Since the International NGO world is immensely varied, the first step towards breaking into the field begins with figuring out your personal goals and the identifying the specific work that you are interested in pursuing. Conduct a personal assessment of your interests and skills by asking yourself questions about whether you are willing to build international work experience, possess the essential language skills, or are able to meet the challenges of NGO work. Then, search through the various opportunities available in the field by reading books, such as the American Society of International Law’s Careers in International Law, or researching on the UN website for all the latest trends in these organizations.
After deciding that NGO work suits your career aspirations, it is important to begin learning more about the unique world by networking with individuals already in the field. Although many will begin their networking by email, it is essential to remember that those located in the developing world may not have access to reliable Internet connections to respond to emails. Always be sure to follow up all contacts with a phone call, fax, or even letter through the mail system to begin networking with people in your field of interest. In the correspondence, it is recommended that you introduce yourself, express your interests, discuss your experience, and ask for leads on any opportunities that may be available.
Depending on the particular mission or location of a NGO, there will be different expectations on what specific skills and experience will be necessary to gain employment. However, most international NGOs who are hiring attorneys often look for individuals who demonstrate a strong commitment to their career, possess some experience working in the non-profit sector, have extensive experience traveling abroad, are mature with good personal judgment or decision-making skills, and have proficiency in a relevant language. If you find yourself lacking in any one of these crucial skills, it is important to build your competence to effectively master languages and adapt to the foreign cultures of various backgrounds.
Finally, one of the most prominent ways to get into the international NGO field is through actually doing the work to gain valuable volunteer, clinical, or internship opportunities. While academic coursework is certainly important to developing knowledge of the work, employers expect to see how this classroom learning translates into actual practice. Throughout law school, it is highly recommended that individuals explore opportunities offered by the organizations partnered with their school to gain experience for a bright future in the international NGO field.