There is a gnawing need inside, a pull to do more, to have an impact, to make a difference. For some of us, this means finding a humanitarian job—helping people who have been struck by disaster or misfortune.
Sometimes, it is hard to sit by and just watch the earthquakes, floods, famine and war unfurl on the news.
Humanitarian jobs—paying or volunteer—are often reserved for seasoned professionals so if you do not have any experience, you will be fighting uphill.
What kind of person can fill a humanitarian job? The requirements vary.
Age is no barrier. Young people and university graduates may want some foreign or field experience before settling down at home; retirees may feel ready for a new challenge; mid-career breaks are becoming more common.
Personality is key. Some of the qualities you will need to display include tolerance, cultural sensitivity, patience, openness and altruism. I find a decisive trait involves a sense of humor. Working in emergencies is highly stressful and you need the ability to relax—laughing helps.
You also need to be able to handle it. Disasters are rife with stories of newbies showing up, throwing up, and shipping out. If you swoon at the sight of blood or cry at the drop of a pin, this type of work is not for you. Finding aid workers with a combination of thick skin and compassion is always a challenge and some agencies report a 90% staff turnover in the first 30 days of a disaster.
Your profession is probably needed—somewhere. Here are just some of the professions needed by humanitarian agencies: teaching, management, IT, telecommunications, veterinary science, any medical field, secretarial, engineering, social work, driving, writing, therapy, security, logistics, architecture, media, finance, first aid… and this just scratches the surface. A caveat though—these skills are not needed everywhere, nor all they needed all the time.