A job that pays well is not necessarily the meaningful one. And if you want to leave behind a world better than the one you found instead of a pile of KPI reports, you may think about working in human rights.
Have only a vague idea of what it means? It is all about promotion and protection of 30 fundamental and basic rights people get by birth.
They are set out in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If you choose this career path, you can change lives of other people who often cannot stand up for themselves.
It is a rewarding experience, but how can you get closer to your goal, especially if you do not have a degree in human rights?
1. Understand human rights
Like in any other field, employers in human rights organizations like when candidates have a clear vision of what they want to do. If you dig deeper, you will find out that there are many options to choose.
Learn all the possibilities and narrow down your field of interest.
You may think that you miss many important moments not having the right degree, but in fact, you may be in a position of advantage. It is quite easy to get a better picture of what it does mean to study human rights at the university.
For instance, you can find a temporary job at a company that helps students with their assignments.
You will see that knowledge and skills you already have may be your trump card. Nonprofit organizations need journalists, IT specialists, managers, interpreters as well, while alumni with a degree in Human Rights often cannot find a job.
Many people entered this field by switching from a completely different one. It is absolutely possible, since human rights organizations function almost the same way as businesses do.
2. Keep abreast with the latest news and constantly educate yourself
It is not really difficult when you have Internet. Read as much related blogs, books, websites as you can. Listen to podcasts, subscribe to YouTube channels, and watch documentaries.
For instance, you can subscribe to The Guardian or the New York Times that cover Human Rights. Check out blogs like the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, the London School of Economic Human Rights Blog, ACLU Blog of Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists Blog, Progressive Liberty Blog, Human Rights Now, and PhD Studies in Human Rights.
3. Look for volunteer opportunities
Your experience is more important for employers than your degree. If you have several lines about volunteering activities in your CV, they will understand that you are fully aware of the role you are going to take.
Besides, you also need to make sure that this kind of work is right for you before devoting much time and energy to it.
Many people look at work in human rights through rose-colored glasses before starting to deal with things like bureaucracy, diverse personalities, corruption, business interests, and limited funding.
Use all the possibilities to volunteer abroad to broaden your horizons, work outside your comfort zone and get valuable contacts.
You should also look for paid internships if you cannot afford to work without being paid. And you even might be offered a job at the end of a campaign.
Try initiating your own projects. This way you can get valuable experience and showcase your proactive approach.
4. Learn foreign languages
Working in the human rights sector often requires communicating with people from other countries. To find the common ground with them it is better to speak their language. Think about where you would like to work and try to learn at least the basics of the local language.
To prove yourself as a successful negotiator, you will need to reach at least upper intermediate level.
Many people think that learning languages is not their line and they can succeed without making further efforts. However, even if you are not going to work abroad, it is so much better for you to be able to adopt foreign colleagues’ experience.
Besides, it does not take much time. Dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to grammar and speaking, and you will notice the first results very soon.
5. Take psychology courses
Empathy is something many people are born with, while others lack it almost completely. However, it does not mean that you cannot develop your skills in understanding other people’s emotions, motives and behavior.
There are many options available for you to learn psychology. It is a must for someone, who works in an emotionally charged environment.
Firstly, you will often deal with diverse people and for all of them you will need to develop different strategies. Secondly, you will need to take care of yourself after tense situations.
Working in human rights can really make you feel like a squeezed lemon, so you must learn how to recharge yourself quickly.
6. Develop skills related to NGO management
Even if you work as an IT specialist in the human rights organization, it does not mean you are never going to do something else. That is why you should devote some time to developing your skills in fundraising, public speaking, and project management.
There is a big chance you will need to be a jack-of-all-trades while working for a nonprofit.
7. Monitor job search websites
Regularly check if there are new positions on websites like Human Rights Careers, and join relevant Facebook groups. Getting new contact during volunteering activities is good; however, it does not mean that this is the only way you can find your job.
When applying, highlight your previous experience and explain how you are going to use it at a new place.
8. Start blogging
Working on your personal brand can be crucial for your career in human rights. And the easiest way to get people interested in you is to start your own blog. Of course, you can also write posts on Facebook, LinkedIn or any other platform.
What can you write about?
Describe your volunteering experience, tell about people your work with, and express your opinion about legislative initiatives, current events, or the ones that took place in the past.
9. Consider a degree in related fields or find human rights scholarships
If you would like to draw inspiration from student life atmosphere, consider getting a degree in law, international relations, public policy, etc. Such background significantly increases your chances in getting a job of your dream.
You can also look for human rights scholarships: some of them cover all tuition fees, accommodation, visa and travel costs.
The most important thing is to be determined and persistent. You can be rejected for several times in a row just because your potential employees get too many applications. Do not be discouraged by this.
Remember that it might take you quite some time to find your dream job, but the effort is worthwhile.