How to Assess if an Organization is Good for You

As in other industries, there is an enormous range in organizations you can work at. Finding an organization that you are happy to work in is very important: however good the job is, if you don’t feel that the organization is right for you, then you will struggle to be happy.

Rubber duckies

Differences can include organizational capacity, financial stability, and integrity. While no organization will be a perfect match for you, there will be some that place greater emphasis on the aspects that you consider to be important.

Know the development environment

First of all, you should ensure you are aware of the differences between the major types of development organizations, so you have an idea of what to expect from the organization in question. Working for a for-profit is normally very different from working for a non-profit, which in turn is different from a government or intergovernmental organization.

Research the organization

An obvious place to start is the Internet and the official website. Some organizations, particularly NGOs, can be started by anyone, and may not be a professionally-run operation: even worse, some NGOs may be inauthentic. Find out about how the organization is managed.

Google the organization and see what results come up apart from their own website’s results. There may be past news stories, or commentary related to the organization. In addition, keep your eyes open for current stories in the local media that mention the organization. For example, if the organization runs projects in Zambia, search Zambian blogs and news websites for the name of the organization. If you find something potentially revealing, contact the news agency or ask to speak with the reporter.

If you are able, visit the office location, and try and get a sense of the neighborhood and the people that work there – without being too creepy of course!

Ask for an informational interview

It can be very helpful to have an informational interview with someone who works at the organization. Potentially, you may get a very biased view of the organization, but often the informal nature of an informational interview, will lead to a reasonable level of honesty from your interviewee.

Speak to people who have worked with the organization previously

If you ask around, people working in development may have worked for, with, or have heard about the organization. Be prepared to take these opinions with a substantial grain of salt: ex-workers may have been dismissed, or bear a grudge; colleagues can have a biased opinion; and rumor is often just rumor. Nevertheless, if you do hear negative comments, it is probably worth investigating further!

Volunteer or be an intern

There is nothing that can beat volunteering or interning to get the most comprehensive and unbiased understanding of an organization. This will allow you to see what goes on behind the public front of an organization, and also to meet and get to know the people that run the place. Combine this with the other benefits of volunteering, and it really does become an attractive option!

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