Looking for a job? Willing to travel and go away from home? Overseas, perhaps? Have you considered Haiti?
Well, maybe you should. Many tend to underestimate it, but the fact is, Haiti offers considerable employment opportunities and these opportunities are expected to expand and grow in years to come.
In 2012, the Caracol Industrial Park launched in Haiti, housing—among other international businesses—Korean clothing manufacturing giant Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd. According to a fact sheet furnished by the U.S. State Department, 65,000 direct jobs are expected to stem from the northern part of Haiti alone from this much-discussed partnership between the U.S government, the Haitian government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
And then there is Haiti’s tourism and hospitality industry. Best Western Premier, managed by Texas-based Aimsbridge Hospitality completed construction in late 2012, while Royal Oasis a five-star hotel conceptualized by Haitian-American entrepreneurs, recently underwent extensive renovations and an expansion.
Besides this business park and aforementioned ventures, there’s always Haiti’s private sector, which according to staffing executive Cedric Brandt, is where most of the job orders—he receives—originate from. Brandt, the CEO and founder of the Port-au-Prince-based staffing firm Job 509 has 45,000 registered job seekers in its database from all over the world, some of Haitian origin and some from elsewhere.
Ireland-based Digicel does the most hiring, contends Brandt, followed by coffee company Rebo S.A, soft drink firm Brasserie La Couronne. Haiti’s national brewery Brana—which is responsible for Haiti’s national beer Prestige—runs third, while Vorbe et Fils, and various companies in the advertising sector complete the list of companies with the most job openings.
Are you excited already? Yes? Yeah!
But where to start? There are various paths. Care for some advice to get your career in Haiti off the ground? Here are some:
1. Be prepared education-wise and be well-qualified.
Have never gone further than high school or the equivalent of secondary school and want to work in Haiti? Well, that may prove difficult. Specializations and credentials count for a lot; actually, they’re a big deal. In some cases, an advanced degree—such as a Master’s—is the minimum for a position. According to Brandt, the job categories where there is the most demand tend to be administration, industrial engineering, graphic design and hotel maintenance. Accountant professionals are also in demand, says Brandt, especially those with Quickbooks know-how and CPA certification.
Rose L. Jeudy, the president of the Haiti-based HR firm Haiti Staffing and Business Resources says: “The fields of business, agriculture and construction engineers are very high in demand.”
2. Apply, apply, apply, tande!
It’s been said, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, se pa tout fwa. That surely isn’t always the case. For every case that this maxim rings true, there are others when that is not the case. Says Maureen, a professional who has worked in Haiti: “All the jobs I’ve gotten in Haiti have been over the internet. There are these jobs sites for Haiti online that I use and that’s how I have gotten my jobs. Or the newspaper. Except some translation jobs, I have yet to use a contact to get a job here.”
Fendy Mesy, who worked in Haiti for 11 months, agrees that job seekers should turn to Haiti-specific resources. “I’d definitely recommend anyone looking for work in Haiti to utilize the resources of Haiti staffing firms, particularly, Job509 which I’ve personally used and got success from and Haiti Staffing and Business Resources.”
One of the biggest aggregators of jobs in Haiti is the site Haiti1Stop, which lists announcements for the non-profit and non-governmental sectors. The website for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti is another major source for job announcements as well as contract opportunities. The United Nations is also a major employer and regularly lists positions it has available in Haiti.
The Pan-American Development Foundation has job postings on its website as does the International Organization for Migration. The DC-based company Chemonics, one of three awardees of post-earthquake rebuilding contracts, occasionally advertises its Haiti vacancies on the international opportunities section of it website.
Development Alternative, Inc (more commonly known as DAI), also offers job opportunities in Haiti. Job seekers should regularly check the website for any listed jobs based in Haiti. The World Bank’s career section and international development staffing company Devex should also be consulted.
For those interested in working in the educational field in Haiti, institutions like Union School regularly accepts applications. Ecole de Choix, a trilingual school that is based in the Plateau Central area of Haiti in Mirebalais, is accepting applications from qualified potential staff. “We are always willing to review resumes at levels from kindergarten through fourth grade, since we also need individuals for our learning center and elsewhere,” states the school’s Chair Dr. Laura Pincus Hartman. In addition to teachers, the school is also looking for a principal.
As far as the medical and health sector, Haiti always has a need of professionals in those fields. A new hospital was built in the city of Mirebalais, and opportunities at that facility are advertised on the Partners in Health website.
3. Don’t be shy when it comes to social networking.
It helps, too, to get active on social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn makes it possible for users to make connections with decision-makers and other key people in and outside of Haiti who may contribute to job search success. LinkedIn has a great many groups such as the Jobs Haiti and Dominican Republic Group and the Haitian Diaspora Working in Haiti Group where human resources executives and current employees frequently post job updates and job leads. Many organizations and companies hiring in Haiti regularly tweet job announcements on that social network. Some have found that following professionals and companies on Facebook can help their job searches along.
4. Supplement your job search with some volunteerism.
If your job search seems to be stalling, develop a service-minded mentality. Volunteering can get one further than doing an actual job search at times. Like the volunteer path that Fendy Mesy took. Mesy had applied for a job with global public relations firm Burson-Masteller, which at the time was doing pro-bono work for the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC). The position in question was based in the firm’s DC office, and was eventually filled by someone else. But the hiring executives at Burson-Masteller were impressed enough with Mesy’s fluency in Haitian-Creole, toppled with her accomplishments in communications to call her back to interview for a paid communications position. While working alongside the pro-bono team was helpful, Mesy had to prove herself too, going through seven rounds of interviews before being told she had earned the position.
If you wish to volunteer in Haiti, there are countless organizations that you can choose to collaborate with. If you are business, micro-finance or administratively-inclined, check out Zafen, an organization that helps entrepreneurs and others become self-sufficient in Haiti. Interested in the medical field? Project Medishares welcomes medical volunteers. Wishing to work with youths? Goals Haiti, a sports-driven non-profit based in Leogane, Haiti is always on the lookout for volunteers. Fleur de Vie, a non-profit started by fashion designer Dayane Danier welcomes the opportunity to work with volunteers. Danier’s organizations offers craft workshops for youths in Haiti as well as sewing classes for adults.
To seek out other opportunities, visit the volunteer website Idealist that regularly lists general volunteer opportunities based in Haiti or that are Haiti-related.
5. Be flexible in terms of salary.
Brandt has advice for newcomers to Haiti’s workforce, whether of non-Haitian origin or not. “If they have experience outside of Haiti, they need to understand that most of the Haitian companies are also looking for someone with some local experience,” he says. “Even if you have five years of experience in the States, you will have to make some concessions on your salary expectations because companies here in Haiti will consider that as 2-3 years of experience. They still think that it’s a challenge for them also to hire a Haitian from the outside who has no knowledge of the Haitian market. It will be a one-year learning process and [the said employee] will definitely [receive a raise] after if they prove their real value.”
6. Brush up on your language skills.
“If you aren’t fluent in Haitian Creole and French, you may want to start practicing or learning,” advises Mesy. Some job announcements tend to even ask for for some conversational to intermediate skills in Spanish or Portuguese. Jeudy, who has worked as a human resources executive in Haiti since 2008 and has been studying the job market there non-stop, notes: “The market has become extremely competitive. Being an English speaker is no longer a pass to a high level position and package in Haiti.”
7. Take non-traditional routes.
As with other job markets, a job seeker might constantly be applying for jobs in Haiti and may be getting nowhere. In which case, being an employee may not necessarily be the way go. “My advice would be to think about starting your own business or about being self-employed,” says Maureen. “But if someone wants to come work in Haiti, having a college degree and some work experience helps a whole lot. If the person is interested in a specific place or sector, they should try to get in contact with some people—family friends, friends of friends—of that sector.”
Visit Haiti. Survey the terrain and see if you can offer a service that others aren’t currently offering. Or if they are indeed already offering it, think of ways that you can take it to the next level. That’s just what Carine Jocelyn, Geraldine Superville, and Edna Desulme did. They founded Sankofa Salads, an organic food and salad bar in Petionville that, in addition to providing fresh healthy meals, offers deliveries to customers. The salad bar has gotten a reputation since its start in 2012 for providing excellent customer service.
What do those who currently work in Haiti think about working there? Brandt says he has received some great feedback from professionals about working in Haiti. “They love it,” he summarizes. “It’s hard at the beginning to find a place, a car and all, but they love the work and the life here. But they always come here thinking that living in Haiti is cheap. They are always shocked to see how expensive it is to live here in Haiti—housing, car, restaurant and so on.”
Yes, that’s another thing. And this brings us to yet another tip:
8. Prepare mentally and materially.
Coming to work in Haiti? Bring as much as you can with you! That’s the advice that David Ritter, an expatriate who has more than six years of experience in Haiti, would like to give out to incoming workers. Not that Haiti is lacking when it comes to stores, but items tend to be, well, rather expensive. Rather expensive as in three to five times the price as one may be accustomed to buying them elsewhere. Vendors tend to mark-up their prices to compensate for shipping and airplane fare. “Everything I own I can fit into a couple of duffel bags,” says Ritter. “It all depends on what you need. I would focus on electronics and items for entertainment.”
He adds: “All I know is all I need are my clothes, some books, hygiene products, portable DVD player, DVDs, CDs, and that’s about it. Just think like this, the basic cost of living in Haiti is cheap, but luxury items can be double—even triple—for what they cost in other places. But always remember shipping items in, can be challenging and may be taxed.”
Jeudy says that employees should be ready to make some lifestyle adjustments as well. “Be ready to spend days without electricity or running water,” she says. “Prepare what is deemed as a normal survival kit elsewhere, especially for when when a natural disaster occurs.”
Wesley Laine, who worked for an NGO for two years in Haiti gives this counsel to potential workers: “Prepare yourself to have the expertise necessary to help and look for the opportunities that fit you. It is very important to have the expertise. Goodwill and a good conscience are not good enough.”
Ah, now those were some great pieces of advice, no? So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your working in Haiti journey!
This is Part One of two of a Working in Haiti series. Watch out for the next article.
[Kat is the editor and founder of Kreyolicious.com. You can contact her here.]