BkRev #1789. Choosing a Career in International Development. (2013). Donovan Russell. College Station, TX: Virturalbookworm.com Publishing Inc., 231 pp. Price $20.95. ISBN: 978-1-62137-363, https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/choosing-a-career-in-international-development-donovan-russell/1117024942.


Olivia Miller

College of Arts and Sciences

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

[email protected]

As an academic advisor with a background in career advising and advising liberal arts students, I find many students discuss wanting to “help people,” and often are unsure of career options as they are vast and diverse. An increasingly popular route is working in international development, and while this route is popular, it is one with little understanding, which is the premise of Choosing a Career in International Development. With a career of more than 30 years overseas, Donovan Russell gives readers insight into the world of international development. Not only does Russell provide insight into the main sectors, but he also provides an introduction to international development as a whole – what type of person is needed for international development, why people get involved in this area of work, and how to choose the best career within international development.

While the book is not directly related to academic advising, it is helpful as an introduction to a specific career field – and thus helpful if advising students interested in international development. The book is organized into two parts, first overarching themes and an introduction to international development, while the second half is further sectioned into specific areas, for example working in education or volunteer development organizations. This second half is most helpful as it allows the reader to focus on a certain area of interest and gain insight on what work actually looks like in that field. With Russell’s experiences, he weaves in his own stories allowing the reader to visualize a “day in the life.” However, one can guess what areas of experience the author has based on the strength and detail of the chapters.

Despite these stories and experiences, the book does leave one wanting for more. At times the book seems too vague, not offering specific tips into getting a foot in the door, but rather on generalizations and not applications. For example the book begins with defining international development, how it differs from disaster relief and humanitarian aid, and why different parties get involved. While this introduction is important, the book could begin as an advising tool with Chapter Four, “Thoughts on Choosing a Career in International Development,” as it focuses on the individual with clarifying one’s interests and offers an “Exercise for Preliminary Career Planning” (Russell, 2013, p. 26-27). Other parts are for those further in their career with spotlights on Country Directors in the Peace Corps or development management positions – perhaps not what advisors or college students are intending when starting the book, but at least offering a glimpse of the career ladder for this line of work. With this, it could deter readers from finding direct applications and value, unless there is a solid understanding of self, values, and interests within international development.

While Choosing a Career in International Development might not be a must-read for academic advisors, it is a helpful starting point to begin a conversation with any student who has interest in this line of work. In addition to being a starting point, it also can be used as a personal reminder of how similar international development work is to academic advising. Both professions are about building relationships and bringing about change – hopefully lasting change that allows individuals to become independent through their development.



Russell, D. (2013). Choosing a career in international development: a practical guide to working in the professions of international development. College Station, TX: Virtualbookworm.com Publishing Inc.

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