You believe you’ve done your part and got a couple of years of work experience in a developing country, and perhaps even have a Master’s degree- the full trappings of a fledgling professional, ready to save the world and launch a career in international development. Your CV is as polished as your shoes that you’ll wear for that nerve-wracking job interview. But where do you apply? You are over the internship route and want to get a taste of the real deal.
The Junior Professional Associate, more commonly known as “JPA,” is the ideal job for you. JPAs are the youngest lot of World Bank employees. We are a notch higher than the lowly intern, but still far from being the next Zoellick.
But there’s a catch. After the two-year contract, one is not allowed to work for the World Bank Group for the next two years. The first crack at this organization though makes for a good career springboard, and get a first taste of international development work and any of its related fields such as the environment, economics, governance and many others.
If you are young enough to still be eligible (that means no more than 28 years old), read on for some tips on making that initial step
1. Acquire unique skills. You graduated with honors, and speak at least three languages. But so do the other 100 applicants who compete for that one coveted position. What other skills do you think set you apart that is relevant to the job? When I applied for my job, I offered them not only practical know-how of climate change, environment and development issues but also my online media savvy required for the job to moderate an online Community of Practice.
2. Stack up on work experience. Get some real work experience related to the field you are applying for. Teaching English in Vietnam may count as international experience, but is it relevant? You might as well volunteer for a non-profit working on community development, and help them write project proposals.
3. Possess a high English proficiency. You might assume this is an Anglophone world view. However, it might be true for it is the common denominator among your colleagues. It Working with your partners in other organizations. You don’t have to be the next Shakespeare. Just master your subject-verb agreement and exhibit an above-average level of technical English especially in your field of work. Are you at a disadvantage to native English speakers? Not really if you speak another international language that is always an asset in an international organization.
4. Write a dazzling application letter. If you write an ok letter, the selection committee will most probably put it with the heap of letters from ok applicants. Impress them, and it will grant you entry to the gate of the application process: a job interview. Make your letter standout for it will show a first glimpse into your writing ability and thought process. Unfortunately, there is no hard and-fast rule on how to write one. It should, however, contain the skills you have and want to highlight from your background and work experience, and how they would be of value to the position you are applying for and the organization.
5. Tap your inside contacts. One of the first questions people ask me who take interest in the World Bank is if I’ve got contacts ‘inside’. I cannot vouch for this tip but probably it will work. I personally don’t have one. In one happy hour gathering, someone even shook his head in disbelief. Ok, maybe I knew someone, but she occupies the same position as I do, meaning she does not call the shots. It is difficult to establish a trend on the effectiveness of contacts. But for someone who got in without one, I can say meritocracy is still alive.
These tips also apply to any job you are eying. Following them, though, is not in anyway an assurance of employment at the Bank or your target organization. As with most opportunities, many other factors come into play, such as timing, number of applicants, and the vacant position. If you have more questions, just hit the comment section below and I’ll try my best to answer them. Click here to apply as a JPA.