The Microfinance Hustle: an unconventional job search

When I arrived in India on a family vacation, I knew I wasn’t going back to New York. After spending the greater part of the previous 5 years following the microfinance industry with what can only be describe as a mild obsession, writing a thesis on the topic, and designing my major as an undergraduate around the subject, I was determined to find a job. “Give us a call when you get here,” I would hear from skeptical employers who did not believe my interest in moving abroad for a job or internship. Eventually, I decided my only option was to move to India and find a job in the microfinance sector once I was there.

Before arriving in India, I learned about an economic development conference. I contacted the organizers, asked to attend, and they graciously agreed. Once at the conference, I knew I needed to use that opportunity to network, meet people in microfinance, and then see if I could volunteer or intern with their organization.

At the conference, I made and effort to me everyone in the microfinance space. When I met Rangan Varadan, CEO of Micrograam, we had a brief, candid conversation about our opinions of microfinance. The for-profit business model resonated with me and I immediately knew I wanted to work for the organization. We both agreed that micro-credit organizations need to bring a greater diversity of financial services to every level of income, and this is the driving force behind the organization that makes me excited to come to work everyday.

Although I could have never planned this unlikely series of fortunate events, there are a few things that I wish I had know while looking for a job in microfinance:

Three job hunting tips I wish I knew:

  1.  Use your network: Yes, everyone says to use your network but how do you use your contacts when nobody has heard of your dream job? At first, I didn’t believe that anyone in my network knew contacts in the microfinance industry. I had an internship in the past at a microfinance organization in the US, but they had a different regional focus and I was interested in working in India. This was a foolish decision because once I did reach out to my contacts in India, I was invited to the conference were I found my job!
  2.  Go to where you want to be: I knew I wanted to work abroad but I wanted a job before moving there. This was an unrealistic expectation because very few employers (outside of fellowships) are willing to sponsor an employment visa or take a chance on somebody that they have never met before. Moving to India to find a job was the best decision I’ve ever made. The determination that I had to work in microfinance at the time, embolden me to do things I would have never done before.
  3.  Use Twitter: While job hunting in the US, I thought that Twitter and other forms of social media were a distraction. However, if I started using Twitter then, I would have known more about the whole ecosystem that microfinance/micro-lending organizations exists within. And as a result, I would have known about the jobs available in companies that support micro-lending and economic development; for example: social enterprise incubators, impact investing firms, and foundations. Although I knew these organizations were related, I had such narrowed my search so much that I was out of touch with the reality of microfinance- that it does not operate in isolation from other supporting industries.

Meera Sawkar is the Marketing Executive at MicroGraam. Meera studied Economics and International Affairs, concentrating on Global Development Studies at the George Washington University. Prior to moving to India to work for MicroGraam Marketplace, Meera worked at Crossfit Dashboard and Fonkoze USA.  

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