Getting Started in International Development

Remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint

Getting started in Development
Source: flickr.com

For those of you interested in working in the international development field, starting your search will involve more than just deciding on what the focus of your studies will be, but conceptualizing the development landscape to make sure that you are pointing your career search in the right direction.  Luckily, Michele Carter, an Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs (APSIA) aluma wrote an essay that can offer some additional tips to those of you interested in the field.

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Greg Flatow – Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability

During the fall semester of 2013, I participated in an internship program with the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability (TAMSS). I completed this internship while taking intensive Arabic courses at the University of Tunis Carthage.

University of Tunis - Carthage

University of Tunis – Carthage
Photo: Greg Flatow

My internship provided me with a forum to practice my newly acquired language skills, while simultaneously affording me the opportunity to gain professional work experience with an international organization. Due to my experiences at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, which provided me with the necessary skillset to engage in an internship organization, I was able to actively participate in my internship program and enhance the productivity of my organization.

My activities at TAMSS varied significantly throughout the semester, and I have been utilized on an as-needed basis by the different offices in the organization. My first project entailed constructing information packets for Tunisians in the informal economy. Many Tunisians are not cognizant of the robust labor code in Tunisia and the governmental programs established to help informal workers enter formal employment. My objective was to summarize the benefits of formal employment in a concise document that could later be translated into Arabic.

I also worked on the Women in Democracy project, which focuses on augmenting Tunisians’ knowledge on democratic practices and preparing Tunisians for the upcoming elections. Local volunteers collected surveys on the population’s knowledge and interest in democratic affairs, and I worked with TAMSS employees to compile the data.

Additionally, I assisted a colleague with a research project on female entrepreneurship. Her intent is to analyze trends in the post-Arab Spring era, including the rise of Islamism and a more democratic government, in order to assess the impact that these changes have on female entrepreneurs. She is an American professor without a background in Arabic, and I assisted her in translating Arabic surveys and entering data into Excel spreadsheets.

My studies at the Maxwell School have pertained to security and foreign affairs, and it is my desire to acquire a governmental position that relates to these concentrations. I believe that many governmental agencies actively seek individuals who have previously engaged in international work and language studies. Through my work at TAMSS, I worked on various projects in the organization (some of which are funded by the US State Department), gained potential references for future job applications, and proved my ability to work in a foreign environment. It is my hope that this experience will provide a bridge to a desirable job in the future.

Matt Podolak – Converse Trading Company, Singapore

Just a pair of Chuck's

Converse’s most famous product
Source: Wikipedia

In the summer of 2013 I was hired by the Converse Trading Company to work in their finance section as an intern. I was assigned was to develop a database that would organize, track, manage, and provide data for projections/analysis in regard to their retail business return operations. Continue reading

Seth Binder – Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

Project on Middle East Democracy

Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

This story was submitted by Seth Binder, who completed his graduate IR degree in the fall of 2013.

As part of the MAIR requirements, I participated in Syracuse’s Washington D.C., Global Security and Development Program (GSDP). This opportunity provided an array of course options and an endless number of internship possibilities in the DC area. Continue reading

International Affairs within the US Government

While the search for international affairs jobs in the U.S. government often starts with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of Defense, it doesn’t necessarily have to end there.  In 2013, the Robertson Foundation for Government, GovLoop, and the Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs (APSIA), published “Making an Impact_Guide to International Jobs in Government,” which provides details on the 50 federal agencies and offices that have international components.  If you are interested in working in the international arena for the US government, it behooves you to take a look.

Aaron Eisenbarth – European University at St. Petersburg

Aaron Eisenbarth and the Russian cruiser Aurora

Aaron in St. Petersburg in front of the Russian ship Aurora. Photo: Aaron Eisenbarth

Aaron Eisenbarth is a graduate student in international relations and public administration.  In spring 2014, he is completing his studies in Syracuse.

For the fall semester of my second year, I chose to study Energy Politics abroad at the European University in St. Petersburg, Russia. The program is fairly new, but the overall experience was quite good. Professors were capable and the school brought in high-level politicians and representatives of large energy companies on a regular basis to complement the curriculum. My cohort of fifteen showed a strong interest in the subject and in terms of background and work experience was more diversified than the public-sector orientation of Maxwell. This made for rich conversations that included more private sector voices than per usual at Maxwell.

I walked away with a large amount of new knowledge and a number of skills. For instance, a general understanding of European-Russian relations, the basics of Russia Foreign Policy and some basic energy research skills that will help my career. The program provided a surprisingly robust Russian learning program as well. I spoke Russian at an intermediate-high/advanced-low level before starting the program and they provided six hours of group tutoring a week. Speaking Russian is not a requirement of the program and will not be a barrier to having a good experience at the university.

Life in St. Petersburg was pretty good and affordable if you shop around for an apartment or choose to commute into the city center. The university does a good job of providing students with information regarding possible living arrangements as well as help in other aspects of St. Petersburg life. It is a beautiful city with plenty of obvious and non-obvious activities in which to partake. Navigating the city as a foreigner can be taxing at times, but there are helpful, English-speaking locals to help you should you need it. If you are unaccustomed to the darkness that a St. Petersburg winter solstice brings with it be sure to bring some vitamin D.  Safety was never an issue for me, but it is a concern just like any other metropolitan area.

I recommend the program if you have an interest Eurasian energy issues or even energy in general as it provides necessary foundation for studying outside of Eurasia. The university also provides a Russian and Eurasian Studies program (IMARES) and an Arts and Culture program (MARCA)

Diplomacy and Development Organization

As parts of the United States government, the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have complicated organizational systems. Given the interlocking tasks and multiple hierarchical layers, it is important for those interested in working in the system to have a working knowledge of these organization structures as they consider their potential career path. Thus, we’ve prepared a quick guide to all of the major offices in both organizations for your use. Continue reading

Keys to Finding Internships

Remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint

Starting your search
Source: flickr.com

As many of you started looking for internships over the winter holidays, I thought that would like some more detailed advice on how to approach the internship search.  Since internships are increasingly seen as entrance points into the job market, this advice is also applicable to the professional market.  Continue reading