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Options for advancing careers in M&E: A note to Emerging Evaluators.

Christo de Coning

 The suggestions below are offered for consideration and reflection by young professionals interested in advancing their careers.

These humble suggestions include the following:

  • Plan and work hard on your own personal development. Make it a theme in your life. Set yourself particular goals and work towards it. Develop your spiritual and emotional intelligence and be clear about why you are pursuing your career.
  • Apply for positions and work with organisations that will provide you with opportunities to grow and to increase your value in the market as an M&E practitioner. Develop your work portfolio purposefully. Move on when you need to;
  • Expose yourself to different M&E work environments, thereby gaining experience in the different applications of evaluation. If you have difficulty in finding appropriate work, volunteer yourself for M&E Project Teams and community development programmes, thereby strengthening your experiences and work record and developing relations that will make you more employable.
  • Equip yourselves with the body of knowledge to practice good quality evaluations and to become specialists in your areas. This may include formal study but also the development of sound conceptual approaches in the working environment. M&E is a cross-cutting methodology, approach and management tool, also develop your subject matter specific areas. Read a lot. Know what is available and explore new material. Being a good evaluator means having a good conceptual grasp and being a good intellectual;
  • Have a career development discussion with an experienced facilitator that you respect and consider the various options to further your career and qualifications over the medium and long-term.
  • Advance your qualifications. A range of exciting Certificate Courses, Post graduate Diplomas and Masters Degrees exist in this field;
  • Develop your networks. Develop relationships with respected evaluators and learn from these people. Develop your local, specialist and international networks purposefully. Develop your own social capital, develop trust, sound relationships and the ability to work with others;
  • Develop as part of your networks, specific mentorship relationships. Emerging Evaluators are advised to consider both formal (e.g. in your organisation) and informal mentors (typically successful and experienced practitioners outside of you formal working environment). Take this seriously, develop a short Mentorship or Coaching Programme document with mentorship objectives and activities. Meet for coffee to review these regularly. Mentorships and coaching are powerful forms of career advancement;
  • Develop a multi-year programme of local and international conferences and attempt to attend an appropriate local conference annually and an international conference every second year. Be brave and present Posters of papers.
  • Develop your CV purposefully with a strong emphasis on experience and qualifications. Personalize your CV and be determined to develop a good work record over time with balanced activities that will advance you as a professional;
  • Develop case studies or stories on the M&E initiatives that you have been involved with and publish these. A written record of evaluation experiences allow you to place these on record but also to have a concrete basis for discussion with your peers and other important players. Cases could be developed for learning or research purposes. Develop your own case and story portfolio.
  • Consider more serious publication also with co-authors that can assist you to learn.
  • Find a balance between work, studies and your family and friends;
  • Become a SAMEA Member and develop a long-term relationship with this organisation. Be part of building this profession in South Africa and beyond.
  • Attend the SAMEA Conference and attend the sessions on Mentorship and EE presentations. This will include experienced Mentors giving advice on career development and attending the Emerging Evaluators session where young professionals will be presenting their papers on M&E themes. Remember to enjoy what you do.

The SAMEA Board wishes you well with your respective careers and will continue to build the portfolio for emerging evaluators and to support young professionals.