Entry Points for Anthropologists in International Development Consulting

by Mari Clarke

Experience working in development organizations is very important: the more the better.  If paid opportunities are not immediately available, you can volunteer, pursue internships, or assist in university-based international development contracts.

Your resume must reflect experience and expertise relevant to development work.  Begin with your resume with any development-related experience and skills. Move your degrees and research to the end. Revise your resume each time you apply for a new consulting opportunity, highlighting experience and skills relevant for the position.

Networking  and self-marketing are essential  to finding opportunities in development consulting. Cultivate faculty and fellow graduate connections; engage with professional organizations; attend talks and workshops; join social networks and participate in e-discussion groups; and stay in touch with former clients in development organizations.

Prepare a two-minute “elevator speech” that clearly and concisely states the key skills, experience  and professional goals that you can offer in order to market yourself  during conversations after meetings or workshops, during cocktail parties, in the hallway, or, yes, in the elevator.

Join and participate actively in practitioner organizations.   These include anthropological groups such as NAPA, SfAA, WAPA, and relevant sector-specific sections of the American Anthropological Association (medical, legal, education, environmental, etc.) and  international development organizations  such as the Society for International Development (SID) and InterAction (a coalition of NGOs),  as well as the professional associations in sectors in which you work, such as the International Health Section of the Public Health Association.

Conduct informational interviews with development anthropologists working in areas of interest to you. Seek advice and additional contacts, but do not push for job opportunities. Before the interview, conduct internet research on the agency and the work of the anthropologist as a basis for crafting thoughtful questions.

Search the web for information about development agencies and opportunities. Use the links provided in Box 1 below, “Types of Organizations Engaged in International Development”, which lead to additional links.

Sign up with free development job clearinghouses. Groups such as DEVEX [www.devex.com] and DevNetJOBS  [DevNetJobs.org] offer free job opportunity listings. A membership fee with DEVEX entitles you to participate in social networking happy hours with employers in international development.

An additional degree or skills training in a development-related field expands avenues for entry into development work. Consider a Masters or higher degree in a development-oriented field that will complement your anthropological skills and knowledge (international relations, education, public health, environment, law, business, conflict resolution, etc.).

The three boxes below contain resource tables with additional information and links. (links to come)

Box 1: Types of Organizations Engaged in International Development

Box 2: Regions , Issues, and Sources of Information

Box 3: Development Sectors and Cross-Cutting Issues

For more details see Clarke, Mari. 2012 (forthcoming in November) “Development Anthropology” in the Handbook of Practicing Anthropology. Riall Nolan (ed).