Become the change.
December 3, 2010 7:11 AM   Subscribe

Where to start on a new career path abroad (US citizen)? Opportunities have come up that will allow me to make a full change in my career and life. Looking at several options. Details Inside.

I own a small business, but have been offered a buy out from a family member and am debating a career change.

- 30 Year old Male.
- BA and part way through MBA.
- No debt obligations or anything holding me here.
- Well traveled, but very basic language skills (Spanish and Italian)
- Main skills include project management, and maintenance. Good with tools and hands.

For most of my life I have always wanted to live somewhere else and help people, and now that the opportunity is here, I'm not sure where to start. I was thinking about the Peace Corps, but was looking for something more permanent with a better pay scale. I do want to be in a field where I help other people. I've looked at several NGOs, but the vast amount of them has left me overwhelmed.

I really want a hands on in the field position. I'm also open to positions in the environmental field. Something that makes me feel like I'm making a difference.

I'm a little lost as to where to begin. Are there groups out there like the Peace Corps that pay, and offer a life career, not just a 2 year stint at a time?

I'm open to really any country. I would rather stay away from TEFL though.
posted by Tavern to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Peace Corps doesn't pay, of course you're right, but it often leads to interesting job opportunities. For instance, I just finished a stint with them and now work for MCC, in a job I never would have gotten with my pre-Peace Corps background. Not saying they should be your primary option, but if you find it difficult getting positions, it's something to re-consider at a later date.

If you're looking at continuing work with a business perspective, the key words in your search will be "social entrepreneurship," that's currently a buzzword, or buzzphrase, I guess, in the development community.

Have you looked into the USAID Foreign Service program?
posted by solotoro at 7:26 AM on December 3, 2010

The sad response to thia post is that you say you're thirty and that this is what you've always wanted to do, but your skill set is not very great in terms of your desires. An MBA is the dime-a-dozen degree (for its level) in much of the developing world, like in eastern Europe, where most similarly-educated people can handle three, four or five languages fluently. They're also going to work for a lot less than you (as an American) would, in all probability.

The positive side to things is that you're in a position of freedom without being fresh out of college. You have some real-life work experience in - based on your other posts - some sort of construction / maintanence work. You're unencumbered by debt, and may have a little money to fall back on. There are jobs out there which pay better than the Peace Corps, but your hopes of getting them are pretty weak. So frankly, I'd start thinking about this in terms of a five- to seven-year plan, not "how can I start making momey right away?"

I'd join the Peace Corps and suck it up for the two required years. I'd use that time to garner some language skills - you could gain fluency in two more languages easily, in that time in most places. I'd be working on bolstering my resume in terms of project management, dealing with NGO-style paperwork, that sort of thing. After two years, you'd have a shot gaining the sort of employment you want. Right now, your chances are realistically best in doing overseas labor for (say) a military contractor or something like, which doesn't sound like what you want.

In the long run, this plan would probably get you where you want to be mire quickly than most others, and the two years of relative deprivation you'd pay would be worth it . . . though to be honest, I doubt you would view them negatively afterwarda anyhow. Most Peace Corps volunteers absolutely loved their time in service.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:37 AM on December 3, 2010

A number of govt agencies recruit and hire MBAs. Try USAID.
posted by anniecat at 10:12 AM on December 3, 2010

Also, I've heard from a lot of former volunteers that dropped out that the Peace Corps was an awful experience. Obviously the ones who didn't died or have really positive things to say about it. But it doesn't pay.
posted by anniecat at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Something that makes me feel like I'm making a difference.

Be careful of this. Often times in most nonprofit jobs, you have to convince yourself you're making a difference because it's not obvious. It's not like you do x and suddenly you feel warm and gooey. You're better off sending $1000 a month to a homeless family or donating money to a scholarship fund. I work for a nonprofit and if I told you what I was doing today, it wouldn't sound like much. I would have to tell you how I'm helping indirectly. And the warm gooey feeling was replaced by a "Can I get a job with a hedge fund still?" about three years in. I'm actually a more cynical person than I was before "helping people."
posted by anniecat at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2010

You may want to look at a job in "Private Sector Development". The World Bank PSD Blog has interesting articles and links that may help you narrow down your interests.

For example you might want to apply to become an Acumen Fellow.

With many of these things you're going to need some experience in a developing country before you can land a job. So doing something like Peace Corps may be a step on the way to where you finally want to go.

I'd second anniecat's thought:

Often times in most nonprofit jobs, you have to convince yourself you're making a difference because it's not obvious.

It can be non-obvious for many reasons, including unfortunately all too often because you are in fact not making that much of a difference.

Given your skills, you might want to also think about the possibility of starting a business in a developing country, rather than doing non-profit work. By creating livelihoods for people and transferring your business skills, you would certainly be making a tangible difference.
posted by philipy at 11:07 AM on December 3, 2010

I just wanted to pop back in to say there are tons of fellowships and stuff through the govt and also through foundations (like the Ashoka foundation). Look up fellowships. Also, I don't know if it's too late, but you can apply to be a Presidential Management Fellow and possibly get placed at the agency of your choice, depending on their needs (I don't know if there's some kind of freeze in order for this program or not).
posted by anniecat at 12:39 PM on December 3, 2010

Hi there. I'm you and I've been on this path for a while. It's difficult as an MBA to get into this space, as far as I can tell, because much of the development world hasn't quite figured out what to do with the MBA skill set. The Endeavor eMBA program might be an awesome start, or MBAs without borders. Also the EMDAP program.

The trouble is a lot of agencies who might hire you want you to have had significant overseas experience already, to prove that you can do it. Which is why the Peace Corps graduates are so prominent in that space. And you're probably not going to be paid *very* well at first, because the competition for these entry level positions is really high.
posted by emkelley at 1:57 PM on December 3, 2010

We should chat. I have a somewhat similar background to yours, and I've been working in the field for a major NGO for a few years now. Its not all puppy dogs and ice cream, but then not many people can say they've lived and worked in the places I can. Memail me some contact options if your interested, I'd rather not go into all the sordid details here (and, since I'd rather not, for anyone reading this question in years to come, consider the invite to memail me extended to yourself as well).
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:47 AM on December 4, 2010

« Older Therapist recommendations in Charlotte, NC?   |   Traveling to Nicaragua in January. What should I... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.