Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

National Peace Corps Week

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I know I’m a bit late posting on this, but this week is National Peace Corps Week! Check out more about it on the Peace Corps Polyglot, the National Peace Corps Association’s blog. Also, an article by a returned Peace Corps volunteer appeared in yesterday’s USA Today arguing for a “rebuilding of the Peace Corps” from its current level of 4,000 annual volunteers to the more than 8,000 it sent 40 years ago. Money quote:

So here we find ourselves, celebrating the inauguration of President Obama, a farsighted leader who has inspired millions of young Americans with his call to service. We also find ourselves on the threshold of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s new diplomatic initiative, the exercise of “smart power” in a multifaceted effort to reclaim our moral and political integrity in the eyes of the world. The obvious equation seems written in neon: “Call to service” plus “smart power” equals Peace Corps.

Dollar for dollar, you cannot get a more reliable, cost-effective answer than the Peace Corps when the challenge is to win hearts and minds around the globe.

PS—Apologies for a few days of no posts, but like Sherry had been earlier this month, I’ve been “flat out” this week with the Alliance’s big event, an advocacy day in which our members descend on Capitol Hill to lobby their Members of Congress. I’ll post more this weekend/next week, but will also try to bang out a few latent posts now.

Talking careers at the NCIV conference

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Sherry and I were privileged to have a full house yesterday afternoon at our presentation on careers in international education and exchange at the NCIV conference. Lauren Jacobs, my good friend who works at the USDA Graduate School’s International Institute, introduced us and moderated the session, and Sherry and I gave our spiel on Working World the book, how it came to be, the intergenerational aspect of the book, and some of the main career-building concepts in it. The best part of the session, as always, was the audience participation during the Q&A. It’s always gratifying when, not only do participants ask great questions and get engaged, but also when others in the audience begin to add their own perspectives and answers to these questions in addition to or instead of Sherry’s and my answers. We’ve always maintained that these career topics are better approached from multiple angles and viewpoints, and the Q&A parts of our sessions never fail to confirm this.

Anyhow, some of the topics covered include:

How do these concepts of career building relate specifically to the fields of international education and exchange?

I have to admit I felt a little sheepish that this was the first question, as you’d think we would have already covered that in a session on international careers. But as Sherry then emphasized, the career concepts that we discuss in Working World, while typically tailored for international careers, could be applied to careers in most any fields. But we did then mention a few things that careers seekers in these fields need to keep in mind that are particular to the IR world, including:

–While we all got into this work because of our love of travel and ideally want to have international travel as a part of our jobs, those jobs are tough to come by. But just because a job doesn’t have international travel doesn’t mean it’s not a solid building block for your international career.

–Sherry’s admonition that career seekers think about “how do you want to spend your days?” takes on particular importance when considering an international career. A career as a Foreign Service officer may sound intriguing and sexy on the surface, but is a life on the move, transplanting from country to country every few years the kind of life you want? Working on the ground with an international development project may sound exciting, but life can be very difficult in the areas where you may be asked to serve (my friend Beth who worked in southern Sudan comes to mind– her daily life was incredibly challenging). Is this how you want to spend your days? Sherry and I brought this up not to suggest this shouldn’t be how you want to spend your days, but rather that it’s important to consider these issues.

Do I need a Master’s degree in these fields?

We’ve fielded this question many times and, at the moment, seem to be answering it in the same ways each time. Sherry always encourages those in the IR fields to get as much education as they can as early as they can. “It’s always harder to go back the older you get,” she advises. I mentioned, as I have before, that it realistically seems more and more necessary to have a Master’s in the fields, given the huge increase of those applying to and entering MA programs in IR. As more of your competition for jobs gets higher degrees, it becomes increasingly necessary, I think, that you have one as well.

But I also think that, at an early point in your career, several years of experience is just as valuable, if not more valuable, than a Master’s degree. I mentioned the shock I had when I came out of my Master’s degree program with 1-2 years experience and had tons of trouble trying to find anything but an entry level or nearly entry level job. I figured that my MA made me ready for a higher position: program associate, program officer, etc. But it turns out that while my Master’s made me attractive as a candidate for sure, it did not replace the fact that I didn’t have several years of experience working in international education or exchange. (I’ve talked with many young people, both at the NCIV session yesterday and at other sessions, who had similar experiences, thinking their MAs would take them a lot further right away than they actually did).

However, I’ve also come to see that as I’ve progressed in my career, my MA has come to mean more and more. I truly believe I wouldn’t have landed either my last job or my current one without a Master’s. This seems to show me that having that Master’s and coupling it with the experience I am constantly gaining will be a very beneficial thing for my career down the line. So while a Master’s might not be absolutely essential at first for a young professional (experience can be just as important), it seems that adding an MA to your resume eventually is a wise thing to do.

Is getting a Master’s at an international university a good idea?

Sherry and I deferred to those in the room who had done their graduate degrees abroad to answer this question. One participant who did a Master’s in IR in Ireland mentioned that doing graduate school abroad was a fantastic opportunity for her, and she had many experiences she wouldn’t have had if she’d studied in the U.S. She did say, however, that it was particularly difficult to get engaged with her U.S. netowrk upon graduation, simply because cultivation of that network had been difficult from abroad.  And while she did cultivate a network in Ireland, getting a job there had its own complications based on her status as a foreigner. So her conclusion was that there are many pluses to doing a Master’s abroad, as while as minuses, and in the end it’s up to the individual and what he or she wants.

What kinds of skills should I be looking to learn for positions in international affairs? What if I have broad interests? Can I pursue those or should I be looking for narrowly-tailored positions that will teach me very specific skills?

I think everyone in the room agreed that it’s both important to do what you like to do (that is, have your daily work be tasks that you enjoy and that utilize skills you are good at) and to always be trying to gain new skills, to be looking for growth opportunities within your job and when you decide it’s time for a new job. Certainly there are skills that are extremely beneficial and often necessary in international affairs jobs–whether those be intercultural competency, language skills, writing, proposal construction, budgeting, project management, etc.–but there is no reason not to pursue something that you enjoy simply because it doesn’t seem to “fit” into some kind of an international rubric. One participant summed this idea up quite nicely when she mentioned that she has a degree in chemical engineering but now works in international education. A perfect example that you should follow your interests and your passions and not try too hard to plan it all out, because it’ll never go according to that plan anyway.

I’d email you, but then I’d have to kill you

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

If you are considering a career as a State Department diplomat because of the glamour and excitement you percieve the job brings—what with all the intrigue, deception, spying, lavish dinner parties, and late night flights to exotic locations that are undoubtedly a part of the diplomat’s daily world—then let me sweeten the pot even more. Become a diplomat and so enter the shady world of email espionage.

Three exchange orgs and the WEST Program

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Starting a new job is always an exciting experience, if also slightly odd. It’s especially weird when there is no real buffer or transition between one job and the next—you go to work on Friday as usual, enjoy your weekend as usual, and then wake up for work on Monday as usual, only to go a completely different place. This quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his book The Beautiful Struggle, sums up quite nicely the refractory, almost out of body experience that can come with starting a new job:

Just when you master the geometry of one world, it slips away, and suddenly again, you’re swarmed by strange shapes and impossible angles.

That all said, my first day at the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange was a pretty successful one, I think, and I’m very gratified to be there. Among a few other places, my first eight hours on the job took me to the Foreign Press Center on 14th Street for a press conference announcing the introduction of the new Work, English Study and Travel (WEST) Program, a partnership between the U.S. and Korean governments that will allow “qualifying [Korean] university students and recent university graduates to enter the United States for a period of up to 18 months on J-1 exchange visitor visas that will allow them to study English, participate in professional-level internships, and travel independently.”

The three sponsoring organizations of the WEST Program are international nonprofits certainly worth checking out for those interested in the fields of international education and exchange:

The Association for International Practical Training (AIPT) (based in Bethesda, MD): provides educational and professional exchange experiences that enhance cultural awareness, develop global competencies, mutual understanding, and international cooperation.

The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) (based in Portland, ME): helps people gain understanding, acquire knowledge, and develop skills for living in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world.

The Intrax Cultural Exchange (based in San Francisco, CA): provides both international students and U.S. host families with a unique and personal exchange opportunity that increases cultural understanding, and inspires mutual respect and personal growth.

Moving on from Georgetown to the Alliance

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I’ll first make clear that I’m not leaving my position as Director of College Communications at Georgetown because I daydream of punching small animals, or any of the other reasons in this hilarious Career Builder ad aired during the Super Bowl:

But I am indeed moving on from Georgetown. I recently accepted the position of Assistant Director and Senior Policy Specialist at the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange, a job I’ll be starting next Monday. The Alliance is an association of NGOs in the international education and cultural exchange community and works to formulate and promote public policies that support the growth and well-being of international exchange links between the U.S. and other nations. I’m excited to be moving back more directly into the world of international ed. and exchange, as well as to be working for an organization that has such a direct and influential impact on the exchange and education community.

At the same time, it is a bittersweet moment, as it is difficult to leave my colleagues here at Georgetown. They have taught me so much over the past two years, and Georgetown provided me with a wonderful home where I’ve been able to grow and thrive, both professionally and personally. I’ll take just a quick moment to thank everyone here at Georgetown for the kindness, generosity, and idealism they have invariably extended my way.

In addition to the excitement and uncertainty that always comes with a career change, this move to the Alliance—my third job since I finished grad school in 2005—has caused made me to ponder this question: how long should I, at this point in my career, stay in a particular job or with a particular organization, from a career trajectory perspective? Perhaps better phrased: at what point in my career should I take seriously the idea that it’s in my best interest to stay with the same organization for longer than two years?


“Cody and his trilingual immersion program”

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I caught this commercial last night while watching (I’m not ashamed to admit) American Idol, and it cracked me up. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I think the more American kids (or Americans of all ages, for that matter) that we have in trilingual immersion programs, the better off we’ll be.

I’m also going to take a second to commiserate with the Cheeto-eating lady’s scorn of those who haughtily use the term “Mandarin” to refer to the Chinese language (this has been a little pet peeve of mine for awhile). My venting after the break.


ND Pick of the Week

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Working World got a nice shout-out in Notre Dame Magazine, the publication of my alma mater, as last week’s “pick of the week.”

In other news regarding Notre Dame, I am actually on campus in South Bend, Indiana right now to participate in a series of international career events with students and faculty and will be delivering the keynote address (that’s right, keynote) at an event tonight called “International Impact”: Contributions of Arts and Letters Majors to Society, Business, and Global Relations,  Pretty fancy, I know.  More on the outcomes of this event and these meetings at Notre Dame later.

Brian Kelly, editor of U.S. News & World Report

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

I had the privilege yesterday of hearing from Brian Kelly, the editor of U.S. News & World Report.  Brian, a ’76 grad of Georgetown, came back to campus to participate in a Dean’s Lunch Seminar, a program initiated by my office.  Brian’s had an interesting and varied journalistic career, moving from the Chicago Sun-Times to a small political magazine in DC, Regardie’s, to the Washington Post, then to U.S. News & World Report, where he worked for nine years before being named editor in 2007.

He spoke to a small group of Georgetown students about his early days as a political reporter (“I covered crime and politics, but in Chicago, it’s pretty much the same story”), about the opportunities and challenges the Internet has brought to journalism (“Bloggers often use MSM [mainstream media] as a derogatory term, though in the MSM we actually check our facts”), and about why he still has a passion for journalism even after 30 years (“Journalism is not about being witty or clever or the smartest guy in the room.  It’s a service, it’s about communicating with the public”).

Brian also had a few things to say about the international nature of his journalism career: