Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Yo voy el Distrito Federal

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

One nice little tidbit I discovered in my prep for a trip to Mexico City tomorrow for the Western Hemisphere EducationUSA Adviser Conference is that the city is known to residents and those in the know as el Distrito Federal, or DF. Clearly I’ll seem like an old Mexico hand with this bit of knowledge on my side—until I try to say more and it’s clear my Spanish is terrible.

Anyhow, I’ll be down in DF all next week so posting will be light until I return. No tengo nada que declarar.

Not everyone thrives in the Peace Corps

Friday, September 25th, 2009

At the Georgetown Dean’s Lunch Seminar I spoke at on Wednesday, one of the participants, a freshman, asked if I thought a “gap year” between graduation and, in his example, law school would be beneficial. I responded that, while everyone is different, a year abroad after graduation before entering grad school was tremendously beneficial for me—not only because it allowed me to recharge my scholarly batteries, but also because it broadened me, allowed me an experience I may not have been able to have at any other time and that has helped me tremendously since, both personally and professionally. So yes, I said, I think a “gap year” can be terrific for many, especially if it is spent abroad gaining international exposure and language skills.

A young woman, a senior, followed up by saying that in her research into possible international opportunities following graduation, she was having trouble winnowing out those that might be right for her. For example, she said, should I do the Peace Corps, do a Fulbright, teach English?How do I know what’s right for me? After we discussed the difficulties of knowing what is “right” for her or anyone else, I brought the conversation back around to the fact that she had just lumped the Peace Corps and “doing a Fulbright” into the same category. I thought it was very important for her and the other students to realize first, “doing a Fulbright” does not mean just one thing—there are many different ways to be involved with Fulbright.

But second, I said, it seems to me that the Peace Corps is not just another abroad experience. Though I wasn’t a PC volunteer, I know many who were, and from what they’ve told me, the Peace Corps is a very specific, and often very difficult, experience, one that is not right for everyone. I relayed to them the story of someone I know who, despite being one of the more idealistically gung-ho people I’ve ever met, just resigned his Peace Corps position a year and a half early. His reasons for resigning were: he wasn’t doing the work he wanted to do; he didn’t believe he was effecting any positive change; he was not enjoying the culture he was living in; and he no longer wanted to, in his words, “help reinforce a system that only hurts the people I want to help.”

While I didn’t quite know how to interpret this reasoning, again not having been a PCer myself, a good friend who completed the Peace Corps in a similar region wasn’t terribly surprised: “There are inevitably those who thrive and those who quit. The Peace Corps isn’t for everyone.”

If you’re interested in the Peace Corps, try to talk to as many people as possible who have done it before. Get a clear picture of what it really is. Because the Peace Corps is not just “going abroad,” and it’s not for everyone.

The beauty of a beat-up passport

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

I was looking through my boss’s passport the other day, as he had it out doing paperwork for a Russian visa. Now there is a beautiful passport: beat up beyond belief, packed with additional pages making it fat like an overstuffed wallet, and full of more stamps and visas than I’ve ever seen, easily from 40 or 50+ countries: India, Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, China, Peru, Thailand—and those are just a sample from the past two years. I hope mine looks like that someday.

[And I've got a long way to go, a fact which was not helped when I got a shiny new passport last year with the fancy embedded radio frequency identification chip. (A comparison of a well-used passport to a stiff new one below, courtesy of Travelvice Travelogue.) Just when my passport was getting to the point where it looked awesome and well-worn, it has to go and expire---now it looks like I've never traveled a day in my life! I guess I'll just have to redouble my efforts...and maybe I'll try to wear it in like a baseball glove, so I don't feel so self-conscious...]


The international in North Dakota

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Sherry pops up in the Minot Daily News. She’s there visiting an NCIV member organization, the Minot Area Council for International Visitors, and will speak at both Minot High School and Minot State University on international careers. A welcome reminder that it’s not just people in large and/or coastal cities who aspire—or who may wish to aspire given the proper prodding—to international careers.

Beware job search firms promising more than they can deliver

Monday, August 17th, 2009

The Times cautions job seekers (especially experienced, recently laid off job seekers) to be wary of forking over cash to job search firms who promise the moon. According to some, these firms won’t even give you for $8,000 what you can get on your alma mater career services site for free:

“Many employment services provide valuable help, but others misrepresent themselves and their services in an attempt to take your money,” said the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, who succeeded several years ago in having one career counseling company, Bernard Haldane Associates, banned from doing business in the state. “To find legitimate agencies for your needs, it’s critical to do your homework first.”

The USG Guide to Blogging

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Via Chris Blattman, the U.S. Government presents Your Guide to Managing…Blogs. I’m certainly prone to take things like this tongue-in-cheek, as Blattman does, but actually, it’s a fairly useful, if basic, guide to blogging. A particularly interesting point in light of yesterday’s discussion on the “dangers” of social networking:

When blogging, remember that the Web has a long memory. Do not publish any material on impulse. Ask these questions:

  • Who else might read it?
  • Supposing a prospective partner, stakeholder, or customer read it, what would they think?
  • Would you be willing to have it on the front page of the newspaper?
  • In what other ways might it be interpreted?

Although my favorite pointer:

Choose words that have as few syllables as possible.

Interweb users aren’t reading, we’re scanning. Keep it dumb, people.

The parallels between networking and food

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

On the heels of many discussions about networking, especially involving my own distaste for attending networking events (namely here and here), my girlfriend Katie, a certified foodie, gchatted me this:

so here is my theory about a possible approach to networking -
it’s the same as jeffrey steingarten’s approach to foods we don’t like -
try it at least 8 times, and the chance is, if you don’t like it, at least you will develop an appreciation for it

A very intriguing thought. She’d mentioned Steingarten’s book, The Man Who Ate Everything, to me before, as well as its underlying theory, so I checked it out. Steingarten has been the food critic at Vogue since 1989 (and is also a regular judge on Iron Chef, for those who frequent the Food Channel), but he also, somewhat notriously for a food critic, has an intense aversion to a whole lot of foods. So, in writing The Man Who Ate Everything, he set out to stem these aversions. Here’s Steingarten’s basic theory on how he got himself to like foods he’d traditionally hated:

Scientists tell us that aversions fade away when we eat moderate doses of the hated foods at moderate intervals, especially if the food is complex and new to us. Exposure works by overcoming our innate neophobia, the omnivore’s fear of new foods that balances the biological urge to explore for them.

Steingarten later notes that while babies might reject a new food on the first few tries, after eight or ten tries, they will accept nearly anything. So the same is (or can be) true for adults. Steingarten managed to overcome nearly all of his food phobias through this approach of trying things eight to ten times. Through this process of acclimatization and de-stigmatization, he came to find he now appreciates and enjoys the foods he once loathed.

So for Katie, by applying this theory to networking (especially attending networking events, during which you are required to be social and chat up people you don’t know), the theory becomes: though you may have an aversion to networking and networking events, if you force yourself to go to them (eight to ten times), you can then overcome your distaste and actually enjoy them. There’s definitely merit in this theory and, upon reflection, I’ve probably unconsciously experienced it to be true (the more networking events I’ve attended, the less I hate them to the point that I even enjoy them). But, a few caveats/discussion points:

1) It’s not just quantity here—quality and experience are important too. Take Steingarten’s battle with anchovies: “My phobia crumpled when I understood that the anchovies living in American pizza parlors bear no relation to the sweet, tender anchovies of Spain and Italy, cured in dry sea salt and a bit of pepper.” He overcame his dislike of anchovies not only by eating a lot of them, but also by becoming more experienced with them, by realizing that the anchovies he’d been eating— and had thus hated—were empirically inferior anchovies (of course you didn’t like them, an anchovy connoisseur would say). The taste of truly good anchovies is a whole lot easier to like than that of bad ones.

Transferred to networking, this idea comes to mean that, the more networking events that you attend: 1) the more you’ll be able to discern between “good” networking events and “bad” ones (i.e., what events hold the most interest for you, and thus which ones you’ll be most engaged at—just as Steingarten didn’t just stuff his face with raw anchovies to overcome his distaste, but rather learned more about the best ways to prepare and eat anchovies, so we too should not just attend every networking event we come across, but rather pick and choose those that are best for us); and 2) the more you’ll understand how you function best at networking events (i.e., always going with a friend or colleague, showing up early when it’s less crowded so it’s easier to meet people, etc.).

2) I’m fascinated by Steingarten’s assertion that we have to balance our innate, omnivorous fear of new foods with our biological urge to explore for them. We both love and fear the novel. It’s interesting to apply this idea to social situations like networking. Perhaps we all have some innate need for human contact and socialization, but at the same time a fear of those people we don’t know. That need-fear ratio is present in all people, but simply at different levels, just like the balance of “urge to explore-fear of the new” with foods is different in all people. I guess the key then becomes recognizing where we as individuals stand on that balance (are we more in need of networking socialization, or more fearful of it?), and then determining how we can best compensate one way or the other.


Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Geoff Gloeckler, staff editor at BusinessWeek and regular supplier of material for this blog, passed along an article on the new professional social networking and job search site, MyWorkster. At first glance, it seems like a university-centered version of the already-entrenched

A professional networking site that connects students with alumni and allows members to search for contacts in their field who can give them an advantage over the competition.

However, this site offers something LinkedIn does not: job listings. My judgment is pending until I can set up an account and poke around a bit, which I’ll hopefully be able to do in the semi-near future. In the meantime, anyone already use MyWorkster? Give us your reviews if you do.

[And a question to throw out there: how much do users value job listings as part of a professional social networking site? The idea of networking, of course, is that it can eventually lead to finding out about job openings and then, ideally, finding a job. But the intrinsic purpose of networking is not to be trolling for job openings---rather it's to be trolling for connections. If a connection is made that leads to finding out about a job opening (and then even a job), that is terrific. But in fact if you only try to connect with folks who you perceive will be able to get you a job, rather than engaging those people with whom you share common interest and passion, then you're probably not going to be a successful networkers (people can smell bald self-interest from across the room, or across the internets, as the case may be).

So if networking is not primarily about locating job openings, but rather locating contacts, is it necessary to have job openings as part of a social networking site? On the other hand, networking and job searching can and should be done simultaneously, so if your social networking site is also your job search engine, does that just combine everything you need into one and make your life that much easier? I'd be interested to hear people's takes, based either on experience using social networking sites/job search engines or just complete conjecture. I'll accept both.]

A rough time to be an international aid worker

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Michael Kleinman at Humanitarian Relief chronicles all the disturbing evidence on how it can be dangerous to be an international aid worker these days. Kleinman also has followed in great detail the Sudanese President Omar Bashir’s decision to expel first 13 international aid organizations, and now all of them.  His posts from the two weeks or so on this topic are worth a careful read, not only for awareness of the growing humanitarian crisis but also because I think this is an example (albeit a stark and extreme example) of the challenges international development and aid workers face in some of the more desparate and dangerous places in the world. (My point being, of course, not to dissuade anyone from pursuing international development work but rather to encourage anyone considering a development career to approach the work with a clear notion of what it can and often does involve.)

Four generations in the workplace

Friday, March 20th, 2009

A friend who works in HR for a large association is organizing a training session looking at how to manage four generations in the workplace. One of the participants actually sent in the below with his RSVP.  I thought it was a particularly funny and apt way to characterize the stereotypical response from each generation:

Silent: Will be there at 14:00 hours prepared to identify opportunities to downsize costs.

Baby Boomer: Sounds great; we can combine it with a fun run and a community project.  However, we need to make sure that this is morally pure.

Generation X: Another requirement for my calendar.  I’ll be there, but I don’t get any reward for this extra work (as usual), and I’ll never have a decent standard of living.  We’re only starting to get respect, now that we are the 2/3 star flag officers.

Gen Y (Millenial): DUDE!  Sounds cool, and I will work it in between the company paid advanced computer training and my revision of my resume for my continuous job hunt.

[The Millenials might also organize an after-session cornhole tournament in the parking lot.]

Job opening at Americans for Informed Democracy

Friday, March 20th, 2009

When Sherry and I do career presentations for Working World, I invariably notice that, at the end of the presentation, only when we’ve finished waxing on about theoretical approaches to building an international career and finally give some specific career websites and other resources for people to check out…only then does the note-taking commence with serious fury. I manage to convince myself this phenomenon isn’t because people weren’t interested or weren’t listening—instead, I think it indicates that when it comes to the job search and career planning, people appreciate the tangible and the concrete. “Where can I look for jobs?  What websites?  Tell me!” I get this.

In the same vein, it’s also interesting to note that on the heels of this blog’s torrid Doostang discussion (here, here and here), in which most people, me included, ripped the career networking site a proverbial new one, one commenter came in late and fought back:

Fine, but Doostang actually has job postings (some of which I haven’t seen on other sites) Does LinkedIn post jobs? That’s the key.

Point taken. While my main beef with Doostang is its promotion of an exclusive rather than inclusive style of online networking, I’ve admitted that I don’t appreciate that the jobs it recommends for me are typically financial in nature and of no interest to me. But I guess that is Doostang’s main focus, and it can’t be faulted for serving up what its users want.

The larger point of this post, though, is that while Sherry and I both believe it’s very important to not just focus on getting a job, but rather to engage your career from a broader perspective and to stay informed of the larger issues that concern your chosen field (here, international stuff), we also both understand that having someone tell you the best places to look online for jobs, and to even let you know when specific jobs open up, is incredibly useful.

It was in this spirit that Sherry suggested we try to post more job openings that we come across through our respective networks.  So, starting today, we’re going to try to do more of that. I don’t know how thorough or systematic we’ll be able to be, but when we come across an open position in international ed, exchange, and/or development, we’ll post it.

Today’s job posting is a big one: Executive Director at Americans for Informed Democracy (Seth Green, the founder of AID, is profiled in Working World—an amazing guy and a great organization). Application deadline is April 17, and the full job description and application details are after the jump.


Self-promotion alert: Working World is a finalist for the ForeWord Career Book of the Year!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

You may have noticed the little golden seal that was recently installed over in the righthand column of this blog. The reason for said little golden seal is that Sherry and I just found out Working World is a finalist for the 2008 ForeWord Magazine Career Book of the Year—an honor that is totally unexpected and, I can’t really help from saying, totally freaking cool.

Our competition in the Career category includes a number of titles that look really intriguing, including but not limited to:

Unfortunately the ForeWord awards aren’t like American Idol and you can’t vote for us at 1-866-WWORLD-07, but we’re unendingly grateful for your support, and your readership, nonetheless. Winners will be announced on May 30, so stay tuned…

How many friends does Mahmoud have, do you figure?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Hat tip: Darren Krape.

Launch of Public Diplomacy, the magazine

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I attended a reception last night for the launch of Public Diplomacy magazine, published by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. It was quite a good networking event actually, which I can admit was at least partly because they served sushi and had something like seven microbrews to choose from at the bar.

I encourage you to check out PD the magazine, which features thought-provoking essays on the broad and important topic of public diplomacy, one that certainly encompasses the work we do in international education, exchange, and development. [Also, if you are looking at grad programs, you might be interested in the USC Master's in Public Diplomacy program, now in its third year of existence.]

Event: A New Direction for USAID—At Home and Abroad

Monday, March 9th, 2009

The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) is hosting an event tomorrow morning titled, “A New Direction for USAID—At Home and Abroad:”

This 2nd forum in a series on Defense, Development, and Diplomacy will look at the proposed Cabinet-level development agency, and the new pathways the Obama administration might pursue to increase collaboration and cooperation between the Development community and the various arms of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. What are the right solutions to the bureaucratic roadblocks? How could these changes ultimately lead to better structures and better-implemented foreign policy? What are the challenges in appropriating more money in Congress for USAID?

The forum has a number of sponsors, including the Alliance for Peacebuilding, headed by a good friend of Sherry’s and NCIV’s, Chic Dambach.

The event is from 9:00 to 10:30 tomorrow morning in the Nitze Building at SAIS, 1740 Massachusetts Avenue in DC. RSVP is required by close of business today (