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Getting a “Human Rights” Job

February 2017

Finding jobs in the field of human rights, like any job search, can be overwhelming. It can be challenging to know where to start. “Human rights” is a broad term that encompasses many possible career paths. And, while there are often a lot of jobs with human rights organizations, there are not always a lot of “human rights” positions.

Organizations, institutions and centres working on human rights issues employ an array of subject matter experts. They will also have technical specialists in areas of communications, information technology, fundraising, digital design, project management, human resources, and did I mention fundraising?

When starting your job search in human rights, a good starting point should include following the organizations that interest you on social media and listservs. Explore organizations working on the issues that inspire you. Look at what organizations are doing locally and get involved. Volunteering, internships and fellowships, are great opportunities for you to figure what type of work, or organizations you want to invest your time with. Attending local events and online webinars hosted by different organizations is also a great way to see what organizations are doing. Getting involved allows you to connect with the work, and gives the people involved in the organization an opportunity to connect with you.

If you are looking at a change of career or to deepen your expertise, connect with the various human rights centres at different academic institutions across Canada. Most programs have public email lists, that send out updates on upcoming events, fellowships and other academic opportunities. Increasingly programs are offering online courses or workshops to the public. Interested in the rights of refugees? Look for a one day workshop or “summer schools” on related issues. Several universities across Canada have human rights centres, which host regular events, workshops and conferences on various topics in human rights. These are often open to the public.

Once you have an idea of what issues you want to work on and the skills you can bring to an organization, check the job boards. There are endless sources available online. Here are a few to set you off down the rabbit hole:

For jobs in Canada, visit CharityVillage, which posts jobs from the charity and non-profit sectors. You can narrow your search to “Human Rights”, but the results will may be broader than just jobs with human rights organizations.

When looking outside of Canada, consider Idealist.org which is a large job bank with postings from around the world. Human Rights Careers also offers an extensive resource bank of job postings and other employment related information, specific to human rights. This site even offers tips on building resumes and preparing for interviews in the human rights field. These are not specific to Canada. If you need tips on creating a resume for the Canadian market, visit CharityVillage.

If you know a particular issue or area, such as women’s rights, there are some focused job board. For example, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) maintains a job board with postings from women’s rights organizations, and ReliefWeb has a job board for postings with humanitarian organizations.

There are also several international academic institutions which list other job boards, such as Harvard University and the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice. This is just the starting point. There are many more.

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