Impact paths Jobs talk

Anatomy of a perfect job application

In my first job in the UN system, the department I worked in underwent what they called a “functional review”.

The idea was that the “functions” of core positions needed to get reviewed and mapped against new ideas.

This many years later, I still don’t fully know what the catalyst for the functional review was. I think it had to do with bigger institutional changes and the interest senior managers may have had to get rid of old staff and bring in some new ones. (That didn’t really happen in the end, but at least one senior up got put out to pasture.)

Now, the functional review resulted in a months-long process: ToRs (terms of reference, or job descriptions) for all FTA (fixed-term appointment) contract holders had to be reviewed, updated, readvertised, interview shortlists created, interviews scheduled, and offers made.

What this meant in practice was everyone had to interview for their jobs again.

Just starting out in my career, I was appointed as the note taker and interview report writer for all 24 jobs. At first, I was disappointed as I wanted to focus technical work and analysis of development statistics. But this experience proved to be one of the most powerful I’ve had in my career.

Each role had a minimum of 3 people interviewed, which means over the course of a few weeks, I was a fly on the wall for well over 70 interviews.

Here’s what few with this experience ever share about applying to top global development jobs.

Impact paths

How to “network” in global development

A student in my flagship program, Break Into Development, recently completed the full program.

In Break Into Development, I don’t talk about “networking”.

That’s always felt like a foreign concept to me.

I’m definitely among the introverts in the sector – and always found it hard to fulfill what everyone describes as “networking”: like there is a magic sequence of words that will land you a dream job in global development.

Now, knowing people is IMMENSELY useful in growing you global development impact career.

It can lead to opportunities, new insights, and fresh ideas.

But make no mistake, even if I have received a few assignments because I know people…

If I wasn’t the most qualified person applying – I would NOT get hired.

In fact, the times in my experience that I most relied on contacts for a job – I was out-competed by others. When I focused on “networking” too much, I missed something important about the job, the ToR, and in demonstrating to the hiring managers what I could bring to the work.

The true value of “networking” in global development becomes easier to see when you shift those terms and reframe your approach.

“Authentic relationship building”—that is key.

Impact paths

Four career paths to advance women’s rights


Right now, global development has the unique chance to build on the momentum of #MeToo and the changes within UN agencies and NGOs to eliminate sexual harassment, abuse and other forms of gender-based discrimination.

One of the early achievements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been to make clear that progress on SDG 5 to Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women — is not only progress for women, but it’s about progress for everyone.

Four career paths can help you make your contribution to eliminating gender inequality.