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#214 Writing their own job descriptions

June 17, 2013

Submitted by JDW

You are not a true EAW until you have written your own job description at least once. In the real world, this is generally unheard of, but in the land of EAWs this is a well-established norm. The only place where someone advises you to write your own job description in developed countries is in visualization games in self-help books.

EAW offices are very busy places. People are knuckling down fighting poverty and building resilience and capacity.  This can mean there is a terrible strain on staff to get mundane tasks completed… such as actually developing a well-thought-out job description.

There are a number of scenarios where you get to write your own job description. You might be an intern or volunteer and have proven yourself in some way. It could be that you slept with someone, sucked up a lot or astonishingly actually did a good job. Anyhow, you are put to work at developing some terms of reference for yourself and someone looks under couches to scrape the money together to pay you more than a top national civil servant in the country you now find yourself in.

You may be a consultant or freelancer and you know an office has some money that they need to spend. So, yes, they come up with something for you to do. It is important to approach organisations at the end of their fiscal year. You can prepare the job description before the meeting. What you actually do may not even be needed, but it will keep you in a faraway land on your tourist visa and get you paid– and that’s what really counts.

On occasion you may get the big paid job with the allowances and the over-inflated prestige with the dark side of the UN or with an actual donor. Normally this process will take as long as the gestation period of a blue whale, so by the time you actually get the letter offering you the job, the original position is no longer relevant. First day, first task …… “update” the job description.

Since there is so much capacity to be built and gender to be mainstreamed, the EAW manager is generally too busy to have any concept of the actual role or name of anybody in the human resources section. They must always feign shock that such a simple administrative task (i.e., hiring someone) should take so long, roll their eyes at the administrative deficiencies of the organization and beg to push this new job description through immediately.

Of course, many EAWs believe that because local staff are often the ones responsible for admin, it can’t help but be inefficient – the poor dears don’t understand the urgency in hiring this new person. Let’s not consider that local staff know full well that 47 of their colleagues have been bypassed for pay increases for the last four years and rushing that job description stinks more than an EAW riddled with giardia.

Of course, if the job description ever hits the internet, it is imperative to: give it the absolute minimum amount of allowed time to be displayed on a website that no one checks; have a start date that is ridiculous and could only be fulfilled by someone who already sits at the desk; have qualification requirements that exactly match that of the person who wrote it; and, importantly, include a section on upholding the ethical principles of the organization that you are about to work in.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt White permalink
    June 17, 2013 6:38 am

    Of course, the “more than a top national civil servant in the country you now find yourself in” pay doesn’t apply in Kenya, the DRC, or any other country where parliamentarians earn more in an hour than their average citizen does in a year.

  2. Sofo permalink
    June 19, 2013 8:01 am

    Any resemblance to agencies flying the blue flag with the olive branch is merely coincidental.

  3. Sadie permalink
    July 5, 2013 7:25 am

    Funny stuff! I’ve also written my own job deswcriptions (and outgoing reference letters) at jobs with small refugee service NGOs in western European countries.

  4. July 26, 2013 11:32 am

    Epic post! As a “local” with EAW colleagues, developing JDs (as job descriptions) on short notice happens but one has to appreciate the “dynamic” environment that international development is: at times, formal recruitment processes are not possible to follow. As post rightly puts, capacity building and mainstreaming takes precedence over mundane administrative procedures. .

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