Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

USAID Summer Pathways Internships

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Just a brief note: I was made aware that USAID has posted their Summer 2015 Pathways Internship Announcement on USAJobs. There will evidently be multiple opportunities in various offices throughout the agency, so take a look if you’re interested and apply!

Global pro bono programs—a focus on the transfer of skills, not the forcing of solutions

Monday, October 27th, 2014

In many cases, corporate “global pro bono” programs are able to deliver real, tangible good in the communities in which they operate. How are they able to do this? By focusing not on “dropping in a solution,” but rather on “the transfer of skills,” according to Deirdre White, the CEO of PYXERA Global.

White focused on this topic of the global pro bono in her talk at American University’s School of International Service on October 14 (a talk organized by my co-author, Sherry). Deirdre (also a profilee in Working World) and PYXERA work with corporations around the world to develop and implement corporate, cross-border social programs that work to contribute the corporate employees’ skill sets to a local program or project. Since 2008, PYXERA has worked with 26 corporations, sending 8,000 employees (usually for a month) to 80 countries on five continents. This is impressive. (more…)

The mid-career melt, or Enjoy your adventure this week

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

I recently spent the weekend with a close college friend, Brian. My university buddies are scattered around the country and world, so any chance to spend a few days with them (as individuals or a group) is rare and cherished. During our time talking and catching up, Brian and I realized that, as we both approach our mid-thirties, we’re each feeling a sense of stasis, a stagnancy that’s hard to pinpoint but is clearly present. It’s a professional stagnancy, it’s a personal stagnancy, it’s a combination of both.

Both of us have good jobs we enjoy. We are both married to awesome people. We have supportive families, good homes, plenty of books to read and music to listen to, a college football team that’s finally doing well again…so what’s with the complaining? Fair enough.

We realized this stagnancy comes from reaching the end of that first ladder, the “young professional” ladder, and not knowing where to climb next. As scary as being a young professional can be—with all of its requisite challenges and uncertainty—I’m realizing that entering mid-career territory comes with its own set of difficulties. I’m no longer worried about getting my first job, or paying my rent with a meager entry level salary, or learning how to move from operating in an academic environment to a professional one. (more…)

Corporate volunteerism with Deirdre White of PYXERA Global

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

I’m very pleased to be hosting a conversation next Tuesday, October 14th with Deirdre White, President and CEO of PYXERA Global (and a profilee in the second edition of Working World). Deirdre is a renowned leader in the field of international economic development and will be speaking on the topic of “corporate volunteerism: the nexus between citizen diplomacy and development.”

In addition to its international development work, PYXERA is also the base for the Center for Citizen Diplomacy. I served as one of the founding board members of the Center and now am honored to continue as a board member of PYXERA Global.

Corporate Volunteerism

“How much alcohol can you handle?” and other awkward interview questions

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

On the heels of Sherry’s great post that included discussion of employer perception during interviews (i.e., how are tattoos and piercings perceived during an interview?), I was intrigued by this article over at awkward questions asked during Korean job interview, including:

  • Are you dating anyone?
  • How long does it take you to do your makeup?
  • How much alcohol can you handle?
  • What do you plan on spending your first paycheck on?

Although the article notes that such personal questions are no longer typically asked in interviews at Korean companies, the reason they were ever asked in the first place is illuminating: to get a sense of the job applicant as a person and determine whether he or she would fit into company culture.

Working in a small organization with a staff of only four, I’m keenly aware that personal fit matters. When we hire, we’re looking for someone who is not only smart and skilled and accomplished, someone who can get the job done, but also someone who will mesh well with the team. We don’t all have to be best friends, but it is important that we are cohesive both professionally and personally. Our performance as an organization depends on it.

And thus our interviews reflect this fact. We ask questions that are not awkwardly personal or borderline inappropriate, like those listed in the article, but ones that are meant to draw out personal interests and activities, especially those related to our industry. Talk about a particularly meaningful experience during your time studying abroad. Where did you go on your most recent international trip? If you could study one language you don’t currently speak, what would it be? What’s the last book you read and would you recommend it? (That last one’s not international, but I think it’s an interesting conversation starter anyway.)

The point is that anyone prepping for an interview would do well to prepare for some personal discussion. No need to disclose your dating history or your drinking prowess—but if you can talk compellingly about some of your personal interests, and paint a fuller picture of yourself as a person beyond the professional realm, you’re more likely to make an impression in an employer’s mind as someone they want to work with.

A strong sense of service

Monday, September 29th, 2014

One of the joys of traveling around the country promoting the second edition of Working World is that I have the opportunity to meet with extraordinary young people who already have a strong sense of wanting to be of service. I share the comments of the New Visions high school group (and their teacher) whom I wrote about last week less because of their positive comments about my presentation (although I greatly appreciate them), and more because of what their comments say about them and what they hope to achieve. It is always heartening to get beyond the beltway and beyond the headlines to restore one’s perspective and renew hope.

We are often buffeted by so much bad news and tragedy that is is instructive to be reminded that there are many fine young people getting ready to be a force for good in our turbulent world.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us. I learned a lot about the interview process I didn’t ever think of and in the future I know that will be helpful when starting a career.

- Madison Pagano (more…)

A spirited discussion with students in Albany

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Last week I enjoyed giving my first series of presentations on the second edition of Working World. Diane Conroy-LaCivita, the Executive Director of the International Center of the Capital Region in Albany, NY (a member of Global Ties U.S.), organized a great schedule. It included appearances at Siena College, The School of Public Health (University at Albany), and The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. The Book House is a welcoming and independent bookstore with many appealing books, games, and book related items. (I did my part for the New York economy by shopping after the discussion, which focused more on issues relevant to mid-career professionals.)

The photo below was taken after a lively discussion about careers and Working World at the Center for Global Health at the University at Albany. This group of high school seniors – participating in a “New Visions” advanced placement enrichment program—has already decided that they want some kind of career in global health. It was truly a privilege to share the structure and highlights of Working World with them. The Q&A section morphed into a spirited dialogue. They asked some thought-provoking questions. Mark and I welcome your answers to these questions.

Q: How are tattoos and piercings perceived during an interview?

A: Various managers will react differently. In my opinion, however, you do not want to distract the person interviewing you from focusing in on your experience and abilities. I remember interviewing someone with a tongue piercing and my mind kept drifting away from what she was saying. I kept wondering, “Does that hurt?” It’s always best to err on the conservative side until you can assess the culture of a particular organization.

Q: What is your greatest regret regarding your career? (more…)

Close Up Encounters

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

On a recent flight from Washington, DC, to Minneapolis, I enjoyed one of those now rare occasions—they used to happen quite often—when I had an interesting conversation with my seat partner. In this time of headphones, ear buds, and other cocoon-creating tech devices, it was fun to exchange ideas once again with a random stranger.

Being co-author of a book on careers, I am keenly interested in ways people make a living, how they view their jobs, and the extent to which they deliberate about their careers.

The conversation began the way so many in Washington, DC, start. I asked, “What do you do?” My seat partner replied: “I work for an organization that brings high school students to Washington, DC, for a week’s immersion in government.” “The Close Up Foundation?” I guessed. “Yes,” he replied. I then learned a great deal more about this remarkable nonprofit organization founded in 1971. When I worked as a program officer at the Institute of International Education (IIE) early in my career, I often scheduled appointments with Close Up staff for participants in the (then USIA sponsored) International Visitor Program. It was the ideal meeting for foreign leaders interested in how young Americans learn to participate in a democracy. I even remember thinking at the time it would be rewarding to work for Close Up.

My seatmate was Jon Gerst who started at Close Up as a program instructor in 2010, advanced to program leader, and now serves as an Outreach Representative as of last August. Jon travels around the country—and sometimes to U.S. territories, such as Guam, as well as other countries—meeting with teachers and principals to help recruit the 16,000 students who participate in Close Up programs each year. Most programs (one teacher per ten students) begin on Sunday and end on the following Friday evening. Activities range from a day on Capitol Hill to Embassy visits.

“Inform, Inspire, Empower” is the Close Up mantra. Learn more at

When I asked Jon what he liked best about his job, Jon noted he totally embraced the mission. “I love that students from around the country learn to tackle weighty issues with in-person civil conversations.” He works with teachers who become community activists, not just for one week, but all year long. We agreed that it is vitally important for young people to get engaged in the political process.

“What characteristics do you need to work for Close Up?” I asked. Jon answered: “The ability to improvise and be quick on your feet, a willingness to work long and hard, and open-mindedness. You must not write anyone off too quickly. This is surely a set of traits any employer would appreciate.”

Second edition of Working World is out!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Sherry and I so pleased that we can now announce: the second edition of Working World: Careers in International Education, Exchange, and Development is out! We had a wonderful time working together again, and hope that you find this new edition — complete with many new resources, new concepts, and new profiles of compelling professionals — to be a valuable addition to our field.

We’re thankful to have again had the opportunity to work with our excellent colleagues at Georgetown University Press. The new edition is available for sale on their website, and they’ve been kind enough to pass along a 30% discount code for friends and readers of the Working World site (TX54).

Speaking of this site: while it’s been dormant for quite some time, Sherry and I are committed to re-activating it in a compelling way! (You can see from Sherry’s previous post she’s already getting started.) So be sure to check back to this space for lively discussions, interesting links, profiles of professionals in our fields, and much more!

Knowledge of Protocol: Building Block for an International Career

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Some international careers require an in-depth knowledge of protocol. My friend, Benedicte Valentiner, is a good example. She served four presidents as general manager of Blair House. Her book with the title Bedtime and Other Stories from the President’s Guest House is a great read for those interested in the care and feeding of world leaders.

Many international jobs require at least a rudimentary knowledge of protocol. There are scary examples of international incidents that could have been averted if those involved had received basic training in topics ranging from appropriate seating at formal dinners to flag placement in cultural traditions. My young colleague Kim Starfield, who serves as Assistant Protocol Officer for the Secretary of Homeland Security, told me about an upcoming Protocol 101 Workshop on May 16. It is sponsored by the PDI-POA: Protocol Officers Association. Mark and I often write about the building blocks of your career. Knowledge of protocol is certainly one.

NYTimes: “Unpaid internships may be illegal”

Monday, April 5th, 2010

With the number of unpaid internships available to students continuing to rise, the Department of Labor and other state-level bodies are apparently beginning to “step up enforcement nationwide” of potential violations of minimum wage laws, the New York Times said last week. In particular, the Labor Department “says it is cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly and expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships.”

It’s no secret that internships are a way in, a way to make that first connection that will jump start your career. Ross Perlin notes that “internships have become the gateway into the white-collar work force…Employers increasingly want experience for entry-level jobs, and many students see the only way to get that is through unpaid internships.” (I recently met Ross, who is doing great work on two fronts: conducting research on endangered minority languages in southern China, around Kunming, and writing a book about the phenomenon of internships in the U.S.) My “in” into the field of international exchange and education came with an internship with Sherry and NCIV.

We touch on this subject in Working World the book,  asking whether internships are perhaps exploitation, but concluding that, while certain internships may be, the overall institution of being an intern is important to career development. But we also note, I now read with interest, that the vast majority of interns will receive “no remuneration or (if you are lucky) a modest stipend.” But is that how it should be?

The Times article is hinting that it doesn’t matter what should or shouldn’t be: the law may dictate that paying interns is a necessity. But even beyond the legality of it, unpaid work is always a tough pill to swallow, especially for young professionals on thin budgets. I feel lucky that I interned with NCIV, which does provide at least a modest stipend for its interns, and got my managerial legs under Sherry, who believes that interns should always be paid for their work, even if it isn’t all that much. The same holds true here at the Alliance—we can’t pay much, but we at least give something.

I guess ultimately, when you’re looking for an internship, pay can’t be the driving factor. If you’re able to find an internship that gives you maximum professional benefit (and I would describe that as an internship that allows you to work with good people, that allows you to work on substantive projects [not just menial stuff] and own your work, and that allows you access to more people in the field with whom you can network), then pay will probably seem rather secondary, especially if that internship leads you to something good down the road.

But even so, I agree with a movement away from unpaid internships. This system (especially here in DC, where things are expensive and there is no shortage of people willing to make you pay your dues) unfairly favors those who have connections and resources to survive on when not getting paid.

Hi kids, I’m back

Monday, April 5th, 2010

I can’t say what’s prompted me to make a return to Working World today, on a beautiful spring day in DC, especially after many months of inactivity. I also can’t really explain what led to my recent hiatus. The simplest answer seems to be that I just wasn’t feeling it—I didn’t want to force it. So I let things rest for awhile (rest, at least, on the Working World front—I’ve been as busy as ever with my “real” life).

But I’m feeling now that a little bit of rest did me good and like I want to try to get back into the swing a bit, so hope some of you are still around! And because my title is a quote from the masterpiece of modern cinema, “Kindergarten Cop,” and because this is awesome:

A few links I’d neglected to post

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

And then I’m off for the holiday:

IIE’s Open Doors 2009 report was released last week. We paid close attention to this at the Alliance, but I forgot to mention it here. So, here you go. Open Doors is the standard for international educational mobility data—and the 2009 report happily illustrates that the number of foreign students studying at U.S. universities and Americans studying abroad are both up more than 8 per cent. Still, only slightly more than 260,000 Americans are studying abroad, which is not enough…

…and apparently President Obama agrees, as he announced that he wants 100,000 Americans studying in China (which is a pretty hefty increase from the current number of just over 13,000). How and when this will happen remains to be seen, but we are, as always, optimistic.

Have Work, Will Travel — An Australian world traveler makes the case for an expanded working holiday program in the United States.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Mad Men fans:

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone:

Get a job abroad, where there are apparently more than in the U.S.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 tells us how to “tap into the growing overseas job market.” Jean Marc Hachey gives some good tips in the second half of the article, noting that international/globally-minded employers aren’t usually looking for a regional specialist, but rather someone with previous overseas experience and cultural skills that will enable him or her to adapt and roll with the punches:

What they are especially interested in is that you can demonstrate that you have crossed over various cultures at various times, and you have a set of skills that mean you can quickly be up and running in new cultures.

Mary Anne Thompson, quoted earlier in the article, makes what strikes me as a big generalization:

In order to apply for a work permit or visa on your behalf, most employers have to prove there’s no one in that country with the credentials to do the job, and show that they advertised the job and no locals applied for it.

“Most employers?” Is this really a fair statement to make when we’re talking not about a particular industry or city or even country, but rather “the world”? I’m sure this can be true in certain instances (it can be now in the recession-ravaged U.S.), but is this really so true that one can generalize like this and not be rather misleading? Maybe so, but it just strikes me as an odd thing to go out there and state as fact.

Make your trip to the career fair about more than the swag

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Career fairs, as a subset of networking, have never been a strong suit of mine either. They feel forced, artificial, like everyone’s going through the motions. That said, they aren’t a bad thing to go to just to get a sense of what is out there. The career services office at Tufts University gives some pointers on getting the most out of a career fair and not looking like an idiot while you’re there:

Myth: I’ll look like a buffoon if I don’t come with my resume, cover letter, portfolio and salary requirements in hand.

Fact: While it is a good idea to bring along your resume, it is certainly not necessary. Some students go into the Career Fair hoping to land a job. Others go just to ask questions and see what’s out there. Either route is fine. Employers realize that everyone is coming in with a different level of preparedness, eagerness, etc. They are happy to talk with you (and some even have cool little giveaways…just saying). At the very least, be sure to grab the business card of everyone you talk to. That way, you can research the company later on and get back in touch with them should you feel inclined to either apply for a job or request an informational interview.

Myth: There’s no point in going to the Career Fair. Getting a job right out of college is not for me. I’m Eurotripping to find myself, man.

Fact: Going to the Career Fair does not mean you’re obligated to apply for a job. As mentioned before, students come in with various intentions. Some want a job, some want to ask questions, some just want to experience what a Career Fair is like. The Fair is what you make of it. When it comes down to it, why not go? It’s a chance to hone your conversational skills, make valuable connections, and practice wearing the slightly uncomfortable business attire that will soon become your everyday look (PJ bottoms don’t usually cut it in the workplace). Just go in with an open mind…you may be surprised at what you find.