What Advice Do You Have As I Begin My Career?

October 2, 2011


Part of the genesis of our work came from speaking to various groups of graduate students in many universities across the United States, and getting asked the question: “What advice do you have for me as I begin my career?”. Indeed, most professors who invited me to speak specifically asked me to address this question in my talk. Over and over again, I confronted students (including at Harvard, no less) who felt they were graduating without the skills to forge a successful career.

So I found myself leaning forward about two weeks ago during a panel discussion at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., at a conference focused on innovative approaches to peacebuilding. The moderator of a panel discussing the experiences of leading practitioners in the field of peacebuilding had just asked the panelists what advice they would have for young graduate students seeking to enter this field.

The question was answered by Evelyn Thornton, the CEO of The Institute for Inclusive Security, a well-known Washington, D.C.-based non-profit dedicated to the greater inclusion of women in peace processes. She had three pieces of advice for the assembled group of students:

  1. Follow your passion – only do what you most care about.
  2. While you are a student, get some practical experience in the area you are most passionate about
  3. Develop your professional skills to contribute effectively in your field.
The rest of the panelists nodded vigorously. Another one of them, Robi Damelin, one of the leaders of the award-winning NGO Parents Circle-Families Forum, which is based in Israel and Palestine, emphasized the importance of the first point.”If you’re not doing what you care most in the world about, you are wasting your time”, she stressed.

What do you think universities could do to better prepare students for their careers?

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