Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is an emerging and fast-growing field in international development. Before now, M&E was not a priority for organizations, especially Civil Society Organizations. Today, however, increasing demand for measuring project impact by investors has led to the integration of M&E into most global development projects at the design stage.
Consequently, demand for workers in this area is high, while supply is low. This means that if you fulfil the requirements of the M&E occupation, you are likely to get a position in the area of work. The downside is that the M&E field is very technical, and requires a certain skill set.
Young professionals who wish to initiate a career in M&E need to try out the following.
1. Have the required qualifications.
You do not necessarily need to acquire specialized undergraduate or postgraduate degrees in ‘Monitoring and Evaluation”. However, a prospective M&E professional would need to take courses related to social research methods, survey design, statistics etc. Quantitative skills such as data and information analysis and interpretation are also vital to the field of M&E. You would need to be familiar with software like SPSS and STATA too. Also, if your goal is to become an M&E specialist in a specific area of focus such as forestry, nutrition, or reproductive health, it would help if you further your focus with qualifications in those areas as well. Cloneshouse Nigeria offers tailored M&E training designed for both young professionals and experts looking to improve their knowledge and keep abreast with current trends in the field.
In the fall of 2021, I was offered an Internship position at Cloneshouse Nigeria. During this time, I had the opportunity of taking the Online Basic Monitoring (OBME) and Result Based Monitoring and Evaluation (RBME) programs offered by the organization. Both courses are intensive and elaborate, covering all the key skills and areas required for an M&E professional.The learning experience contributed significantly to my career advancement.
2. Volunteer to assist experienced evaluators
Most often, young professionals intending to start a career in the M&E field face the problem of recruiters insisting that entry-level position applicants have at least 2-3 years of direct M&E experience. However, the chances of getting the M&E experience are slim if most employers don’t hire you. This makes it difficult for young professionals to break into the M&E field. The most viable option for young professionals who find themselves in a similar position is to volunteer to assist a more seasoned evaluator. Another alternative is to apply for an internship. Many organizations offer volunteering and internship opportunities that young professionals can take advantage of. The post covid era has made things easier; internship programs are no longer necessarily limited to physical locations. Cloneshouse Nigeria offers virtual internship opportunities for young professionals who are looking to further careers in M&E.
The internship program is 90% remote, so it can be leveraged by interested young professionals who reside outside Abuja and/or Nigeria. The training is detailed and intensive, covering areas such as data collection, analysis, presentation, reporting, the use of data collection and management tools and M&E systems and software.
Interning at Cloneshouse and taking these courses, especially in data analysis, presentation and the use of data interpretation software helped to boost my confidence and closed a major gap in my skill set. Undoubtedly, my visibility has increased and I have been able to secure job interviews and subsequent employment.
It is important to note that most M&E specialists started at the bottom of the M&E totem pole.
3. Join evaluation networks and associations (local and international)
All serious M&E professionals (aspiring and seasoned) need to be part of an evaluation association. This is essential for two reasons: it provides opportunities for networking and learning. Through shared stories, members can access guidance on where and how to gain experience in the field and the dos and don’ts for beginners. A professional platform also gives access to job and fellowship opportunities that may never get widely advertised.
Joining evaluation networks and associations will not yield results if you do not read the resource shared within the networks. Read widely about the field of M&E, “best practices” current trends and methods. Knowledge of the international standards and rules that involve the field such as the ISO 9000, PRINCE 2, and GAPPS will be helpful too.
The Cloneshouse Nigeria newsletter to which I am currently subscribed is a good resource for information on trends and career opportunities in international development and evaluation networks in the M&E field. Notably, I found the EOI for my current consulting job while reading the Cloneshouse newsletter. Other such networks are Independent Evaluation Group, The African Evaluation Association (AfrEA), Better Evaluation, etc
4. Make use of free virtual training opportunities
There are several cost-free courses on development M&E offered by various organizations and learning platforms. Philanthropy University is one such organization. Here in Nigeria, Cloneshouse Nigeria offers a range of tailored M&E courses and training for young professionals and specialists in the M&E field at a subsidized rate. If you have read up to this point, you would have already known that the OBME and RBME programs offered by Cloneshouse were responsible for my career advancement in the M&E field.
5. Do not focus on job titles
Assuming you have formal training in M&E (professional development course(s) and/or a degree programme) and have acquired on the job experience through volunteering or mentorship. You are confident that you can execute the functions of an M&E specialist; however, a job vacancy states that the successful candidate should have held the post of “M&E Manager” in the past etc. As an applicant who has not worked as an M&E Manager before but has worked as a lead researcher on many studies and trained in participatory methodologies with competence in statistics, you should highlight the relevant skill sets you have acquired and not focus on your lack of direct M&E experience.
6. Apply for the job
It is important to note that employers rarely get the ideal or perfect candidate for any job. They regularly settle for the best from the pool of applicants. Also, a well experienced M&E professional with more than five years of experience most likely will not apply for an entry-level M&E post of a particular salary. You most likely will be competing with persons with the same amount (or absence of) experience as yourself. The playing field will be levelled, so go for it!
Here too, Cloneshouse is great at creating opportunities and grooming young professionals in the M&E field. The organization periodically recruits, trains and retains interns. Your best bet is to keep a tab on the organization’s website here
Finally, always enjoy what you do, find a balance between work, personal development and social life.
About the Author
Isese Sor is an experienced Monitoring and Evaluation Professional with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit sector. Skilled in Monitoring, Reporting, Data Quality Assurance (DQA), Data management, M&E framework development and design, Facilitation, Documentation, Project management, Knowledge Management, Data analysis, and Research. She possesses broad experience in conducting M&E within the context of several technical and other cross-cutting areas, including health, economic empowerment, governance, social accountability and issue-based/ evidence-based advocacy.
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