My name is Andrew Sweet and I am an Associate Partner at Dalberg, a global development strategy consulting firm. I am based in Johannesburg, but am often traveling around the world.
How did you start your career?
I had the good fortune of starting my career as a Peace Corps Volunteer. For two-and-a-half years, I served as a Natural Resource Management Volunteer, working with farmers on the Togo-Benin border. It was a life-changing experience and one I look back upon with great memories. I went to Maxwell following the Peace Corps and learned from the greats, such as Catherine Bertini, Peter Castro, and Peg Hermann. It was energizing to learn from people whose careers were highly practical, and who could help structure and deepen my thinking.
After Maxwell, I spent a few years at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on the National Security team. I co-authored a number of publications on the future of U.S. global development policy. At the time, CAP was housing a number of key thinkers for both the Clinton and Obama campaigns. After President Obama was elected, a lot of the CAP National Security team went into the Administration at the White House, State Department, and USAID. I received an appointment at USAID, where I served as a Conflict Advisor for West Africa, focused on Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. After two years in this role, the USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, asked me to serve as his Senior Advisor. For the nearly three years, I was one of his closest aides, traveling with him on each of his trips, foreign and domestic. In the last year alone, we went to 24 countries. In this capacity, I also helped to establish two major Presidential Initiatives, Power Africa and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
How did you become a David Rockefeller Fellow, and what is the Trilateral Commission?
I was nominated to be a David Rockefeller Fellow by former USAID Administrator and current Rockefeller Foundation President, Dr. Rajiv Shah, and a great mentor and former professor of mine at Maxwell, Catherine Bertini. I have kept in very close contact with both and am fortunate and humbled to have been nominated by them.
The Trilateral Commission was established in 1973 to bring together leaders from the private sector to discuss issues of global concern for Europe, North America and Asia. It still includes a range of leaders from the private sector, but also from the public, and social sectors as well as prominent journalists. Members include Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Michael Bloomberg, David Gergen and Eric Schmidt.
Have you had any memorable experiences while working in the field?
I love helping put together coalitions of institutions and individuals with the intent of doing something big in global development. To this end, I enjoyed being part of putting together Power Africa and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. My experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer also helped inform my thinking and grounded my experiences in the reality.
One of the highlights from my current work is helping the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put together Emergency Operations Centers in West Africa. The goal of this work is to capacitate emergency response workers and help ensure future crises, such as Ebola, can be prevented or better managed.
I also have been fortunate to meet and learn from a number of global leaders. I have drawn great inspiration from people like Kofi Annan, Catherine Bertini, and Bill Gates who have all dreamed big and accomplished great things.
What advice do you want to give Maxwell students?
My advice is to focus and dream big. Global development is too large a field for this to be your specialty. Think about the sector (e.g. energy, health, good governance) and a region of the world you are passionate about, then think and do big things. Develop language skills that are relevant to your passions. Build your networks and learn from leaders to draw inspiration and insights. Be a voracious consumer of information. Travel the world and spend significant amounts of time with people whose lives you are working to improve.
Suhyeon Lee (MAIR candidate) interviewed Director of the Transnational NGO Initiative in the Moynihan Institute, Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken. Tosca continually brings a wealth of international resources to the PAIA Department and has assisted innumerable students.
Nice to meet you, Ms. Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken. Could you introduce yourself?
I am the director of the Transnational NGO (TNGO) Initiative. I engage both in academic work and do a lot of works with NGO practitioners. I have worked on international development and civil society issues for over 25 years. Some people call people like me a ‘pracademic’ and I call myself sometimes jokingly an ‘accidental pracademic’, which means a practitioner who accidently ended up in academia. I didn’t plan to end up in academia, but it happened by chance, and I started enjoying playing a bridge building role between the theory and research around transnational NGOs and the practice of the NGO practitioners who lead and manage these organizations.
Could you explain what you teach at Maxwell School?
I teach Global Governance and Civil Society and in addition to that, I advise a couple of MPA Workshop projects each year. Sometimes, I am an advisor for independent study projects. We also offer opportunities for students to volunteer in our research and practitioner work through the TNGO Initiative.
Can you tell me more about the Global Governance and Civil Society course?
Global Governance and Civil Society is a survey course on the role of civil society in how the world is governed. It is neither a theoretical course nor a management course; it is somewhere in between. We focus on what civil society organizations do and what civil society as a concept stands for. And then we unpack a couple of different sectors: human rights, environment, and conflict resolution, and look at the functions NGOs play. We also look at a number of challenges facing organizations (governance, effectiveness, leadership, coordination, accountability, evaluation and assessment, capacity building issues, etc.).
How did you start your career?
These things, as I sometimes say to students here, are often a mixture of planning, pure coincidence, luck, and unplanned events. I started out working for a year in a small management consulting company in the Netherlands. It was internationally-oriented and focused on small business promotion in developing countries. I was not happy with it, so I moved to a think-tank called the European Center for Development Policies Management (ECDPM). I worked there for four years as a program officer. We focused on governance issues in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. And then I wanted to get more field experience which is typically what most young international development practitioners need. I found an opportunity as a UN Volunteer for the UN peacekeeping operations under United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). I was in charge of the preparation for and holding of free and fair elections in one remote district. I also worked for the headquarters of the World Bank for two and a half years, and for four years I was at the World Bank in Hanoi, Vietnam. Those were my sixteen years of international development experience.
As you said, field experience is what most international development young practitioners really need. I also want to have field experience before graduating from Maxwell. Did you have memorable experiences while working in the field in Cambodia?
I think the most memorable experience was that during the year of preparing for the elections, both the Khmer Rouge and bandits engaged in attacks on some foreigners who were in Cambodia as part of the peace keeping operation. Within our large contingent of district electoral supervisors, one person was murdered and four were kidnapped in the last couple of months before elections when political tensions were high. A significant number of Cambodians also died during this tense period. During the elections, when I changed my role from preparation for elections in my district to independent monitoring of polling stations, I found myself for the first time needing a bodyguard because of these political tensions and violence. This was a very new experience for me and it will stay with me since I came from a country (The Netherlands) where governance is not a matter of the power of the gun.
What is the role of NGOs in the development sector in the 21st century?
There will likely always remain a role for TNGOs in humanitarian relief, although government, the private sector and national NGOs are stepping up their roles. And there will continue to be a contingent of small TNGOs that have a classical charity model. Generally speaking, most mid to large size TNGOs still play some roles in direct delivery of services, though this is generally declining, and nowadays often complemented by advocacy and capacity building. Some are evolving their role to that of being a broker and convener between government, the private sector and national NGOs; sometimes, their role evolves to that of knowledge provider. Western TNGOs increasingly work on strengthening their domestic legitimacy as well as playing a stronger role in domestic policy advocacy as well as service delivery work in the countries where they were founded. Because many NGOs by now have been set up by citizens in the countries where formerly primarily western NGOs used to work, these NGOs in the ‘Global South are now able to play the roles that Western or ‘Northern NGOs’ used to, with considerably lower cost models. There is thus more and more pressure on the northern NGOs to get out of the business of delivering services except for humanitarian relief which as I said will always be needed. Therefore, most analysts are foreseeing a big role change in the 21st century.
I’ve seen that you are on the board of InterAction. What is this organization?
InterAction is a membership organization of US international development and relief NGOs and thus plays the role of national platform here in the US. We, as the TNGO initiative, are an associate member, and I am on the board of InterAction as an independent ‘person of stature’. The board position gives me a bird’s eye view of the sector, which is interesting from a research as well as a networking perspective.
What advice you want to give Maxwell students?
I think it is increasingly difficult to find a job in the international NGO sector. In terms of ‘Northern’ NGOs, it’s increasingly hard for American and other western students to find a job because there are more people with a high level of education in the international development sector than there are NGO jobs. In addition, donor levels in certain countries in the ‘North’ are decreasing while there is an increasing supply of students from ‘Global South and East’ countries who also come from good universities. To some extent it is therefore an increasingly crowded and very competitive market for finding a job. You should therefore definitely not put all your eggs in one or two baskets in terms of finding a job. Also, some students tend to come to Maxwell thinking that they want a job at the World Bank, where I used to work, or the UN, and I actually try to make them less single minded about that. Big organizations are not only extremely competitive to get into but also very bureaucratic. If you enter as a junior person, you may find the organization to be very internally oriented – a lot of navel gazing. You also may experience a lot of ‘paper pushing’. It’s not necessarily that interesting to work in such a large, bureaucratic organization at a junior level. If you can work in a small or medium sized organization like an NGO, think rank, social enterprise or impact investor company, I would argue that this will offer you a better job experience with more hands-on work. Later on, you can then be considered for a mid-level job at one of these large organizations. Also, having field experience at the country level continues to be indispensable –without it you will not compete very well in the job market — but at the same time it is increasingly hard to come by.
Overall, something that I want to encourage you to do is to intern in development organizations or complete field work or volunteer experience. And then, do research about a sector you want to work in, look at what organizations and why you want to work for them, and then reach out to them for informational interviews. This will show that you really understand that organization well.
One more thing, keep your eyes on job opportunities in other cities other than Washington, DC and New York because the competition is harsh in these cities and not as many people would apply to jobs in other cities. Power is so distributed in the world that NYC and DC should not be the only choice. Also, don’t just look at NGOs, government, and think tanks. Look at social enterprises, which are corporations that are set up to make profits but invest that profit into social goods, impact investments, and digitally operating campaigns. There are various types of agencies in international development. Look at them in terms of looking for internships and looking for a job.
A previous version of this article stated that Tosca was a “Professor of Practice”, which is inaccurate. This was an oversight on the part of the Editor.
Over the course of Spring break, Maxwell students had the great opportunity to visit various sites and attend coffee chats with alumni. They connected with people who worked at various organizations in Washington, DC and New York and learned a lot about opportunities in different fields. There is no doubt that this unique opportunity helped Maxwell students to consolidate their careers.
Over the course of our spring break, approximately 60 members of our cohort traveled to Washington, D.C. and New York City to network and connect with Maxwell alumni who work in various professions in the public, private, and nonprofit fields.
The busy week’s networking festivities kicked off at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an internationally-focused think tank in D.C. that the Maxwell School has a unique partnership with. Throughout the D.C. leg of the trip, current students had the opportunity to attend site visits and coffee chats with a variety of organizations that had a Maxwell connection. The Office of Personnel Management, the Brookings Institute, the Congressional Budget Office, the Department of Energy, the World Bank, and Booz Allen Hamilton are a just few names of the many site visits our cohort attended. A group of MPA students attended the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that considers the needs of low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families. The most valuable trip for me was visiting the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, given its relevance to my interests in higher education and labor. After this visit, I was able to connect with a 2010 alumnus about a graduate summer fellowship opportunity starting in July. He even offered to connect me with the Fellow Coordinator and offered a recommendation.[…]
The best place to end this series is on the most important method for job hunting. Networking will typically yield far more results than endlessly filling out online applications. Of course, you need to actually apply for a job to have a chance of getting it, but keep in mind that around 50% of job openings are never advertised. This can be especially true for internships where the hassle of sorting through hundreds of applications is often deemed unnecessary when a person can simply find a candidate through their alumni or other professional networks.
This is way too obvious. But, join internationally themed groups to find the right people. Then, actually contact those people and try to get them on the phone or face‑to‑face. I found Endless Job Offers to be a pretty helpful site to learn about cold calling people.
The premier community for current and former expats. This is a generally professional and mature network focused on activities and increasingly services for people working abroad. My wife and I have used it to do some great networking. While there is not yet a chapter in Syracuse, it’s still helpful to have access to the contacts within this network.
Great way to connect with people through events in Washington, DC.
Networking site for all graduates of SU. A great place to connect with alum from nearly any profession.
Great for face‑to‑face networking. Look for international or industry focused groups or just start one yourself and watch people flock your way.
No, really. Evidence shows that more people get jobs through Facebook than LinkedIn. This is probably because your FB friends and family actually know you and are the people most willing to help you. Your mother’s friend from high school might actually be doing something that interests you or this person can give you the name of another more relevant connection. One never knows where networking might begin, but your friends, family, and social acquaintances will be willing to lend you a hand. Despite this, given how FB tends to distract you from job searching and all kinds of other important things in life, it might not always be the best use of your time.
If you’re nervous about networking, this video might help.
Jobs in Europe and the EU especially. Focuses more on technical, economic, and political positions for EU citizens.
Speakers of Spanish or Portuguese will find job postings and advice for finding work using these languages.
Users can search for jobs in a specific country.
MCCD Sample Group of Employers
Maxwell’s Center for Career Development has a list or prominent organizations categorized into IGOs, U.S. Gov, Development Consulting, NGOs, and Foundations and Policy Institutes. They also refer you to a number of international resources that I didn’t necessary mention in this series of posts.
A staggering number of sites exist which advertise job openings and advise on breaking into and becoming successful within the international development and humanitarian aid sector. Below are some of the most well run and widely used sites.
Best Sites & Tools
Run by UN OCHA with various partnerships. Definitely the go to source for humanitarian positions. The sites RSS feeds are especially handy.
Privately run organization with more buy in from the private development sector than many sites. It’s a good source to find who is working on USAID projects for example.
More focused on an American audience and almost exclusively on the non-profit sector, but with a huge number of international jobs. Be wary of scams, but still the go to source in the USA. Idealist also has a decent e-mail feed system.
International Organization Careers
Run by the U.S. Department of State, this is an excellent service with job postings and quality e-mail updates for jobs within international organizations.
Internships, fellowships, conferences, and scholarships all suitable for internationally minded young professionals and students.
UN & USAID
The name says it all. Not part of the UN, but a superior job search tool in some ways.
The UN’s official job site. For organization’s which work closely with the UN but are not UN agencies (ex. IOM), refer to the individual organization’s website.
While organizations focusing on peace and conflict resolution are generally quite transparent, it can seem unclear on how to go about working in security and intelligence. For students interested in the latter, definitely utilize SU’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT), and refer to the sites below for job postings and information on security clearances.
Job listings for all major U.S. government agencies working in intelligence. Not a very comprehensive site, but a great place to start your search.
Information and job listing for positions requiring security clearance.
International Organization Careers
Run by the U.S. Department of State, this is an excellent service with job postings and quality e-mail updates for jobs within international organizations including NATO.
The go to source for federal jobs. Not everyone’s favorite site and only relevant for American citizens. Allow up to six months to hear back on a position and longer for security clearances. Cater your resume to match key words in the job advertisement. Many government agencies that work with intelligence have their own systems and do not use USAJobs, but this is not true of all agencies.
This post begins a series that will cover a number of online job tools for international positions. However, it is important to remember not to get locked into sorting through postings all the time. Be sure to identify and target organizations which you would really like to work for. Then, watch their own sites for open positions. Most importantly, utilize networking by talking with people within the industry in which you would like to be employed.
This series of posts will cover, 1) SU Tools for International Jobs, 2) Peace, Security, & Conflict Job Sites & Tools, 3) Development, Humanitarian, & Non‑Profit Job Sites & Tools, 4) Miscellaneous Resources for International Work, and 5) Networking Tools.
Maxwell Career Management System
List of open jobs targeted specifically at Maxwell School students and grads. Site also contains contact information for alumni working in hundreds of organizations.
Networking site for all undergraduate and graduate alumni of SU. A great place to connect with alum from nearly any profession.
GPC Listserv: Global Opportunities
E-mail list maintained by the Maxwell Global Programs Coordinator, featuring relevant international opportunities delivered to your SU inbox.
SU students get a membership to this site, which they can access through their myslice account. Site contains country guides and thousands of international job listings with a great deal of buy in from the private sector.
A weekly compilation of jobs sent to the Maxwell School from our distinguished alumni.
MCCD Career Field Guides
Here you’ll find a list of guides to careers in areas such as conflict resolution, counterterrorism intelligence, economic development, foreign service, humanitarian aid and relief, international business, international development, international law, national security, United Nations, and many more.
MCCD Career Event Videos
Great archive of past speakers who give you insights and tips to working at their respective international organization, foundation, corporation, etc.