Sooner or later in your career, you have turned lunch breaks, entire weekends or nights into a job search. Looking for a job can be like dating: it can either be an easy going match, quickly finding the right job position for you, or it might be a long and unsatisfying search over millions of websites. The climax arises if you want to use your past research expertise into something new, a multidisciplinary professional experience (especially outside academia). So then, the issue: googling the keywords of your dream job, the ‘what’ and the ‘where’. Frustration, frustration and frustration. Until you find it, Josh’s Water Jobs! A collection of water-related job positions worldwide, jumping from NGOs, UN consultancies, PhD/Post-doc with a turnover of new posts almost every day.
This interview is to introduce who saved our endless searches, giving us the chance to apply for a position that, probably, we would have never found alone. I am presenting Dr Joshua Newton.
1) Hello Josh, can you please tell us something about you, your background and actual employment?
Some years ago, my Bachelor’s degree focused on international hydropolitics and I ended up working on transboundary water issues for about a decade, although I still do some work on the subject from time to time. In the middle of my PhD, which was focused on transboundary cooperation, I did what was supposed to be a short-term consultancy at UNESCO on the Ministerial Process of the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul that turned into two years. During that time, I asked myself the question why this Process was the only platform we had at the global level to discuss water. So I ended up switching my PhD to focus on global water governance, macro-level thinking on how countries interact at the global level over water, basically within the United Nations system. And I’ve been working on global political processes related to water with a variety of organizations ever since.
I’m currently a half-time staff member at the Global Water Partnership (GWP) in Stockholm, Sweden and then I freelance the other 50% of the time. And, of course, my major hobby is the website.
2) How was this idea born and how did you turn it into a widely consulted website?
It wasn’t so much an idea as something that kind of organically grew over time. Like all of us, we get emails from colleagues asking to share a job opening within our network. Eight or so years ago, when this happened a few times, I put together a Word document with the emails of ~30 friends/colleagues who might be interested in job openings and would copy and paste that into an email from my Gmail account with whatever job came out. It must have happened at one point that I got a few jobs in one week and put a small list together. I then started to actively look for openings and at the same time, when at conferences with young professionals, tell them that I had this small jobs list that I sent out from time to time if they wanted to join. More people got on the list, I found more jobs, the lists came out more frequently, all over the course of like 5 years. In 2016, there were 60 jobs a week and it made sense to turn it into a website, so people could then search for older jobs. And it’s taken off from there.
3) How can you find all these job positions? Are you selecting them according to some specific criteria?
You would think that over time and familiarity with the website, organizations would be sending me these jobs (since it’s free), but it still doesn’t happen with frequency. I have a bookmarked list of over 100 websites, organizations and job sites, that I go to every week, some almost every day, to find the jobs. Of the most recent list, 95% of the jobs were found this way, which is about the average.
There is no hard and fast criteria. If someone requests that I post a job, and there is some aspect of water to it, I almost never say no. What I look for myself are jobs that are international in nature (international scope or with an international organization) or I simply find interesting that are at the national level. I’m limited by language and time in the end. In reality, there are tens of thousands of water jobs out there every day, but the niche the website has is the more international flavour.
4) Do you have any tips for our young audience regarding their job searching?
While it’s important to go online on my website and others, and apply for jobs through those platforms, my perception is that people still get jobs most by going out and pounding the pavement by knocking on doors, having lots of coffee, exchanging emails and talking on the phone. Yes, people get jobs by applying to those online, but there is an equal number of jobs out there that are never posted, especially junior positions. Why would some organizations post jobs when they are getting approached by talent all the time? It often just takes some luck in chatting with the right person at the right time or chatting with them and they remembering you when something does come up. That is how I got my first gig at UNESCO. And, look for other entry points such as internships and short-term consultancies. It is easier to hire someone who is already in the system, in the building, rather than going through a full hiring process to find someone external. There is no silver bullet way to get a job, but it’s important to both apply online and talk to people and organizations that you want to work for.
5) What are you planning for the future?
I always have a lot of plans for the website, but it comes down to finding the time to implement all those plans. I’d really like to get the blog aspect of the site up and running. I don’t want to be writing myself on the blog every week, as we have a great number of people with various sets of expertise out there who can contribute. It’s just a matter of organizing all the ideas I have and setting them into motion, with a great deal of coordination to follow.
Eventually, there will be member profiles on the site, which will pave the way for additional functionality, so people can save jobs, have specific search criteria, etc. Again, as you mentioned in your intro, what the website does primarily is to save people time, so it would be great to get even better at that.
And, since I’ve looked at probably 20,000 job descriptions now (no joke) and have gained an eye for the human resources side of the water world because of the website, I will soon start to offer CV collection and short-listing services for open positions. I guess the official name is Recruitment Process Outsourcing. Not quite full-fledged headhunting/executive search, but almost to that level.
Other than that, just to find more jobs to put on the website!