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Many people want to work for NGOs. It can be a fantastic career working to help people all around the world affected by crises, conflicts, and disasters. However, the NGO sector can be notoriously difficult to get started in. Looking at many NGO job adverts and they will ask for many years of previous work experience. However, there are actually several jobs in the sector you can get without any previous experience… read on to find out more.
An NGO job that it’s possible to get without previous experience is a Warehouse Assistant.
NGO’s have warehouses to keep the stocks of aid supplies safe and secure. Warehouses are a key part of many NGOs operations and large NGOs can have enormous facilities. The job of the Warehouse Assistant is to provide day-to-day support for the operation of the NGOs warehouse.
As the most junior position within the warehouse team, you do not always need prior professional experience to get a job as a Warehouse Assistant with an NGO.
If you would like to work as a Warehouse Assistant in an NGO, consider doing a qualification in supply chain management or warehouse management. Most NGOs will hire Warehouse Assistants who have a technical understanding of how warehouses should operate, but often don’t have previous work experience.
The Warehouse Assistant is usually managed by the Warehouse Officer. In smaller NGO’s they may be managed by the Logistics Officer.
A second type of NGO job you can get without previous work experience is as an intern.
Many NGOs hire interns to provide support to their teams. In some NGOs the intern may work across multiple departments, often providing administrative support. In most NGO however, interns are hired for a specific technical function and will be responsible for delivering a set piece of work.
In exchange for working for an NGO, interns gain valuable professional experience within the NGO sector. Interns are not expected to have prior work experience and so it is a job you can get with an NGO even if you are straight out of college.
There are both paid and unpaid internship positions across the NGO sector. Most NGO internships are for a designated period of time. Taking an internship with an NGO can be a great way to get your first professional experience working in the sector. They are also a great role to apply for if you haven’t worked for an NGO before.
A third job you can get with an NGO without previous experience is as a driver.
Almost all NGOs hire drivers. NGO drivers are dedicated to providing transport for NGO staff as needed. This is often to and from the office to project locations, or between field bases. NGO drivers may also collect supplies as they arrive in the country or visit local markets to buy items the NGO needs. Drivers in the NGO sector are also responsible for maintaining their vehicles, including getting gas and completing routine repairs.
You often do not need previous experience to work as a driver for an NGO. Some NGOs will look for drivers who have previously worked outside the NGO sector, such as a chaffier or delivery driver, but in some locations, they may hire local people who come recommended as drivers.
Drivers in the NGO sector can either be hired as permanent staff, or as a ‘daily worker’. This will depend on the needs of the NGO and their budget.
Another job in the NGO sector you can get without experience is a Field Assistant.
In the NGO sector, field bases are the location where the NGO implements their programmes. This is opposed to coordination bases or HQs, where support staff are based but projects are not actually ran. The job of the Field Assistant can be broad – they can be tasked with providing day-to-day admin work across the field base or have a dedicated project that they provide assistance to.
As one of the most junior roles in an NGO field base, you usually do not need prior work experience to get a job as a Field Assistant. However, you will likely need a university degree and be able to demonstrate some knowledge and understanding of humanitarian and development work.
If you are especially interested in working with NGOs on the frontline, directly providing aid to people in need, apply to work as a Field Assistant. As you don’t need to have previous work experience to get the job, it can be a great way to begin a career in the NGO sector.
NGO Online Courses
If you are looking to work for an NGO, we highly recommend the online course International Humanitarian and Development Careers. We think it provides one of the best overviews of the NGO sector and gives a clear breakdown of the skills needed to get an NGO job. It also provides valuable information on how to successful apply for positions within NGOs. Click the link to be taken to the course’s page.
We also think the online course Introduction to NGO Management is a must for anyone wanting to work for an NGO. It goes over how NGOs operate and introduces students to the unique aspects of the NGO sector they will need to know in order to land a job. Follow the link for more information.
Another online course we highly recommend for those wanting to join the NGO sector is How To Design and Fund International Development NGO Projects. Anyone working for an NGO needs a basic understanding of how NGO projects are set-up, and how to input to funding proposals. This course is a must for those wanting to work for an NGO. Click the link to get more information on the course.
A further position that can be got in the NGO sector if you don’t have any experience is as a Logistics Assistant.
The logistics department in an NGO is responsible for procuring, storing and moving the supplies the organisation needs both for its field projects and its own operation. The most junior logistics role in the NGO sector is Logistics Assistant. Often you don’t need any previous work experience to get a job as a Logistics Assistant.
The job of a Logistics Assistant in an NGO is to provide support to the logistics team. This can be completing records and files, paying invoices, getting quotations, liaising with suppliers, or collecting supplies from the market. In many NGOs the logistics assistant will also manage the drivers and have some responsibility for the fleet of vehicles.
You usually don’t need to have held a job in the NGO sector, or in the private or public sectors, to get a job as logistics assistant. However, you will need some knowledge of humanitarian logistics or supply chain management, so a relevant degree or qualification is often sought.
The role of Project Administrator is another position you can get in most NGOs without having previous work experience.
Project Administrators in the NGO sector provide day-to-day admin support to either a specific project or a department. Their tasks can include booking meetings, taking minutes, arranging travel, paying invoices, arranging train venues and supplies, and acting as a general PA. As an entry-level position in the NGO sector, you do not usually need experience to get a job as a Project Administrator.
In some smaller NGOs Project Administrators have a wide range of tasks, in larger NGOs Project Administrators may have a dedicated function, such as working solely arranging travel or assisting with the running of an ongoing training programme.
Although you do not need previous work experience to get a job as Project Administrator in most NGOs, you will almost always need to have completed a university degree, often to master’s level.
The job of Community Mobilizer is a common NGO position that can be got without previous experience.
NGOs work in crises affected communities to deliver aid. The role of Community Mobilizer is to work within the community to help them better advocate for their needs. This can mean being the bridge between the NGOs working in an area and the community or helping the community to talk to local or national governments about how they can better be assisted.
Community Mobilizers are usually hired without previous NGO experience. The most important criteria NGOs look for when recruiting Community Mobilizers is their position within the community and their knowledge of it’s make-up and needs. Connections with local government may also be important for a Community Mobilizer. However, formal previous work experience is not often sought by NGOs when hiring Community Mobilizers.
All NGO’s have fundraising teams. Most have the position of Fundraising Volunteer, which you can get without having experience.
Fundraising is one of the most important parts of an NGO. Humanitarian organisations need to raise funds in order to run their projects and support their operations. Many NGO fundraising teams will recruit volunteers to assist them. Often Fundraising Volunteers don’t need to have previous experience in order to be recruited.
In the NGO sector, Fundraising Volunteers can do a range of tasks, including planning fundraising campaigns, assisting at fundraising events, liaising with financial supporters of the NGO, and providing admin support to the fundraising team. Fundraising Volunteers for most NGOs do not work full-time but provide support when they’re needed. As a volunteer position, usually Fundraising Volunteers are not paid, although will have expenses covered.
If you want to work for NGOs in fundraising, consider starting as a volunteer. It can be a great way to get your career started as you don’t need prior work experience.
Cultural Meditator (Translator)
Another position you can get with an NGO often without previous experience is a cultural mediator.
NGOs run projects assisting communities affected by conflicts, poverty, and disasters. Often, they deploy people into crises that are not of the same culture as those affected. Large scale emergencies can also include people from many different ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups. NGOs hire Cultural Mediators to assist with bridging the gaps between the NGO staff and the community they’re serving, or between community groups being assisted by an NGOs project.
Essentially Cultural Mediators in the NGO sectors are very similar to translators. Often, they work translating people talking or text that is written between languages. However, the role of cultural mediator is also to ensure that peoples cultural norms and understandings are included in how an NGO works.
Usually, you don’t need prior work experience to become a Cultural Mediator for an NGO. Cultural Mediators are often recruited from the community the NGO is working with. Language skills are needed however, including often strong written and spoken English.
One position that can be got in the NGO sector without previous experience is that of Admin Assistant.
Like in the private and public sectors, Admin Assistants in an NGO are responsible for providing day-to-day administrative support. This can be to a single senior member of staff, such as department head or CEO, or to a specific team.
Admin Assistants in the NGO sector are often tasked with maintaining records and databases, resolving minor IT issues, managing petty cash, arranging flights and visas, and drafting documents. They can also take on ad hoc tasks as needed, meaning the role often adapts to the requirements of the staff or team being supported.
To work as an Admin Assistant for an NGO you usually don’t need to have previous experience. However, you will need to demonstrate good organisational and problem-solving skills. You will also almost always need a university degree, either in administration, finance, or humanitarian and development management.
Watchmen (Security Guard)
Many NGO hire watchmen and security guards and it is another job you can get in the sector without previous experience.
NGOs often work in dangerous and insecure environments. They also often have many valuable assets on their premises, including aid supplies in the warehouse as well as computers, phones and cash stored in the office. The accommodation where NGO staff stay can also be at risk of burglary or intrusion.
Almost all NGOs in the field hire guards or watchmen. Their job is to secure the NGOs premises, including keeping watch, signing-in guests, taking deliveries and monitoring CCTV. Often NGO watchmen will also assist with minor repairs if needed, and sometimes double as drivers during evenings and weekends.
You usually do not need prior work experience to get a job as a watchman for an NGO. Being part of the community where the NGO works is often the main criteria.
A final job in the NGO sector you can get without experience is as a Finance Assistant.
Finance Assistants work in the finance department of an NGO providing administrative support. They are often responsible for processing invoices, holding petty cash, paying supplies, completing payroll, and providing administrative assistance to the wider finance team
The job of Finance Assistant in an NGO is an entry-level position. Therefore, you are not required to have previous professional experience in order to apply. However, you will likely need a formal qualification in finance or accounting, such as a degree.
In some smaller NGOs, or at field base level, the role of Finance Assistant is combined with the position of HR Assistant. This is either called the Finance-HR Assistant or Admin Assistant. In these roles finance tasks are combined with support to the human resources team. Even when these positions are combined, it’s not common for NGOs to require significant previous work experience.
If you want more information on how to work for an NGO, explore our list of the top NGO online courses here.