After volunteering in Africa, how can I return and work as a professional?

Hi Ali,

Sounds like you’re looking to start an international career. That’s great! Trust me, it is an incredibly satisfying way to live and work. International careers are built step-by-step, as you build up your international credentials.

International employers hire people with high International IQs. You need to assure your future international employers that you understand the cross-cultural workplace and that you have the skills to navigate and be successful when working in places that are different from your home.

A word of advice: I strongly suggest that you broaden your horizons in terms of your ideal destination for future international work. By limiting your desired location to Uganda (where you have been before), you may be cutting off extraordinary opportunities in your sector in other areas of the world. I highly recommend that when the time comes to conduct your international job search, you do it based on sector-specific approach, rather than a country-specific one.

By volunteering in Uganda, you are well on your way to gaining strong international skills. Continue building international experience while studying at home by taking every opportunity to work in cross-cultural environments or to go abroad. Take internationally-focused courses. Align yourself with professors who have international interests. In law, you will need to decide if you want to practice private sector law or public international law (PIL).

One key element towards the end of your studies is to land a professional international internship. There are hundreds of internships available for Americans and Canadians alike, start researching them in your first year of law school. I know a number of law students who have created their own internships by writing to well-known international law practitioners (based in Hong Kong and London, for example) and offering their research services in exchange for basic living allowance. You will need this type of experience to crack the market. Be bold (while being diplomatic and gracious) in your pursuits for an international internship. Read International Law Careers (for registered users) for more insights.

All the best,


Full question: 

Hi. I recently got my undergrad degree and am planning to continue on to law school. Last year I spent my summer volunteering with an NGO in Uganda. I went by myself and had the time of my life. Even though some elements were difficult to adjust to, it was totally worth it. I’ve decided that I definitely want to go back as a professional, even if I have to work at the local wage level. Do you have any tips for me?

-Ali, 23, Saskatoon, SK