By Stephanie Vélez*
As outlined in my previous post, business and human rights currently seems to be propelling forward at an unstoppable pace and it’s a really exciting time to get involved.
I work for Lake Advisory, a consultancy specialising in supply chain sustainability and responsible sourcing. In short, we promote labour rights in supply chains, working closely with corporations, the government and NGOs to achieve this. I love my job as it’s the ‘nice’ side of business: nearly everything we do is in the ‘pre-competitive’ space, which means we speak to our competitors and work together collaboratively to tackle big issues such as labour exploitation and slavery. We also work on innovative solutions to advance good human resource management such as social dialogue and worker engagement at supplier level.
If you’re looking for a job in this field and have been banging your head against a wall for a while, I hope this post gives you some hope. I had little direct experience in business and human rights before getting a paid job and my CV felt more geared up towards a job in the non-profit sector. I graduated from the Masters in Understanding and Securing Human Rights in 2011-12, which was an amazing year, and probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. I am certain that having the Masters led me to my subsequent internships and to where I am today.
Here are some tips for getting a job in this sector but also for job hunting in general:
– Don’t underestimate transferable skills Whatever experience you have, whether it’s the research and knowledge you gained on a course, a blog you write, a campaign you’ve run, a society or club you’ve led, will stand you in good stead as its shows you’re serious and committed.
– Go to interviews even if you don’t want the job Interviews can be daunting and practice makes perfect. Ask for feedback (you won’t always get it). When looking for a paid job I went for an interview to be a volunteer in Costa Rica saving turtles.
– Personalise your CV (not just your cover letter) Most jobs these days seem to require application forms, but if you send a CV, add a short personal statement which makes it obvious why you’re interested in that specific job. You may also want to remove experience from your CV which isn’t relevant. My line manager told me that one weak thing about my CV was the high number of short-term experiences I had, which could be interpreted as uncommitted. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to explain why, but you might not get that chance. It can be a fine balance between showing you have lots of experience and looking uncommitted.
– Change job titles Change the title of ‘Intern’ to anything else e.g. Project Officer, Project Coordinator…be creative (but honest!). This is especially important for websites which automatically send you jobs based on previous job titles. I still get alerts for ‘Volunteer Coordinator’ because I did that once, 7 years ago!
– Get a job, any job, while you search This is mainly to keep you from going insane. There’s nothing worse than job hunting day in, day out and writing lengthy, well thought-through applications. When I met my line manager for an interview, she liked the fact I was working, even if it was just a temp job. If anything, it demonstrates you’re an able person and can multi-task.
– Keep gaining experience However few hours per week you can manage, whether it be with UN Online volunteering from the comfort of your bed, or for a local charity. Fieldwork experience is always great; find a niche area if possible. My line manager is well-respected in our industry and gets work because she has a PhD and experience of working in factories, but also understands corporate needs and priorities. See list below for some volunteering ideas.
– Look in obscure places Try anything and everything because you never know where it will lead. I put my CV on CV Library where a recruitment agency found me because they wanted someone with languages for a customer service role – which I declined – but they eventually found Lake Advisory and linked me in. I doubt you’ve heard of Lake Advisory, but we work with some big brands that everyone knows. Below I’ve written a list of some ‘not so famous’ organisations which work in business and human rights for you to check out. Sign up to all their newsletters.
– Go to conferences and events This is to keep your knowledge relevant and to network. There are some free events which you can go to, such as the Ethical Trading Initiative’s Insight breakfasts, which happen every 1-2 months.
– Become a trustee When I was job-hunting a friend recommended becoming a trustee of a local charity, which will give you great strategic experience. Below is a website where you can search for trustee positions.
– Be aware of trends Examples include the Sustainable Development Goals, legislation such as the UK Modern Slavery Act, business and human rights benchmarks. Follow the organisations you want to work for on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Lastly, be encouraged. If you’re reading this blog you likely already have a qualification or experience in human rights which is really useful for business at the moment. There is a big drive towards human rights across all sectors, especially with the Modern Slavery Act that the UK government introduced in 2015; companies like Marks & Spencer and John Lewis have already published extensive human rights reports and more will follow. This direction towards greater transparency will only expand the amount of work in this field as businesses figure out how to ‘do’ human rights.
- Acre – Sustainability and CSR recruitment
- Charity People
- Harris Hill
- Morgan Hunt
- Eden Brown
- CV Library – add your CV with job titles you want to be contacted for
- Liberty Resourcing
Newsletters / Job Searches
- Guardian jobs
- Guardian Sustainable Business Network
- Charity job
- AWID women’s rights
- Idealist careers
- Dev Net Jobs
- Relief web
- Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
- Institute for Human Rights & Business
- Ethical Trading Initiative
- Ergon Associates
- Ethical Jobs
- Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability
- Follow the organisations you would like to work for on Twitter and LinkedIn
Examples of ‘not-so-famous’ organisations that work in business and human rights:
- Elevate Limited
- Stronger Together
- Consumer Goods Forum
- Shift Project
- Look at members of the Ethical Trading Initiative – companies, NGOs and trade unions
Charity Works – UK Non-Profit Sector’s Graduate Programme
Euro Brussels – jobs in Brussels
Keep gaining experience:
UN Online Volunteers (can work from home)
UN Volunteering (could be abroad)
Irise charity set up by medical students on WASH, gender equality, education, health
Do It find volunteering opportunities. You can do an advanced search based on your location, availability, interests, and skills
Become a trustee of a local charity.
*Stephanie Vélez works for Lake Advisory, an independent consultancy specialising in responsible sourcing and sustainability. Lake Advisory works with businesses, investors, non-profits and governments to drive greater transparency, responsibility and efficiency in global supply chains.