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How to land a logistics job in the development sector?

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by Impactpool

The demand for logistics know-how is high and logistics is also one of our most popular occupational searches at Impactpool. To land your dream job takes a bit of career planning and knowledge about this sector. Our Director Talent Acquisition makes an effort to provide you premium tips to ensure you improve your chances to land your dream job.

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The globalization of local economies clearly increases the demand for logistics expertise both from a profit and nonprofit perspective. We can see this pattern in the number of job advertisements in the development sector, especially at field-based organizations.

Logistics in the development sector has a wide range of areas, including coordination between organization's to ensure that not every organization provides the same services at the same time, to procurement of transportations of goods and knowledge about shipping, all the way to the logistics personnel wearing colored service vests with aid organization logotypes broadcasted in media worldwide providing services and goods on the ground in refugee camps or field missions.

The logistics career field is broad and first thing as talent is to start your career preparation by identifying what kind of job you would like to do and what you need to add to your professional experience in order to make yourself eligible (if anything).

What is a recruiter looking for?

As the logistics field is broad with a wide range of occupations my answer to this question is quite general. As an example, the different skills required comparing a coordinator at HQ and a professional handing out food packages in a field mission are of course very different. The professional handing out food packages benefits from having past experience showing resilience serving under extreme conditions. The coordinator at HQ benefits from having a large network from the past in the area of development logistics, knowing the processes and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of organization's serving in the logistics areas, this person should be able to know whom to contact and how to make sure that services provided/procured are coordinated and cost-efficient.

In general terms after having ensured that the applicant meets the minimum requirements (degree, years of experience, language, and likely other specified professional requirements) the recruiter will look for any:

  • experience from organizations/companies working with logistics at a global scale; i.e. WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR, UN-OCHA, DPKO, DFS, International Medical Corps (IMC), Action Against Hunger, International Rescue Committee (IRC), UNDP, Red Cross, Save the Children and WHO, MAERSK etc.
  • volunteer experience;
  • any field or hands-on hardship experience (previous/current work in crisis countries or locations);
  • any language combinations that would be an advantage - Arabic/English,  Arabic/French/English;
  • any experience from other organizations that serves in similar contexts as the position you apply for;
  • any professional experience from the organization you apply for;
  • any indication that you have qualified for UN rosters, technical clearance, talent pipelines or talent pools.

“Logistics is a transferable competency”

An advantage when searching for logistics positions at Impactpool is that you can find vacancies in lots of international organizations. The occupational group is broad and any field-based organization will always at some point have a need for expertise in this area. Logistics is also seen as a “transferable competency”, meaning that experience from the private sector is highly valued when applying for a job in the development sector. A tip is also to make a free text search, this search is especially useful if your expertise sits in a job family not listed in the broader groups that you can find on the site. 

Which organizations offer most opportunities?

This list can be made very long, so let’s focus on a few organizations that often source expertise in the area of logistics; WFP, UNICEF, UNHCR, UN-OCHA, UN-DFS, UN-DPKO, UN-DFS, International Medical Corps (IMC), Action Against Hunger, International Rescue Committee (IRC), UNDP, Red Cross, Save the Children and WHO.

These employers may be good to study a bit closer if you want to secure a logistics job. It could also be interesting to learn more about United Nations Global Service Centre (UNGSC) located in Brindisi, which is the center for UN’s logistics to peacekeeping operations worldwide.

Career levels and requirements

Here I focus on four different career tracks:

  • Service and support: These jobs are often locally recruited, which means that the applicant must be a national of the country where the job location is. Service and support profiles include drivers, dispatchers, schedulers, expeditors, merchandise buyer assistants, associates and clerks for distribution etc. Service and support jobs mainly require secondary education, in the UN system, these jobs are referred as to General Services opportunities.
  • Junior career: Professional junior-level career jobs require advanced degrees and known titles at this level are; Operations research analyst, Process analyst, Value chain analyst, Supply and Logistics Analyst. These jobs require often a minimum of two years of professional experience. Junior opportunities can both be recruited locally and internationally.
  • Mid-level career: Professional mid-level career opportunities requires an advanced degree and at least 5 years experience. Mid-level career titles could be Logistics Manager, Procurement and Logistics Manager, Logistics Coordinator. Mid-level career opportunities can both be recruited locally and internationally.
  • Senior career: Senior professional logistics jobs require advanced degree and at least 10 years experience. Senior titles could read, Logistics Manager, Logistics Advisor, Head of Procurement and Logistics, Head of Logistics. Senior-level career opportunities are mainly internationally recruited.

Additional requirements

  • Education: Having a relevant education is essential for anyone interested in a logistics career. Logistics degree programs cover areas of management, managerial decision-making, distribution and logistics and supply chain management. Given the wide scope of the sector, some university programs are referred to as an operations management degree or logistics and supply chain management degree. Some universities offer degrees in transportation and logistics.
  • If you are using your education to pursue a career in this sector, it could be wise while at university to get a development perspective into your degree, this could be achieved by applying for an internship at an international organization (such as UNGSC in Brindisi) or applying for any international field-based volunteer assignments


  • When applying for positions in the development sector combinations of languages is seen as an asset. At the moment many organizations are sourcing talents with combinations of Arabic and other languages such as French, Spanish, English, Portuguese.

Gender balance

  • Field-based positions are generally speaking male-dominated, especially for internationally recruited positions. HQ locations and Regional Centre locations are more balanced, however still male-dominated.

Last but not least being a woman is an advantage when applying for logistics opportunities, especially field-based jobs.

Photo by iStock

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