To the graduate who wants to work in international affairs
Morgan Courtney

I’m in my early/mid-30s and have been working in I.D. since my mid-late 20s, currently based with an international NGO in Amman, Jordan though originally from the States. A lot of great tips in here! One thing I’ll add: I.D. work is based in an office, working on a computer with MS-files and feeling overloaded by the number of emails in your inbox. Many bushy-eyed college-aged kids may think it entails injecting infants with vaccinations in rural African villages: it certainly can sometimes include that, but your job will, at least 90% of the time, be based in an office working on a computer. With this in mind, one suggestion I’d give is, if you want to work in the “field”, i.e. in the communities where the work is conducted, pick a trade, or a hard skill. Say, irrigation, if you want to assist small-farmers develop better crops and yield, etc. Water management in the WASH sector (i could tell you what that acronym stands for but where’s the fun in that?) In education, perhaps pedagogical development or a classroom-centric knowledge base would be useful. I mention these as alternatives to a Master’s Program in I.D., or development management, or other such programs, as those will steer you into an office. If that’s what you’d like to do than by all means do so — but i think many folks expect to be doing what i wrote above in the villages, and end up dejected when they’re debating Excel codes or per diem rates, etc. etc. I really like the slogan for JHU’s International Programs School: Be a seed planter not a bean counter. Personally, I view the trade or hard-skill route as the seed planter channel, and the I.D.-centred curriculum and degree program as the bean counting route. Others may disagree, which is ok too.

That’s it. Thanks Morgan!

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