Where does a Human Rights & Social Movements major find work without prior experience?
March 24, 2007 12:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm an International Relations: Human Rights and Social Movements major graduating next year.What should I do to find a job/ earn experience in this field that doesn't involve just filing papers? This is quite a new major at my Uni, and therefore, doesn't have a solid or thorough post-graduation resource bank, so to say.

I usually just tell people I'll work for Amnesty or UNICEF, but those are hard to get into due to my lack of experience. I also can't go to grad school yet, because most Intl Programs require experience...again the vicious circle. I've spent countless hours online searching for programs and organizations, but don't know where to look besides the most prominent names such as the two above and PeaceCorps.

Background/maybe helpful info:
-Willing to live anywhere in the USA and most countries abroad
-Currently living abroad in Germany, therefore have German language skills.
-Interested in prevention of sex trafficking, children & womens rights, refugees, homeless, reducing poverty ( aka saving the world)
posted by Etta Hollis to Education (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What about helping the groups you mention above in your home community, or in your city in Germany? There are bound to be local organizations that deal with poverty, the homeless, and women's and children's rights.

Their projects will not be large-scale or world-spanning, but they will almost certainly have great competency dealing with locally relevant issues, and you'll get valuable experience actually connecting with the people your work is helping, which might not be the case if you're working with a much larger organization like Oxfam or Amnesty.

Here are (just a few) organizations from and near the place I went to college - Santa Cruz, CA, population 60,000:

Barrios Unidos
Walnut Avenue Women's Center
Triangle Speakers
Court Appointed Special Advocates

Check out idealist.org and volunteermatch.org as well - some good places to look for nonprofit/charity/development-based jobs and internships.
posted by mdonley at 12:37 PM on March 24, 2007

Check out AWID. As a student, you can become a member for free. You can sign up for email notifications that will let you know about jobs, training programs, and international graduate studies programs.
posted by carmen at 1:49 PM on March 24, 2007

There are hundreds of human rights organizations dedicated to children throughout the US that you could work for. Do you have some idea of an area that you would like to live in? Urban or rural? Do you have monetary constraints? Can you work pro bono for the benefit of life experience or do you need to pay the bills too?

I would say, given your language skills and your interest in human rights, that you look into working for the UN in Geneva. Most of the human rights bodies are based there (as are many of the orgs dedicated to HR like the ICRC, WHO, etc.) and you would fit into the Swiss culture nicely with your ability to speak German. (Geneva is a diplomat's city, so it's not mandatory that you speak anything other than English, but people will think better of you becasue you do.)
posted by B-squared at 1:53 PM on March 24, 2007

If you want to do international development work, you need to find a way to spend time internationally. If you want to work in developed countries, your time in Europe is all you need (assuming that you are from the US or Canada). If you want to work on issues affecting developing countries, you need to spend a couple of years in a developing country. How or where doesn't so much matter as does just doing it. So if that is the direction you are interested in, start applying to the Peace Corps / VOS / GTZ / whatever you have the right citizenship and interests to qualify for, or any of a million NGOs. Religious options are ok, but might be looked at less favorably in secular organizations.
posted by Forktine at 2:05 PM on March 24, 2007

Check out AmeriCorps. They have a zillion programs in the US. The pay typically amounts to volunteer work, but it will get you experience. I work with a few who people who did the program. The majority of their coworkers were late teens to mid 20s and looking for a) work experience to make a living b) find some direction in life or c) do somthing interesting before grad school. Their website database is online and fairly accessible.

I have another good friend in a similar situation, and she had no problem getting help from the department in suggestions of places to look at so you might want to check there.
posted by jmd82 at 7:16 PM on March 24, 2007

With just a BA, it might be tough to find work.

1. Do you have any other language skills that might be more applicable in a developing country? Arabic? Chinese? Russian? If not, start learning one ASAP.

2. You're probably going to have to do at least a year of working for free to break into development work and chances are that you'll need to work at smaller organizations before you can work at big ones. Have you applied to any internships through BOND?

3. You will be best off if you spend some time interning/studying in developing countries. People without in-country experience are sort of looked down upon in the development field.

This previous AskMe may be helpful.

Getting a job in the US isn't a real strong possibility. Most US orgs won't hire foreigners without some major skills.
posted by k8t at 3:38 AM on March 27, 2007

Vienna, Austria is probably an excellent place to look. Your German skills will come in handy, it would be relatively easy for you to visit for interviews, and there is a plethora of international orgs with large presences here (mostly due to the UN's secondary hq).
posted by syzygy at 6:09 AM on March 27, 2007

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