International Social Work is a unique profession where you can live, work, and travel abroad. It bridges people across borders to work towards a collective goal and vision. But once you have the credentials, how do you kickstart your career? How do you find opportunities based on your interests? Where can one find international social work jobs?
Luckily I’m an international social worker willing to help you out!
I have answers to all those questions – and then some. Do not let the lack of awareness of international social work discourage you. It is a career path to travel and work abroad! There are opportunities for full-time employment. You just have to know how and where to look! Keep reading for some tips when looking for jobs in international social work.
How to Find International Social Work Jobs
Start with your area of interest
Your area of interest will probably be dictated by your MSW curriculum, classes, and internships. The areas related to international social work are often dictated by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Use the 17 SDGs as a way to understand the terminology associated with your area of interest. For example, let us use goal 11 that is sustainable cities and communities. If that was your area of interest, look out for jobs in urban design and community development.
However, this does not mean you will not change your interests. Do not be scared to pivot! If what you thought you wanted to do is no longer your passion, lean on transferable skills. Additionally, you can and should always learn in the field. Chances are you will not fulfill every requirement on a job description. This leaves room for pivots and areas of growth to be enhanced and developed.
Combine your interests with your skill set
In addition to your area of interest, such as peace-building or child protection, you also need a skill set. Thus, look for opportunities that have your interests and what you specialize in. Common skill sets include program and project management, policy, communications, monitoring, and evaluation, etc. Most international social work jobs require both the area of interest and the skill set.
Yet, do not limit yourself to just one skill set. While it is beneficial to be well-versed in one thing, the field is unpredictable. You may be hired to do training, then find yourself doing data work. Adaptability is key and common. Be sure that, before you enroll in an international social work program, it offers both hard and soft skills. If not, consider a certification.
Begin with a fellowship or internship
A resourceful way to break into the international social workspace is through an internship or fellowship abroad. You can find opportunities that are paid. However, you have to search hard for the paid ones. A lot of opportunities are unpaid with minimal benefits. International organizations use volunteer internships as a way for people to get into their organizations. Thus, a volunteer or unpaid internship can lead to a paid position. Personally, I do not understand that and think it is unethical on many levels.
Therefore, I have an alternative for you! There are other ways to get work experience that is paid with possible benefits. That is why international fellowships can be the better route. Fellowships are paid learning opportunities and are common if you already have Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degrees. Click this link here to find fellowships in international social work.
A mentorship program can help you land jobs in international social work
Networking is a key part of any job or professional field. Therefore, in international social work, it can be even more impactful due to our uniqueness. A top way to get connected is through a mentorship program that specializes in international work. One opportunity is through the Women in International Affairs Network (WIAN). As an alum of this 7-month program, my mentor worked at the World Bank. Even though she was a lawyer, she shared valuable insight. My WIAN mentor encouraged and connected me with professionals in different areas to understand their work. This helped me find which area of international work was of interest to me.
Use LinkedIn and Facebook groups for networking
Mentors are also ideal for reviewing your resume and CV. Most are also willing to do mock interviews with you. Additionally, mentors can offer you tips on how to market yourself in an interview. If you cannot join a mentoring program, consider finding someone on LinkedIn in your area of interest. Connecting and networking means putting yourself out there to find a mentor. You never know what job opportunities will come from it. As a Black woman in international social work, I use the Black Women in Development group on Facebook to network.
Websites to Find Jobs in International Social Work
UN Volunteers (in-person)
UN Volunteers is an excellent way to get experience within the United Nations’ system. You can choose where you want to volunteer, including volunteering abroad. Most of the UN volunteer positions for people who want to go abroad are under “International Specialist.” They require a Master’s degree in a certain field such as Social Work, Gender Studies, or International Development. Yet, they also offer job opportunities based on skills such as communications, monitoring and evaluation, and teaching and learning. And even though it says UN volunteers, these positions are paid for via a monthly stipend. But, check each job posting for more details.
Impact Pool is one of the best, if not the best, websites to find international jobs with large NGOs. Of all the resources that my mentor from the World Bank mentioned, she said this is her favorite. Not only does it offer International Social Work jobs across areas of interest and skill set. It also offers jobs with organizations around the world and a hub for many of the big ones. Organizations who post jobs on this website include UN Volunteers, UNESCO, UNOPS, International Rescue Committee, and more. All you have to do is create a profile and upload your educational and professional experience. From there, they will email you job and internship opportunities based on your interest and skills. If you are looking for a one-stop-shop of international job and consultant opportunities in the nonprofit world, this is it.
DevNet Jobs is another platform to search for jobs in international social work. Similar to Impact Pool, you can sign up to get updates from this website about possible job opportunities. DevNet has a free membership option to search for jobs. However, they have a paid version as well for more premium and value options. Obviously, the paid versions will have more opportunities listed than on the free part of the website.
Instead of looking at crowdsourced lists like above or IO Careers, check out each organizations’ website. For example, UNDP has its career opportunities page divided based on an area of focus. Other popular websites include UN Jobs and the World Bank. Obviously, each one has its own target areas and opportunities. Thus, it is helpful to see what other organizations are looking for. Scouring these websites during your graduate and/or undergraduate program is good too. You can see what skills you will need in the future.
UN Volunteers (online)
This is not really a “job.” But it is worth mentioning. The United Nations also currently offers online volunteering opportunities. These are completely remote and unpaid positions. You can choose the type of opportunity based on your skills. Some options include outreach and advocacy, training and learning, the arts, writing and research, and graphic design. Furthermore, the time commitment to these positions is shorter than the in-person opportunities. They can be a few days, to a few weeks, to a few months. It allows you to volunteer online and get your foot in the door with an organization abroad.
Now, get started looking for international social work jobs!
International social work is an underrated field to pursue to travel and work abroad. Nevertheless, it is a viable option for those who want to travel and work with purpose. Using these websites, you can start your search for jobs in international social work. Remember to not pigeon-hole yourself and weigh all of your possible job opportunities. Do not sell yourself short because it is possible to travel and work in the field of your dreams. I’m excited to see what happens to you and where you can go. Good luck!
Interested in possible overseas fellowships in international social work? Check out this post for information on how to get started!