The I.M.P.A.C.T. Email
This is a fun email for Friday January 28th, 2022. Hope you like it 🙂
This past month, I have now applied to 9 consulting opportunities in development. Many deadlines have yet to pass, and usually it takes 2-4 weeks to hear back if you’re shortlisted.
So I was a bit surprised to hear back so quickly from 1 recent application…
Yesterday morning I woke up to an invitation to interview email:
Now, in all, I spent about 15 minutes on this job application:
- I analyzed the Terms of Reference (ToR)
- Did some quick research on the hiring team via Google
- Identified the main things they were looking for in a candidate (and why they were hiring for a consultant to fill their needs)
- Tailored a proven CV to the new post
- Proofread everything
- Clicked submit
But don’t let those 15 minutes fool you!
I spent THOUSANDS of hours on applications throughout my career. This is both as a candidate, but also as a hiring manager on the inside.
There are a few tricks to preparing an application fast, but there’s no substitute for putting in the work.
The biggest “secret” is using PROVEN application materials.
After years doing this, I have a long list of winning (and losing!) job applications.
At this point, I have around 5 “templates” I use for the main types of consulting projects I apply for:
- Gender analysis and strategy development
- M&E and data analysis
- Editing, drafting and writing
- Research design and communications
When I go to apply to a new opportunity, I have a strong record of applications to pull from — that have been PROVEN to work.
I have experimented with CV styles, fun fonts, creative shadings, long version, short versions – all of the things. And over time, I found what works for me.
So today, I have to put in the smaller amount of effort to tweak and tailor my winning job applications to the new assignment.
It has been great to receive your feedback on what makes you passionate about working in global development.
If you’ve written in to share your ideas with me, you would have seen me write you back with input on what I call your “passion statement.”
This is a short sentence or two you can use in your cover letters, CVs and even in emails to meet new people in the field.
One reader in Nigeria wrote back with their feedback:
I thought that was a great start! And offered a few tips to reflect on how to sharpen this based on what organization they might be applying to.
This past week, we visited an old part of Atlanta we used to live in called East Atlanta Village. It’s known to be a cultural melting pot where many musicians, artists and writers hang out.
We found some new murals in remembrance of George Floyd and the movement that was sparked nearly two years ago:
Everyday, I receive job alerts that match the key words in the type of consulting opportunities I’m interested in.
Since Monday, I’ve received 296 matches.
Every night when I receive these, I review the emails, read the ToRs, and organize the ones I want to apply to in Evernote, a note organizing app.
Usually I’m on my phone doing this, so this way in the morning I can access the saved notes in my computer to start preparing my applications.
Most of my work is either in the so-called LDCs or FRACAS countries.
LDCs, or least developed countries, are a UN classification based on income, assets, and economic and environmental vulnerability, listing 46 or so countries that qualify for special financing and other support. There is also an LDC graduation process that then allows graduate countries access to a new set of financing and support opportunities.
FRACAS countries — fragile and conflict-affected states — is a term with no clear criterion, but they often hold weak health and education systems, face violent conflict, or experience other forms of instability.
Right now, I work on projects in South Sudan, Darfur, and Pakistan.
As LDCs and FRACAS countries, one of the things that is difficult to understand is how these countries can further develop and find ways to resolve violent conflict and develop liberal democratic governance systems.
One book I started reading years ago when it was published that takes a long historical view to address these questions is: Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order.
Fukuyama’s book explores how states the world over developed around a Big Man in a society who could give resources or prestige in the exchange for power, and how institutions for the rule of law and holding states accountable to its citizens emerged over thousands of years.
In search of research ideas, programme inputs and others strategies I could use in my work, I restarted an intense study of this book to see if there is anything more I could help pull into these projects.
One of the most common ideas I always hear about working in the global development sector is, You MUST know someone.
I heard it as I looked to break into development and hear it everyday now.
Here’s what I know in nearly 20 years of work in the sector:
Knowing others helps, but it’s no replacement for developing your expertise, studying how organizations work and think, and connecting your background to the new work at hand.
Why do I say this?
Because today I know hundreds of colleagues in several organizations around the world — many of whom have wanted to hire me in their new projects.
And this has worked just as often as it has NOT worked.
In all instances, I have had to apply and compete with others and still put in the work to outshine them.
As I reflected on that this week, I started wondering whether networking is just like job applications.
There’s no short cut. No guarantees. It’s just a complementary tool to use as you grow your impact career.
In both, you have to do the hard work of building your skills AND make them useful to what organizations do. That second part is what most people miss.
Hope you enjoyed these few ideas this week, have a great weekend!
Chris – ImpactGrowthLab.com