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When applying for a university degree or a job in international development, your personal statement is one of the most important parts of the application.
Your personal statement gives you a chance to explain your reasons for wanting to work in or study international development, and so getting it right can be crucial to progressing in your development career. With that said, what are the key things to include in an international development personal statement?
A personal statement for an international development job or course should show why you want to work in development, that you have the skills the sector needs and that you’re aware of the major trends in international development. You also should include previous work experience and study, and show your interest in current global events.
But with university degrees and international development job applications giving only limited space for your personal statement, how best are you to a personal statement for the strongest application possible?
Show Why You Want to Work in International Development
Whether for an application for a university degree in international development, or for a job in the humanitarian and development sector, your personal statement needs to highlight why you are motivated to work assisting people affected by poverty, war and disasters.
Ensure your motivations for wanting to study or work in international development are personal to you, and are made clear in your statement.
Reflect on genuine experiences and your own thoughts around how international development can improve the world for the most vulnerable. Focus on why these motivate you to work in international in your personal statement.
As well as making clear your personal motivations for wanting to study or work in international development in your personal statement, is it also important to highlight your longer-term career aims. Demonstrate your immediate, mid-term and eventual international development career goals in your personal statement.
Focus on broad international development areas, as well as macro issues that specifically interest you, such as humanitarian aid, development, the environment or global health. Your international development personal statement should show your commitment to long-term study or work in the development and humanitarian industries.
Alongside showing your motivation and career goals for international development, your personal statement needs to be focused on specific jobs, functions and areas of international development that interest you.
Where-as before you detailed the broad areas of international development you are interested in, your personal statement also needs to include details.
Although you can list specific international development roles or further study you are aiming for, your personal statement can explain how functions such as ‘humanitarian logistics’, ‘renewable energy research’ or ‘community development’ are you aims.
By including specifics goals in your personal statement, it shows your knowledge of the of the international development industry as well as why the course or job you are applying for will help you get there.
International Development Online Courses
If you are looking to study or work in international development, taking an online short course can be a great way to boost your application. We highly recommend the course Management of International Development: Towards Agenda 2030. It looks at the current international development model as well as the trends that will be key to global development in the near future. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.
We also think the online course Sustainable Development in the 21st Century by Yonsei University to be one of the best for those interested in international development. Delivered by former UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, the online course would be a great addition to the personal statement of anyone looking to study or work in international development. The link is to the course’s page.
If you are interested in the practical methods used on international development projects, we recommend the online course How To Design & Fund International Development NGO Projects. The course teaches students the tools needed to establish and run impactful development projects. Click the link to visit the course’s page for more information.
Demonstrate You Have the Skills for International Development
International development is a competitive industry. When applying for jobs or study, it is important your personal statement shows you have the skills required for international development work.
There are several crucial skills relevant to international development that your personal statement should demonstrate and the first is being able to face challenges. Jobs and research in international development often require working in difficult and remote locations abroad for extended periods of time, whilst solving complex local, and global, issues.
Be sure to demonstrate how you have overcome challenges in your personal statement for international development.
Another key skill needed in the international development industry you should show through your personal statement is being organised. As with showing how you overcome challenges, be sure to give good examples of times where you have used personal organisation and team work to achieve aims in your personal statement.
Ideally, make the examples as relevant to international development work as possible, and avoid simply stating you have good organisation skills – detail a time you used those skills to achieve a result. You can include a number of short anecdotes in your international development personal statement to show you have the skills the industry needs.
Problem solving is also a very important skill to have when working in or conducting research for international development.
Your personal statement for international development courses or jobs should explore how you have overcome problems by giving strong examples. As before, the example of your problem-solving skills in your personal statement should be as closely related to international development as possible.
However, if you are applying for a bachelor’s degree and/or don’t have any experience, highlight that you know problem solving and other skills are needed in international development and then demonstrate your skills through a different example. Doing this also helps your personal statement to show you have a good understanding of skills needed in the international development industry.
The final skill you should show in your international development personal statement is working with people from other cultures and backgrounds.
International development work and university courses are made up of people from all over the world. It is important to show in your personal statement that you can work well with different people. Make sure you highlight you understand this is a key part of international development work in your personal statement through actual examples and demonstrate times you have worked in a multi-cultural team taking ideas from many different world views.
Show an Understanding of International Development
When writing a personal statement for an international development job or university degree, it is important to show that you have researched and have a good understanding of the industry.
Firstly, your personal statement should demonstrate you know the current big trends in international development. Make sure you are following some major international development organisations and reading some of the latest books and articles.
By including reference to the current international development trends that are relevant to your area of interest in your personal statement you are showing you understand the international development industry.
As well as including reference to some the major longer-term trends in international development in your personal statement, it is also important to reference important current events relevant to aid and development.
Global events have a major impact on international development work and it is important your personal statement explains how you see these events affect the industry and your choice of work or study. Exploring current events and their impact on international development in your personal statement is a good way to show your understanding the development industry.
Another good way to show that you understand international development work in your personal statement is to include reference to the major organisations, donors and key figures in the development industry. Link this to the specific job or course you are applying for, but including details of relevant actors in the development industry is a good way to show your international development knowledge in your personal statement.
Ensure you have done thorough research on the organisation, course and high-level staff where you are applying for and include this in your international development personal statement.
A final area of skills it is important to demonstrate when writing a personal statement for international development work or study is computer skills. Like all modern industries, international development professionals need to be skilled in using programmes such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Access.
Be sure to clearly state your computer competencies in your international development personal statement. If you have additional tech or computer skills, include these too, as international development work and courses can use a wide range of technologies.
Detail Your Relevant International Development Experiences
Your personal statement for an international development job or university degree should highlight the relevant experiences you have completed related to the development industry. There are several ways your personal statement can this.
Firstly, include any international development work experience you have. This can be previous international development jobs or internships if you have completed them. If not, include relevant jobs as way to demonstrate the key skills relevant to the international development industry as discussed above.
As well as detailing any professional international development or related work experience you have in your personal statement, it is good to include volunteering experience related to international development.
Many people interested in a career in the development sector complete short-term volunteer trips around the world to gain experience. However, be sure to volunteer with a reputable volunteer agency and do your research.
Although international development volunteering can be good on your personal statement, the development industry is turning away from ‘volutourism’.
Another important aspect to include in your international development personal statement is any volunteering you have done locally. Don’t feel that you need to volunteer abroad to get relevant international development experience.
Actually, volunteering locally, especially with groups working with refugees and migrants in your home community can, be really beneficial for your international development personal statement. Be sure to also include any volunteering you have done even if it is not directly related to international development, as this can also show a lot of the attitudes and skilled needed for development work.
Connect Your Previous Study to International Development
If you’re applying for a degree or job in international development and writing a personal statement, you should include details of your previous studies.
Firstly, include any previous university courses you have done in your personal statement. Including university degrees in your personal statement can show your dedication to working or further study in the development field, as well as your ability to apply yourself to rigorous research.
Ideally your previous study was relevant to international development. If not, still include them, as they show your level of academic qualifications.
Another good area of previous study to include in your personal statement for international development is any short or online courses you have completed.
There are a large number of development organisations providing quality courses in a wide range of development fields and taking these is a great way to gain a strong understanding of international development. Taking online and short courses to include in your personal statement also shows your dedication to development work. Including online and short courses in your personal statement can be especially good if your previous university degree was not in a subject related to international development.
When including your studies in your personal statement, it is important to show what you have learnt and how it applies to international development.
Avoid simply listing qualifications and short courses. Rather, describe how these have informed your understanding of international development in your personal statement.
It is also good to show how your studies have encouraged you to work in international development, as well as how they have influenced your choices of specific development areas. Your personal statement could also include how your studies have changed your view of development work and international development issues.
Engage with World Events and International Development
International development work, study and research is highly influenced by current world events.
When writing a personal statement for international development, be sure to convey your knowledge and understanding of what is happening globally. Showing you are engaged with the world is crucial to international development so your personal statement needs to demonstrate this.
It is also important your personal statement links current events directly to international development work. It can be good to show in your personal statement how world events have influenced your choice to work in or study international development.
Another good way to show your understanding of the world and engagement in international development in your personal statement is including your travels.
Although you should include any volunteer trips, it can also be beneficial to include personal trips you have made in your statement. Crucially, link these to development work and explain how they have influenced your understanding of the world and global development.
You do not need to have travelled to developing countries, including your own explorations and how they have influenced your thinking around development can demonstrate an engagement with the world in your personal statement.
A good point to ensure is included in your international development personal statement is your engagement with news media and journalism. As it is important to show your understanding of current world events in your international development personal statement, so ensure you include how and where you learn about world events.
Convey that digesting news and keeping informed of events, especially is areas of the world less covered by mainstream media, is important to you. This can be important in a personal statement for international development.