Tuesday, December 2, 2008

International Development

The time is fast approaching for me to get on with my life and commit to getting my Master’s degree, so I think I’ll revisit the topic of what exactly I am going for. I think I’m set on the idea of international development, although I really have no idea what that entails. I know I love anthropology, which is what I received my bachelors in, but international development sounds like a focused next step. How did I come to that conclusion, you may (or may not) be asking yourself. Well… (deep breath), in the past I’ve focused on cultural anthropology; sustainable development, educational systems, means of production, etc. I didn’t know exactly how to channel these different issues though. Believe me I’ve definitely been over and over this. In undergrad I even tried to narrow my focus down and come up with a unique focus by concentrating on the way art around the world depicts religion and what this means in terms of societal regulation and interaction. I know, I know, I was really reaching.

I found a few job postings that show what kind of positions are out there for people schooled in international development. A few are:

Senior Programme Design Officer, African Wildlife Foundation
Programme Manager, Rainforest Foundation
Program Director Foundation for Sustainable Development, Tola, Nicaragua
Orphans and Vulnerable Children Technical Advisor, Global Health Fellows Program, Washington DC, USA
International Consultant, Best Practises in Public-Private Partnership
Human Development Specialist, World Bank

I know these postings fall under the heading of international development, but it seems that they all require some sub-focus of education, health, agriculture, economics, etc. That is where my problem lies: what within international development could I possibly narrow my focus down to??? I wonder if I go for business or management or something, if I would learn enough skills to fit into a particular niche. I think that might put me in the running for jobs such as the offered position in the following job posting:

Program Assistant (Africa Programs)

Job Level: Executive-Level

Founded in 1941, Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes an engaged U.S. foreign policy; evaluates human rights conditions; sponsors public education campaigns; facilitates training and other assistance to promote democracy and free market reforms; and provides support for the rule of law, free media and effective local governance.

Freedom House is currently seeking a full-time Program Assistant for Africa Programs. Under the direction of the Senior Program Manager/Deputy Director of Programs, the Program Assistant will assist in logistical, research, and administrative support for Freedom House programs. Specific duties include, but are not limited to:

• Assist Program Officers and the Senior Program Manager/Deputy Director of Programs in compliance with Freedom House, USG, and other grant regulations.
• Assist in the preparation of proposals, press releases, and speeches.
• Assist in financial management responsibilities, including preparation of draft budgets and requests for funds.
• Assist in updating the website concerning the programs as necessary.
• Help maintain expert database.
• Help develop and produce promotional material on the programs.
• Make travel arrangements and organize logistics for international staff visits and meetings.
• Organize events/meetings in DC and abroad related to Freedom House programs.
• Assist with other administrative duties as assigned.

Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree. The ideal candidate will possess a demonstrated interest in, and knowledge of Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Southern Africa and the Horn; strong research and writing skills; excellent organizational and communications skills; experience performing basic administrative tasks in an office environment; an ability to work collaboratively with a program team; and proficiency in Microsoft Office software. Knowledge of international human rights, democracy, and rule of law issues is highly desired. Fluency in oral and written English is required; proficiency in French is preferred. Position is based in Washington, DC with projects are located in new democracies and developing countries.

Okay, so I can handle grants, press releases, speeches, administrative duties, computer and database concerns, and promotional material. I have strong writing skills and excellent organizational and communication skills. The knowledge of international human rights, democracy, and rule of law are subjects that I may have to become familiar with in grad school. As far as the language and interests in that particular part of the world are concerned, I would just look for positions in China, where my focus has been and hopefully will continue to be.
So we’ll see. So far I’m in the preliminary stages of compiling my definition of what it is I want to do and searching for schools that teach it or something like it. Then when I’ve found a few, I can talk to an adviser to see if they have any idea of what I am talking about and if they’d be willing to take me in and hold my hand through a master’s program. Wish me luck!


judith said...

Wow!!! That sounds very interesting and challenging. With your sense of adventure it should be right up your alley. I am sure once you sit down with an advisor they will be able to assist you and guide you to the best educational avenues to expolore to make yourself marketable for a position like this.
GO FOR IT!!!!!!!!

marpa said...

Maybe getting a Master of International Management degree could be useful for you.

I got mine at Thunderbird (Phoenix,AZ), and thanks to it
I could get a job in London, and
travel quite a lot.

Business administration could be the master key to open up many doors for you.

Good luck!

Ben said...

Thats awesome!!! Your skills possessed now are well tuned and I know you will do fantastic in grad school. If this is what you really want to do, I'll do everything I can to help. As far obtaining this goal it will be very draining and require lots of work. In the end though the dreams you have to travel the world and learn different languages will be greatly rewarded. Most importantly I know you'll be happier than ever. Just remember anything one puts their mind too can be done.
Best Wishes!!

Anonymous said...


first of all, i understand your plight, i had a similar one not too long ago myself. i have some suggestions:

1. if you don't know what to do, then keep things general. what i mean is if you aren't absolutely in love with the field you are thinking about studying and have even a slight doubt, then pursue a degree that allows you to have some flexibility. another reason i suggest this is because you never know if you may switch careers later in life.

a broad degree will allow for a more seamless transition in a new role, which is outside the scope of what your major was in. 2. degrees are important, but experience is what everyone will be measuring also. if you can, try to get a job in the field now so you can build up your experience. you may find that your interest change once you are working in the field. if they do change, then you can pursue a degree that is more tailored to your new interest.

3. i tend to be cautious of the "niche" degrees because it is harder to transition into new roles. for example, a nurse may have a hard time getting hired for a business position. no matter what you decide, you have to believe in yourself and no that things will work out because you're a smart kid. that's half of the battle. if you were a dumb kid, i would tell you, but you're not. you're smart and all you have to do is figure out what you're comfortable with doing and go for it!

4. the worse thing that can happen is that it doesn't work out and you end up doing something else. the main thing is that you tried. nothing will ever happen unless you try in the first place. "the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step".

5. i like the idea of having a business core or something that you can fall back on, like a "fail safe" in the event that things don't pan out like you intended. if you can pick something that allows for you to develop some business skills like marketing or accounting or hr, that would be a good thing. comes my buzz-kill, (but don't let my disheartened answer sway your pretty little heart, if you really want this): i think that after a while you may choose dollars over what you really would like to do. the jobs for some of the things you've mentioned appear to be few and far between. in an economy that is struggling, that means fierce competition. you should consider that.

another thing, if at any point you would like to have kids, take time off to raise them, and then jump back into the game, it is going to be twice as hard in that field. something that has more jobs may be what you end up wanting. ok, now i'm just keeping it real, don't beat me up when you see me! whatever you decide, you know i'll support it. it's just my job to make sure you know all of your options. i'm not going to piss in your pocket and tell you it's raining :)