Farhad Mohammad case study
Casework Coordinator at British Red Cross
MSc International Development with distinction, 2022
Please describe your current role and the journey you took to get there
My current role is to support refused asylum seekers in the UK. I provide advice and support, refer clients to service providers, manage volunteers, raise awareness and collaborate with statutory and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Birmingham and in the UK to support the refugees.
I have previous experience doing humanitarian work with Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, Refugee and Migrant Centre, Safe Passage International, and Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre. My course at the University of Birmingham, including the Masters Campus-Based Team Internship, has increased my knowledge and enhanced my skills to further seek an opportunity in working with NGOs.
Did you know what you wanted to do before you started University?
Yes, I wanted to get a degree relevant to my work experience (humanitarian and development work) that could enhance my career's prospects and academic writing skills. Studying MSc International Development was a great opportunity for me to know more about development work, best practices around the world to implement projects, and what are the steps that need to be taken to ensure effective management of human and financial resources as well as impactful service delivery.
Did you have any work experience before you graduated?
Yes I did. I have previous experience doing child protection, education and supporting refugees and internally displaced people. I also had experience in raising awareness, campaigning, managing staff and volunteers and coordinating with other actors and service providers.
What do you love most about your role?
I love the work environment and the type of services we provide to beneficiaries. Asylum seekers embark on treacherous journeys to reach safety and seek sanctuary. They flee conflict, violence, persecution and other human and natural disasters. They deserve our empathy and compassion and have every right to seek protection and to join their families and beloved ones. In my role, I work closely with refused asylum seekers to refer them to other actors who provide legal council, accommodation, food parcels, etc. I am myself a refugee, so I enjoy providing support to those who have faced similar experience and challenges and of my case.
What is most challenging about your role?
It is meeting the diverse needs of beneficiaries. Sometimes it is hard to get the right support to address the immediate needs of our service users. For example, they sometimes have complex needs that require intervention from multiple actors, and it is not easy to identify the appropriate service provider in the local area and to connect clients to these actors.
Have you faced any key challenges during your career journey, if so, how did you overcome them?
Yes, I did. First of all, I had difficulty with my applications for jobs and also job interviews. It was very challenging to receive an offer for an interview as I did not have much experience in supporting my applications for jobs. For example, organising my CV and personal statement or covering letter. Therefore, I enrolled in a career development course provided by the University of Birmingham alongside my masters course. This course has developed my employability skills and provided me with the necessary information and communication skills to be successful in job applications.
How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?
The University of Birmingham played a significant role in developing my skills and experience that enabled me to get a job offer after graduation. The outstanding efforts of the career development team at the University of Birmingham are greatly appreciated. They equip students with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to improve their skills and build their experience to work in any setting.
I was enrolled in a Masters Campus-Based Team Internship that enhanced my research, problem-solving, presentation and teamworking skills. The internship was co-sponsored by the University of Birmingham and Islamic Relief International organisation. We presented our findings in a form of a pitch presentation to the panel which awarded us a runner-up prize for our efforts and findings.
I also participated in Postgraduate Professional Development Award, an optional employability award taken in addition to my main programme of study. This course has undoubtedly helped me re-write my CV, improve my interview skills, and how to convince employers to offer me an interview to prove my suitability for the job.
What are your career plans for the future?
My goal is to work in a managerial position in the field of humanitarian and social development. I believe that I will be responsible for managing multiple projects aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable people in the developing countries.
I aim to achieve my goals by gaining necessary knowledge and experience to help me complete all the tasks and responsibilities associated with my role within an organisation.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in getting into your industry or role, or if they’re unsure what they want to do?
I recommend utilising the career development services provided by their universities. For instance, enrolling in an internship in addition to their main course at the university.
Moreover, I advise them to work on their employability skills because getting the degree is never enough; they have to prepare well for next stage which is very important in getting a job of their interests.
The career development team is always there to support students to develop their skills and help overcome their fears and concerns. Volunteering is also an excellent opportunity for you to build your experience by working with a globally/locally recognised organisation or company.
What would be your key piece of career advice for a student just entering the employment market?
To get the most out of what the job can provide in terms of learning, training, and experience. Also, by building a positive relationship with their line managers, colleagues and partners. Finally, by going out of their way to promote the values and goals of the employer and striving hard to achieve all the tasks and meet the project's deadlines on time.