By Tokunbo Koiki August 5, 2013
This is actually a blog post I wrote for http://www.africandevjobs.com/2013/07/career-advice-is-international.html which seeks to connect development workers with professional development resources and work opportunities in Africa. I thought it would be relevant for prospective applicants for Atlas Corps fellowship who may be checking this blog space. Hope its useful for you all!
For many mid- or senior-level professionals, and even recent graduates, a fellowship can be a great way of advancing one’s career. Fellowships are typically short-term opportunities lasting from a few months to several years with a focus on the professional development of the individual seeking to expand their leadership in a career. They are structured to provide significant work experience and require fellows to take on a great deal of responsibility quickly. In addition, the programs usually include intensive training components that provide skill-building opportunities.
Key Factors to Consider
There are many factors that should be taken into consideration when applying for an international development fellowship. Deciding on an area of interest helps you determine which of the various fellowship programs to apply for, which can be further narrowed by subspecialty and geographic area. Other determinants require some introspective self-reflection. So take some time to think about what you can contribute as well as gain from the fellowship experience, if you have an interest in public service, how you will build upon the work you do during the fellowship and where you see yourself in 5 to10 years after the fellowship. Consideration should also be given to the attributes and qualities of the programs. For instance, it is vital to identify fellowships that will support you in your pursuit of your personal professional goals.
Another factor to consider is your family and relationships. How close or how far away from family you will be is very important because many international development fellowships require fellows to relocate. The health of family members and the potential for emergency trips may be very significant especially for those seeking fellowships outside their home countries.
Although most fellowship programs provide a living allowance or stipend, it is important that applicants realise that this is typically not comparable to the salary of a full-time job. The financial compensation varies greatly and often includes other incentives provided to fellows such as round-trip transportation to the host country, healthcare coverage, and housing stipends. It is therefore important to consider any on-going financial commitments that need to be met during your fellowship and take the appropriate steps to address them prior to starting.
What Fellowship Programs Look For
Whilst eligibility requirements vary with the fellowship, most programs look for motivation, self-direction and personal integrity, highly developed interpersonal and writing skills, demonstrated leadership as well as potential for continued leadership. Applications can be extensive and often include a resume, letters of recommendation and a writing sample. Consequently, a prospective applicant should work on a personal statement with a strong focus on what the fellowship would help her/him to accomplish rather than merely listing previous accomplishments. In addition, most fellowships require one to three recommendation letters from people who can speak to your intellectual and professional accomplishments, as well as your personality.
Although the fellowship program should be designed to ensure your professional and career objectives are met, it is imperative that you approach the fellowship with a proactive mindset and seek out all opportunities, even those outside your interest or field.