One of the amazing things about a career in human rights is that it allows you to travel the world, interacting with people and cultures different from your own. But working internationally comes with its own challenges. You’re far from your family and loved ones and it can be difficult to manage personal, financial, or medical situations from abroad. Whether you’re not yet ready to take the leap into international work or simply need to take a break from the international life style, there are plenty of ways to continue your human rights career without leaving the country.
Work domestically for an international agency
International organizations like the United Nations, Amnesty International, Oxfam and others have strong presences all around the world. While you may ultimately want to lead a project in a developing country, you can still learn a lot from a job that keeps you closer to home. Oftentimes the positions available in the domestic offices will be focused on administration, communications, and fundraising rather than direct service, but they can be an invaluable way to learn about organizational culture and mission. Plus, you can use your agency contacts to reach out to those who are working internationally and learn more about how they got their positions. If your ultimate goal is to work internationally these jobs will help give you a good sense of the skills and education required to get there. And if there aren’t any full-time positions available, even a part-time job or internship will go a long way towards getting your foot in the door.
Work for domestic organizations focused on your area of interest
If you’re passionate about a particular mission – clean water, education, or disaster relief to name a few – look for local organizations who are doing the same kind of work. Even in more developed countries there are still underserved populations who need advocates and project managers to help create programs and fight for equality. While the circumstances of this work may be different you will still learn approaches and best practices that can translate to working in other contexts. If you can’t find an organization that’s a good mission fit, perhaps there is a group that helps immigrants or refugees from your region of focus. This will help you stay connected to the culture and language and may even lead to connections with groups that are working in the region. You may not be working on the international scale, but the skills you acquire will help you stand out when you’re ready to move on to new opportunities
Work remotely for internationally-based orgs
If you already have contacts with an internationally-based organization, ask if you can work for them remotely or even volunteer your time. Even if most of the work is happening on the ground, you can stay in touch by contributing to their social media presence, fundraising campaigns, marketing pushes, or official reports. If this is an organization you’d like to work with in the future, volunteering or working remotely is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to the cause and keep your name fresh in everyone’s minds. But what if don’t already have a connection to an NGO or nonprofit? There are a number of online resources that can help you find remote human rights work. Volunteer Match keeps a list of virtual volunteer opportunities and Idealist has thousands of remote full- and part-time jobs as well as volunteer opportunities with companies and organizations that are committed to the public good.
Go back to school
If you’re looking to take a longer break from international work, or simply want to hone your skills before you move far away from home, getting an advanced degree might be the right course of action. Enrolling in a Master’s degree program close to home is a sure way to deepen your understanding of human rights issues without moving halfway around the world. In addition, your professors and administrators can be key mentors in helping secure a job once you graduate. If a full degree program is more than you can take on, there are a number of short programs and online courses that can build your skills and help you stand out on the job market.
Join the virtual human rights community
If haven’t been able to find any kind of job or internship at home, you can stay connected to the human rights community online. If you eventually want to work in a certain part of the world, read daily newspapers or other media from that region to stay informed about local issues. Seek out the blogs and social media presences of organizations and individuals who are doing work you care about. Start conversations with local activists and workers on the ground. There may be ways that you can help them directly, even from afar. Subscribe to mailing lists of organizations you care about to stay up-to-date on their work. This way you’ll be able to speak knowledgeably about trends, current events, and key issues when you finally land that interview for your dream job.
Don’t give up!
Many people get involved in human rights work with the hope of traveling the globe fighting for justice and equality. However, the pressures of travel and international life aren’t for everyone. If working abroad isn’t for you, or isn’t possible right now, there’s no need to give up the work that you’re passionate about. One aspect of belonging to a global community is that you can effect positive change even at a distance. Whether you’re taking a break from field work or choose to permanently remain in your home country, you can be part of the fight for global human rights.