Many of us work with NGOs, international organizations, and development agencies in Beirut and all over the country. Whether you’re just starting off with a local civil society organization or have been there for a while, you’ll find certain elements in common for both new and old staff. Let us know if we’ve missed any!


1. Abbreviations and acronyms



"Did you send the SOW and ToRs to the PDO by COB? I’ll forward the WR draft and M&EP to the PC in the meantime. Can you call the FOs and FLOs for the SU before we leave?"

This is, give-or-take a few alterations, the language you will have to speak now. You’re changing the world…You don’t have time to say logical framework instead of log frame. It will be especially confusing when you first start your job. Get ready to feel completely clueless until you get the hang of it.


2. An office-wide obsession with food



From the minute you walk in the office, the first thing you will hear is shou badna nekol? Some people will bring lunch from home, but that will not affect their ability to test out every food option available around your work. And don’t get me started on field trips. When you need to go to a site where your project(s) are being implemented, you better believe it’s going to be about finding the best man’oushe place on the way, a satisfying dessert after a long day’s work in the field, and some local comfort food in between.


3. Microsoft Outlook = life



You will receive formal, professionally written emails from a colleague sitting RIGHT across from you. Starting work at an NGO gets people excited about using internal email as a primary source of communication. Office extensions are used too, but mostly in regards to lunch orders (see #2).


4. A really unstable workload pattern



Sometimes, you will have more work than you can handle. You will feel useful, relevant, and productive. You will feel you have made a difference in the world before lunch time, and everyone will notice your glow. Then, sometimes the next day, you will have nothing to do but donkey work and data entry. Or worse, you will have absolutely no tasks. You will spend your day browsing Facebook, wondering if it’s appropriate to just leave at 1 PM, and your phone will get hot from you checking it every 5 minutes out of boredom. It’s a vicious cycle, but you can learn to ride it out as time goes on.


5. Constant pondering about life and your worth in this massive universe



This will hit you like a slap in the face, and then you won’t be able to stop asking: Why is the world so big…and I am so small? Why did I choose this thankless, overly stressful path, and am doing anything useful with my life? Do I matter? Why can’t I be really rich so I can give away my money to humanitarian projects without having to do all this paperwork?


So good luck! We hope this helps you settle in. Welcome to the dark side! Or better yet, WC to the DS. Enjoy the food and the existential crises!

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