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With more and more activities being launched by NGOs (non-governmental organization) and promoted across China, getting a job in an NGO is becoming a popular career option for college graduates.
“Working in NGOs will not only get you recognition and respect, but also bring you closer to social problems,” said Yu Jie, a project manager at Climate Group in Beijing.
“But at the same time it means shouldering great responsibility, hard work and dedication. Mere academic qualifications are not enough to build a successful career.”
So, what is needed to land a job with an NGO? Your educational qualifications aren’t a crucial factor. But like most other jobs, the basic requirement is usually a bachelor’s degree.
Skills in oral and written English are valued, as is any previous experience of working for NGOs.
“Majoring in public relations or management adds to your advantage,” said Yu.
“It’s better that you have an awareness of global events and issues, and knowledge of community development and information management.”
There are different types and sizes of NGOs working on different issues, such as the environment, disease control and poverty alleviation. Some only provide funds or specialize in technical support.
NGOs like to post vacancies on their websites or job hunting sites. However, a third of all jobs in NGOs are never publicized, according to Huang Xuan, a public director at the Green Pine Growth Fund in Shenzhen.
She says that unsolicited applications get more attention if they are addressed to the right person in an NGO.
“Do research on NGOs you want to join before sending applications,” said Huang.
If you are recruited as an employee (rather than a volunteer or intern), contracts range from a few months to years.
As NGOs are non-profit organizations, employees can only expect standard pay and not much more.
“Given the remuneration, job satisfaction should be much higher,” said Chen Hongle, project manager at One Foundation in Shenzhen.
“You need a lot of dedication. It’s easy to get burned out and you won’t get any extra pay for it.”
But NGOs often have different jobs on offer, and wages vary according to the position, title, and experience required.
Jobs at NGOs can be trivial and lackluster. For instance, Chen’s group once organized a campaign asking for clothes donations to benefit children in poor mountain areas last winter.
“We got thousands of clothing items and made arrangements for every piece. I stayed in the office until 10 pm every night,” he said.
In disaster or crisis situations there is usually a flurry of activities and tasks for NGO workers. “You have to be in the right place at the right time,” Chen said.
Even if it’s hard work and challenging, there are many reasons to choose something you believe in.
“You’re part of a group sharing common interests,” said Chen Yuanming, a project manager for Green Peace in Beijing. “In an NGO, everybody is working towards the same goal. And you are never alone.”