A Thoughtful, Analytical Approach to NGO Security

Finding NGO Security Officer Jobs

How do I get a job as an NGO security officer? I've been asked that question several times over the last few weeks. I can't claim to be an expert in this regard as there was a fair bit of serendipity involved in getting my first security job with the UN. However, I have asked around a bit and I think the following advice should help anyone looking for a security job in the NGO world.

If you already have a safety or security background breaking into NGO security isn’t usually too difficult. You’ll need to concentrate on adapting your existing skills so that they more closely match the needs of humanitarian organizations. RedR’s Security Management course familiarized me with the humanitarian vocabulary and helped me recognize adjustments I would need to make in my working style. It helps to focus on the ‘softer’ side of security: acceptance vs. deterrence.

If you already have a humanitarian background you’ll obviously need to take the opposite tact. Concentrate on improving your security skills. Many NGOs offer free in-house security courses. You might also want to volunteer to be a security focal point in exchange for security training.

If you don’t fall into either of the above categories you are likely to find it more difficult to break into the NGO security field but all is not lost. Identify appropriate skills that you already possess and then concentrate on acquiring additional skills and experience. The tips below should help as well.

General Tips

Take courses – RedR offers some good security management courses. Take courses that involve face-to-face interaction. This will provide networking opportunities. Don’t limit yourself to purely security courses. Communications training, hostile environment driving, mine awareness, fire safety, and advanced first aid are courses you should consider. The trainer versions of these courses are especially valuable for security professionals.

Volunteer – Consider volunteering for a while. This will provide you with additional experience and prove to potential employers that you are motivated by more than just money.

Network – Many NGO security positions are filled by word of mouth. Try to establish good relationships with established security practitioners. Take part in online discussions. Consider writing security related articles.

Polish your resume – Make sure your resume reflects the type of position you are seeking. A resume tailored for a local position may not be suitable when applying for an international position.

Security Jobs Online

These sites should be your starting points for any online job search. Most list more than just security jobs but you can filter the listings pretty quickly to find what you are looking for.

ReliefWeb: Many humanitarian organizations post their vacancies listings here. You'll also find UN, governmental, media and academic positions available.
AlertNet: AlertNet is another good source of security job listings from multiple organizations.
jobs.un.org: If you are looking for UNDSS or DPKO security jobs this is a good place to start.
unjobs.org: This link is not actually a UN site but it does have UN and NGO job listings.
RedR: Many organizations use RedR to help them find suitable candidates for positions they have available. Registration is required.

Don't ignore the websites of the larger humanitarian organizations either. Most have job listings that include security positions from time to time.

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This work by Kevin Toomer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
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