Employer Spotlight

Recruit Gen Y Stars

You need new tools to attract the new breed of talent - Experience will help you build your team with Gen Y stars.


Ease of Use

Our management dashboard helps you easily post jobs, pinpoint targeted candidates and manage your talent pipeline.


All Needles, No Hay

Don't wait for the best candidates to come to your door - with Experience, you can proactively target top talent.


Build Your Experience

Experience is your most important asset - we're here to help you find that next opportunity.


Tell Your Story

You're so much more than just your resume. Showcase your Experience.


Connections Matter

Introductions are made easy when you have Experience -- connect with alumni, mentors and industry insiders.


Use eRecruiting by Experience on campus?
Find your school here.

Home  > Article

Rising Star: A Career for a Humanist Philosophy

By Erdin Beshimov

His "big break" came when he realized he could build a career in line with his humanist philosophy. Writing from Uganda and soon bound for Afghanistan, David discusses the unique world of humanitarian work, infusing his responses with original thoughts on life, careers and the world in general.

Name: David Knaute
School: University of Bordeaux
Major: Political Science
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Program Manager
Company: Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development
First Steps

"My first job for a non-government organization (NGO) was not a first 'humanitarian' experience as such. In this sector, it is common to go through a period of similar experiences as a volunteer/intern before being actually employed. Therefore, I came in with my own ideas on how this works and what I would like to achieve. Very soon, however, I discovered that to grow in an organization, one has to bear some tasks and responsibilities that seemed not to be part of the initial terms of reference. The fun part of the job is not always taking the lead. Also, every organization, be it private, public, or associative, is associated with specific constraints and opportunities, which cannot be avoided."

"On a personal level, my first job showed me that ambition for success doesn't necessarily means greed, but rather that success is achieved step by step, through self-awareness (regarding your own strengths and weaknesses), efforts and the willingness to learn more, the capacity to change, and a sense of modesty towards the outer world and other people."

From Then to Now

"I am still young and a career takes off with years. A career also has to be dynamic - people learn and change and the surrounding environment - and full of surprises. That is what I have believed since my early studies. Meanwhile, I always strongly felt I wanted to work internationally. Then, travels, my personal humanistic 'ideology' and other personal factors - and a bit of luck! - led me to work in the humanitarian sector."

"Some people call it non-profit, but that's not so simple, as NGOs and their workers like me can also make a kind of profit. Still, the very purpose of their action, which is to support populations affected by man-made and/or natural disasters, makes all the difference. My 'big breaks' came when the idealist position I have just described became a reality and that I knew I could build a carrier in line with my thoughts. An admission letter from the master's program I have been dreaming of, my first salary, the first team to manage, were all the key moments that helped me move on and believe in my initial choice."

Challenges Faced

"The humanitarian sector is facing various types of prejudice from the society at large. Many people have it hard to believe that it is a professional sector, that people in it have proper skills. However, I like to say and repeat that to be a manager or an engineer for an NGO is much the same as being in the private sector. Confusions and prejudices came from the past, when too many 'humanitarians' were hidden missionaries, or volunteers with a great heart, only. This has changed."

"From the inside, however, I cannot deny that the environment in which we operate cannot be fully controlled and the outputs of our work cannot be quantified (in terms of profit), because we deal with human lives. My personal perspective is that the humanitarian sector attracts strong personalities (willing to change the world!) whose ambitions may be conflicting. The way of life, either in isolated area or within an expatriate community, creates an atmosphere where it is difficult to take distance from the work. Another challenge inherent to the humanitarian sector is the difficulty to develop a stable personal life. I myself have to find lots of tricks to stay close to those I love and keep track of my own identity."

My Experience

"I live in exotic countries - Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Uganda - but first and foremost my daily routine is like any other. Depending on the mission, I deal with more or less exciting contexts, if exciting can be defined as traveling to remote places, visiting unusual communities, sharing the life of refugees. Exciting can also be defined as: having to respect short deadlines, managing large sums of money and supervising great number of staff - and that is definitively part of the humanitarian daily reality."

"The excitement may also come to these moments, quite rare actually, when I can feel that the community or the people that are supported by a project are very thankful, that they are eagerly willing to participate and mobilize each other to improve their conditions of life. I say quite rare because once more, most of your time is filled by coordination of meetings, reports writing, and other administrative stuff - the routine. To inspire others, it is good to first respect others, and try the best to facilitate their work. Also, being an expatriate is a privilege, so it is very important to show understanding of the local context, share skills, and be very conscientious in your work. Humor, friendship, fidelity are also keys to bring people around you."

Next Steps

"Usually, I try not to think of my next job. What matters for me is to be 100% focused on the job that I occupy at this moment. Also, I believe that by working my best, I already prepare the ground for my next job. Indeed, the skills and experiences I will have in the future can only be obtained now, and it is not through anticipation that I will succeed. Even more, past experiences should not be put in the bin since the past is the reference from which we can learn. I am always surprised when I realized that a humanitarian situation reminds me of another situation I came across on the other side of the planet. Then the lessons learnt (that's our humanitarian jargon) can be applied. But as you ask the question, I shall reply."

"In my next job, I want to keep learning and I want to feel that I can pass over to others in the same time. The work place is a 'take and give' playground and never I want to feel completely satisfied of myself. I will certainly continue to work in the humanitarian sector for a few years, I guess for NGOs. I would not work for the United Nations (their humanitarian wing) which is for me a much too big bureaucratic machine, nor for government bodies which are not very flexible in their policies. In the long-run, I prefer to see what happens with time, and I will certainly go for another sector one day, to give it a try."

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

"My school curriculum was very broad. Actually, I could have ended up doing anything I wanted: politician, of course, lawyer, journalist, civil servant but also economist, sociologist and whatever else. As I said before, several factors shaped my decision to work in the humanitarian sector and whether or not I have thought about it, I have no idea. However, I know that if someone had told me a long time ago that I would work in Africa, I would have been...excited (to use the terms of a previous question) as I had never been out of the European continent. In the end, humanitarian action is a logical choice for a graduate in political science, since it encompasses domains such as organizational management, cooperation and negotiations with government authorities, decision-making at policy level. I must say, other people like my parents would not have imagined me, for sure, ending up in Afghanistan and the question should probably be directly posed to them."

Advice for Others

"The best advice I have heard so far is 'be accurate'. It may be the best advice for me because I used to lack accuracy in my work. Credibility is gained once people let you work and consider they do not need to check on your work at all, because they know you can make it - and that you are accurate."

"Another advice is 'don't get burnt out'. It is very dangerous to lose control of the work load, overwork to achieve more results and finally become unproductive. Personally, I consider creativity and commitment as great qualities to enhance the quality of one's work. Once this is well integrated into the organisational frame, people begin to understand your way of working. These qualities make things change and evolve in the right direction. Conservatism and strict respect for the rules are killers."

"Also, any choice has to be essentially genuine. People who forced themselves into a career they didn't endorse, take the risk of being counter-productive, being disenchanted by the environment they live in and being unhappy. All jobs are great as long as the worker is respected by his/her colleagues and the society at large. It is a shame that the society imposes a scale of 'good' and 'bad' jobs on a discriminatory basis, with criteria such as: how much money you make, is it manual or intellectual, blue, white, golden collar type of jobs."

Google Web Search
Didn't see what you were looking for?
powered by Google
Copyright ©2017 Experience, Inc Privacy Policy Terms of Service