Three Tips on How to Get an Internship in International Development

Article and photos by: Filipa Raimundo, YPUN Ltd*

There is no secret formula on how to land a perfect job or internship in international development. Still there are some things that you should keep in mind in order to make potential employers interested in you.

1. Don’t give up

At all times keep this in mind. After all, it is a combination of different factors that will enable you to get what you want. In an area such as international development, it is important to keep in mind that persistence is key to success. You should never give up on your dreams and you should do anything to pursue them. The first step to impress your future employer is to dare to step out of your comfort zone. It is crucial to show different characteristics of you but more than that, it is important for you to dare to prove yourself. You have to be willing to be flexible, open-minded, challenge seeking and have overcome concrete challenges in which you have shown precisely how you have used those features. But most importantly, you need to put yourself out there! Get out on the street if you have to, send e-mails to private firms, check who to contact in which organizations. Anything that will bring you experience will be good!

Did you know that TED lost money in their first conference? It took them six years until they were able to establish an annual TED Conference. 


2. Be competitive (mostly with yourself)

In a world where employment rates keep decreasing and competition keeps increasing, it is important to be original, unique and different. Do not panic, it is easier than it seems! The first step to stand out is to have a relevant, well-organized CV that shows your experience, your studies and the activities that you are passionate about. Refer to the subject you have studied at university and prove that your academic background is solid and critical for the position. It doesn’t mean that you should have studied international relations or political science to be now invited for internships in international development, but it does help to have participated in activities or studies that are related to the specific area because it can definitely help you get some extra points. It is also very important to have a specific goal when applying for professional endeavors. Be flexible and open-minded, but be specific when it comes to describing your ambitions. Remain open to different possibilities while keeping your goals clear.

3. Play hard, work harder

Getting an internship in international development is a lot of work, it is definitely worth it but no one was ever able to get an internship by sitting all day watching TV. So, get started! It is important to start early to build up your experience. So, don’t be afraid of taking a job while in school. It doesn’t have to necessarily be in the international development area, it can even be as a waiter in a restaurant. It will just show your future employers that you are committed, organized and well balanced. It is also never late to learn, especially learning a new language. Today we live in a world where communication has become crucial for making progress. With around seven billion people on earth, languages have become a big plus in people’s personal and professional lives. Don’t be afraid to sound ridiculous, just dare to take that step! Also, be prepared for an unpaid job while appreciating the perks it will bring you. In an ideal world we would do what we love, get great money from it and be nothing but happy. But happiness is not a destination – it is a way of traveling. And this means that we have to be thankful for what we get, paid or not. Plus, what if that unpaid internship turns out to be your future job?


*YPUN is a community of experienced professionals and United Nations insiders helping young people build an international development career. Mainly focusing on the UN Young Professionals Programme and the UN Internship Programme we support and guide students, graduates and international job seekers through the whole process of the highly competitive recruitment initiatives. 

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