, ,

The Handshake Presents: Justin Colvard of Mercy Corps Advises Curiosity in Career-Seeking

The Handshake aims to attract and retain talent in The Hague by offering students and young professionals a chance to hear from seasoned practitioners in the peace and justice sector. The second edition of the Handshake with Justin Colvard was held on September 17, 2023. Check out this page to see any upcoming editions!

Meet Justin Colvard

Our guest speaker for the second edition of The Handshake was Justin Colvard, Mercy Corps‘ Strategic Response Manager. He has worked in international development, public health and nutrition for over 12 years. He has done this in a variety of different countries, including DR Congo, Mali, Haiti, and Bangladesh, giving him a very international outlook when it comes to the job search. At Mercy Corps, he works in change management and leadership support. Over the past year, he has been supporting teams across the globe to launch and adapt new humanitarian initiatives in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. A lot of his job relies on problem solving, which, he states, brings new challenges all the time, but whose solutions can often be very practical.

Before joining Mercy Corps’ Strategic Leadership Team in the Netherlands, Justin worked with Helen Keller International, Tulane University and Mercy Corps in multiple countries. He speaks both English and French and holds an MPH in International Health and Development from Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, as well as two BAs from Texas Christian University. He has a wide range of experience and knowledge, including in program design and planning, analytics and quality control for food security and cash-based programming, and youth engagement and leadership. He gave valuable insights on how he gained this experience and what he has learned throughout his career journey.

Justin’s Advice

Justin placed a lot of emphasis on fostering curiosity as a way of opening doors and opportunities. Likening curiosity to a muscle that needs to be exercised, he connected a lot of good advice to the art of being curious. An example of this was networking. Especially for people early in their career, good networking can be most effective when job hunters focus on expressing curiosity and exploring various potential job opportunities or people’s career experiences. Making use of LinkedIn and asking people in the field of your career interests about their organizations helps to give you answers that you may not have gotten without actively seeking them out. “What does your day-to-day look like?” “What kind of things are challenging about your work?” “What’s one thing you wished you knew going into your role?” Practicing curiosity allows you to build up your learner’s mindset, which in itself opens you up to a wider variety of experiences. He also emphasized the importance of becoming literate in your area of interest. If you know that you want to go into a specific sector, be proactive and begin researching and developing the skills needed. From there, you can look for internships or volunteer experiences to build upon. And if you are not yet sure what you would like to specialize in, learning as much as you can about the organizations that interest you is always helpful. Especially by discussing with people who already work there, as your genuine curiosity will set you apart.

Other Highlights

  • The correct response to the question “Do you have any questions for us?” is always “Yes!” Use any extra time in job interviews to ask questions and show that you have reflected on the position and how it relates to you and your goals.
  • Required skills are not only contextual to your area of interest; language, intercultural communication, and computer (and even software programming) skills are almost always a good basis to help you stand out.
  • Even volunteer work or internships can count as experience as long as you can frame them as such. Think about how each experience has helped you develop skills necessary for your goals.