Always have a support system
Strength in Support

On a recent long flight, I watched the movie “Kipchoge “The Last Milestone.  If you have not yet watched it, I highly recommend that you do. The movie follows the Kenyan world marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge as he prepares to make history by running the marathon in under 2 hours.  As he made history on 12th October 2019 Kipchoge said “I am running for humanity, I want to remove that click in every human’s mind that no human is limited. We are all human beings, and we try to show other human beings that you can do it! I want to send a message to the minds and to the blood of all the human families in the world, be it runners, lawyers, teachers engineers all kinds of human families in this world that no human is limited.” Kipchoge had already established the world record, but he had a career goal and that was to inspire people and he achieved that goal. There are many lessons in the movie, but I found two that resonated with me:

  1. We can and we must challenge our own preconceived limits and those of others: Running the marathon in under 2 hours had been labeled impossible but Kipchoge believed that he could do it and he set it as a goal. When he succeeded, he bust that myth and proved that nobody knows what a human can achieve therefore nobody can place a limit on your goals except your mind.  Yes, that goes for your career goals too! There are times during the goal setting coaching session when a coachee is setting pre-conceived limits on their goals by telling themselves that they can only achieve major career milestones after a longer than necessary period or they feel they cannot get a job as a “Director” yet then we have to take a step back and work through the imposter syndrome and limit busting exercises.

2}  A support system is key to any success: Kipchoge had 9 pacemaker teams that helped him run that race. When there was 500 meters left the pacemakers dropped off and let him finish by himself and take the limelight.  At the end of the finish line his wife was waiting for him and celebrated the making of history. We all need that kind of support system. We need a tribe that will run the journey with us and step back to cheer us on when we succeed. We need Accountability partners that will remind us of those goals that we set and nudge us back on track. We need friends that sit at our table and support our dreams over a cup of tea. We need a family that will pull us up when we stumble and celebrate the wins with us! In the HUMHR career coaching programs we share a lot about accountability partners and a support system when navigating professional goals whether it be a job search, career transition, lay off, promotion, whatever phase of your professional journey you are going through a support system is key.

As I watched the movie, I was reminded of my January read “The light we carry” by Michelle Obama where she talks about a Harvard research that had volunteers carry heavy backpacks and made them stand at the bottom of the hill as if they were going to climb it. Half of them stood alone and the other half with a friend, the research showed that those with a friend perceived the hill less steep and the climb less of a struggle! Therein lies the strength we have in a support system.


This blog post is dedicated to my friend the late Sichelesile Moyo-Ncube who sat at my table and I at hers for over 25 years. Who supported me through the bad and celebrated with me through the good. Who, when I started my coaching business was one of my first clients. Whose last act of kindness to me was to support my coaching business by a referral. My table is so much poorer without her sitting at it!

*The featured image at the top is a blast from the past – University days! From left to right: Batje, Char, Che

Hiring Humanitarian professionals in COVID times

COVID-19 has radically changed recruitment in humanitarian agencies… or has it? The advent of the COVID-19 virus has led to dramatic changes in the way humanitarian staff work, with most staff having to work from home and the downscaling of fieldwork.

With regards to the HR function, recruitment has had to be conducted remotely with the use of telecommunications technology such as ZOOM, WEBEX and Teams.

 It does not seem, however, like there has been a sweeping freeze in recruitment as one would have expected – a quick search on the UN JOBS website on the 26th of May 2020 shows 1,806 open positions being advertised and from informal discussions, with HR colleagues only one organization seems to have implemented a complete freeze on recruitment. 

In addition, OXFAM recently announced a major restructuring resulting in their withdrawal from 18 offices globally and the laying off 1,450 staff in part, due to the “financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic”. Apart from this, it would appear most humanitarian organizations are still recruiting, albeit remotely. Of course, this may change as the impact of COVID-19 continues.

An argument could be made that the move to remote recruitment may disenfranchise potential candidates who may not have access to reliable internet connectivity, but this is a topic for another blog. 

Recruitment in most humanitarian agencies typically follows the following cycle: –

  1. Needs definition and identification  
  2. Sourcing (e.g. advertising)
  3. Screening (level 1 screening typically done automatically by an Applicant Tracking System – ATS)
  4. Shortlisting of candidates
  5. Selection broken down into
    1. written assessment
    2. Interview
    3. Hiring – Offer
  6. Onboarding

Each of these stages can and have in the past, been done with very little physical interaction with candidates. For over a decade, humanitarian organisations have been using tools such as Skype to conduct interviews.

As an example, in 2011 I was recruiting international staff for an international NGO in Haiti; the entire recruitment process (including on-boarding) for international staff was conducted remotely. We only got to physically meet the new staff member when they reported for their first day of work! 

Furthermore, organisations increasingly are looking at potential candidates’ online profile, scouring the internet for publicly available information on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Be sure to read my upcoming blog on social media review and branding to learn how to maximise on your online presence. 

As broadband and mobile connectivity have become ubiquitous, there has been an exponential increase in the use of technology in the recruitment process including the conducting of “person less” video interviews – where candidates log in to a website and have to record themselves responding to a number of questions. 

The responses are reviewed at a later stage by a panel who in most cases are sitting in remote locations. An example of this automated video interviewing solution is SONRU. I personally know of a number of people who were recruited in this manner.

From the foregoing, it is somewhat surprising that there has been incessant chatter about how COVID-19 has had a profound impact on how humanitarian agencies conduct their recruitment. Based on my research and experience, it appears that most humanitarian organisations have been to a large extent performing remote recruitment, perhaps not at the same level as pre-COVID, but pretty close to it. 

In my view, the aspects of the recruitment process adversely affected include physically reporting for work at the designated work location. Due to COVID-19 induced lockdowns and travel restrictions, some humanitarian organisations have resorted to having new hires working from their “home location” or in some cases from the locations where they found themselves “locked down” in at the time of hiring. 

Another recruitment activity that has been impacted by COVID-19, is the requirement for medicals prior to starting employment. Access to testing facilities combined with a desire on the part of the candidate to minimize exposure makes it extremely difficult to facilitate pre-employment medicals. From a recruitment perspective, the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of utilization of appropriate technological tools in the recruitment process, but it has not changed the process itself. 

The pandemic has, however, impacted other HR processes especially those that fall within the employer-employee relationship, such as leave policy. An intriguing issue right now is the mandatory quarantine period being enforced by most countries and its implications on leave especially if a member of staff travels. 

Questions related to whether the time spent in quarantine constitutes part of the leave or whether the organisation is liable for payment of quarantine facility bills should their employee is placed under mandatory quarantine have no easy answers. I will tackle these and other questions related to working from home and flexible working arrangements in an upcoming blog on COVID-19 impact on the broader HR functions. 

To conclude, in my view HR recruitment in the humanitarian sector has not radically changed as a result of COVID-19.  Career opportunities still exist within the UN agencies and a plethora of NGO’s. It would be good to heed our mantra at HUMHR, “Panic not, but Prepare” during these uncertain times. We can work with you to help ensure that your career marketing documents are excellently written and walk with you on your career journey.  Our next blog will discuss the skills needed in a post-COVID-19 world.


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