team leader.

If you’re unsure of which NGO to apply for or what line of work to choose to begin, a really good idea to clear your mind up and help you learn how to interact with others is undoubtedly to volunteer (for example for a project such as Euro Babble). Volunteering, aside from being a very rewarding activity, can help you gain useful skills and also understand if a career spent helping others is right for you and doesn’t take too much of a toll on your mental health status, which can be heavily affected by the workload and deadlines that working in an NGO can involve.

If the burden of deadlines and neverending workload becomes unbearable, then working in an NGO is not for you. Being an employee in a non-profit involves being capable of facing challenges head on and with a critical approach that cannot be undermined by a few tough breaks. In order to succeed, it’s crucial to stay committed and not set yourself (and others around you) unrealistic expectations, as they can become detrimental to your motivation and take a toll on your team spirit.

It’s not easy to change the world, but it can be done, one step at a time.

Nicola Clothier
Nicola Clothier is CEO of Accurity GmbH, a Swiss-based employment service provider. Nicola has an Honours degree in English Literature from Stirling University and more than 20 years’ experience in Swiss employment, and personnel leasing up to executive level throughout Europe.
https://www.accurity.ch/

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