Currently viewing the tag: "Career"

Many students at Fletcher want to pack up their professional skills and move to a new sector for their post-Fletcher careers.  In today’s blog post, the Office of Career Services career coach for the private sector provides suggestions for making a transition to a private sector career.

Students who are interested in working in the private sector after graduating from Fletcher frequently ask about strategies to get there.  I believe one of the keys to success in transitioning from the non-profit or public sector to the private sector involves — and I know this is not rocket science — NETWORKING!!!  As a career-changer, you might be overlooked on paper.  Networking gives you the opportunity to interact with people one-on-one and sell your enthusiasm and transferable skills.  This is especially true in an economic climate such as the one we’re in now, but networking is essential under any circumstances.  In fact, we in OCS feel so strongly about the importance of networking that we devote an entire Professional Development Program (PDP) session to this topic. The PDP is very interactive and it gives students the chance to practice the program’s content.

So, back to networking….In addition to the practice opportunity offered during the PDP, I highly recommend that students do a “mock informational interview,” which allows them to practice with an OCS coach.  Students who have taken advantage of the mock interviews report that, as a result, they have felt more comfortable when networking.

The student-organized private sector career trip to New York is another great way to get started on the transition to the private sector, providing a forum for putting those networking skills to work.  The trip takes place in the fall — classes are canceled to make it possible for students to attend — and it includes a number of site visits to employers, as well as small-group lunches with New York-based alumni.

Finally, the Fletcher alumni network is an outstanding resource for Fletcher students interested a private sector career.  Fletcher alums are typically very happy to help students, as well as fellow graduates.  Just today I was speaking with an alumnus from the 70s about his plans to change jobs, and he mentioned how incredibly responsive and helpful the Fletcher network has been to him over the years.  I was pleased, then, to hear him say how important he feels it is to “give back,” and offer support to other alumni and students!  Assistance provided by fellow Fletcher graduates could take a number of different forms, including reviewing a résumé, assisting a student looking to get a foot in the door of the alum’s company, offering an introduction to someone else in the Fletcher network who might be helpful, or providing an “ad hoc” internship for the student.

Making a career transition takes some effort, but with networking and the Fletcher network, a move to the private sector is possible, and is achieved by many members of every graduating class.

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Today’s post comes from the career coach for the U.S. public sector.  From the Admissions perspective, we know that many students start off with a vision of themselves in the most prominent agencies involved in international affairs (primarily Department of State).  Let’s hear how the career coach guides students to consider opportunities beyond the obvious.

Careers within the U.S. federal government continue to be an area where Fletcher graduates show particular strength.  Often when students arrive at Fletcher, they know they would like to work within the U.S. Foreign Service, intelligence community, or one of the federal agencies (Commerce, Energy, Treasury, USAID, etc.).  However, students quickly realize they need to focus further, as the roles and job opportunities within these agencies are as diverse as the academic interests of the Fletcher student body itself.

Our role in the Office of Career Services is to help students navigate these options with confidence and success.  We work closely with employers such as the CIA, Government Accountability Office, and Office of Management and Budget to understand each agency’s employment needs and then we coach students on how to be the best possible candidate for the job.  Most students meet with career coaches several times during their academic career – early in the fall to brainstorm possible best fits, and later in the spring to prepare for interviews that may lead to an internship or full-time position.  In the meantime, we work collaboratively on translating classroom knowledge into employer-relatable skills and achievements, with the aim of securing the job.

At Fletcher, strategic career coaching is augmented by deep career exploration through nearly 40 on-campus employer information sessions and the annual career trips to New York and Washington, DC.  A well-established OCS activity, the career trips offer students the benefit of attending some 30-plus career events in New York and over 60 events in D.C.  For first-year students, these events are great opportunities to hear from seasoned Fletcher graduates working at public sector employers such as the National Nuclear Security Administration, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, or New York Police Department Intelligence, as well as other organizations that connect to their interests, such as the Council on Foreign Relations.  During both trips, many of the employers have active recruiting components, and every year students secure internships and full-time jobs as a result.

The Fletcher School is a great choice for career-minded students who are also looking for a rigorous academic experience.  Equipped with the expertise and support of OCS staff, graduates aiming for jobs in the public sector can look forward to fruitful and engaging careers in every part of government.

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Today’s blog post is from the OCS career coach for the nonprofit sector.  Fewer acronyms needed than for students looking at the International Organization sector, but greater emphasis on that summer internship. 

Last summer, over 40% of the Fletcher students who completed an internship did so in the nonprofit sector.  There are so many nonprofits (over one million in the U.S. alone), doing so many different things (ranging from CSR to education to health and nutrition), that there is sure to be an organization out there that matches your career interests.  In the current economy, many nonprofits are struggling with budget and staffing constraints and are therefore very open to hiring a Fletcher student who adds tangible and relevant skills (such as conducting a needs assessment, monitoring and evaluation, or grant writing), along with the passion for organization’s mission.  Another plus is that nonprofits are typically open to hiring graduate-level interns for field-based opportunities. Last summer, Fletcher students interned in over 50 countries ranging from Afghanistan to Malawi to Ecuador.

The challenge of completing a nonprofit internship is that they are all virtually unpaid.  Fortunately, though the total pool of funds may vary year-to-year, The Fletcher School offers a host of summer funding options to help defray some costs, including:

•    The Slawson Fellowship:  Each year three or four students receive $3500 to complete an internship in the nonprofit sector in a developing country.  The focus of this fellowship is to gain nonprofit management experience for a long-term career in the nonprofit sector.
•    The Blakeley Fellowship:  Each year 10 students receive $5000 to complete an internship in the nonprofit sector in a developing country.  The focus of this fellowship is to work in a nonprofit focused on microfinance, private sector development, public-private partnerships, small and medium sized enterprise development or NGO business development/project financing initiatives.
•    The Leir Fellowship:  In 2010, this fellowship awarded 17 students approximately $2800 to conduct a humanitarian assistance internship outside of the U.S.
•    Fletcher General Funding:  This fund is available to any student conducting an unpaid internship. In the summer of 2010, over 90 students received a general fund award and the average award amount was $1600.
•    Funding from outside sources:  Fletcher students who pursued nonprofit internships have been recipients of funds from outside sources, including the Harvard Program on Negotiation Fellowship and the Feinstein International Center Grants Program.

If you are considering a nonprofit internship, start the financial planning process early.  Some of the steps include creating a budget, researching the cost of living in the target country, and identifying inexpensive flight options.  Be on the lookout for the OCS summer funding information session, scheduled in the late January timeframe, to learn which funding options will be available for the summer when you’ll have your internship.

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As I mentioned last week, the staff of the Office of Career Services starts working with students almost as soon as they arrive.  While OCS initially takes the lead in kicking off the career exploration/job hunt process with each entering class, the relationship between OCS and individual students is best described as a partnership.  Students need to have a clear sense of their general direction — a realistic starting point to get things moving.  An early stage in the process is meeting with the staff member who serves as the “career coach” for the student’s preferred sector.

Today’s blog is the first of four reflections from the career coaches on their suggestions for students, based on their experience in that sector.  First up is the career coach for the International Organization sector.

Fletcher graduates have a long tradition of pursuing work in the International Organization (IO) sector, either directly after graduating or, often, down the line after gaining experience in a targeted field.  If you are interested in working for an IO, obtaining a summer internship with your target organization is the best “foot in the door.”

I recommend starting the internship search early as competition is fierce.  In the fall semester, the OCS hosts “sector weeks.”  During the IO sector week in September, we offered information sessions at which we provided general overviews of recruitment channels, including the timeframe for pursuing an internship, recruitment programs for full-time employment, the skills necessary to enter the field, as well as the organizations that have hosted Fletcher interns in the past.  In addition, representatives from IOs visit campus to explain their recruitment processes in greater detail.  (During IO sector week, students heard from the World Bank and UNDP.)  The information provided in these sessions is a great starting point for your search.

Identifying contacts and beginning to build your professional network are also very important parts of the internship search process.  While most IOs have formal internship programs, a majority of Fletcher students identify their IO internship through personal contact with a hiring manager working in their area of interest.  To help you with your search, OCS maintains an internship database, through which you can learn about past internships and then contact students who had an interesting experience in order to learn more.  We also maintain contacts and job/internship postings in Fletcher Career Central, our online database.  And, the New York and Washington, DC career trips are fantastic opportunities to connect with alumni working in the field, both through formal information sessions and through independently organized informational interviews.

In the summer of 2010, students who employed this strategy found internships with OECD, IOM, the United Nations Secretariat, UNDP, UNESCAP, UNRWA, UNHCR, UNCDF, and UNESCO.  (If you don’t know these acronyms, I recommend that you start researching now, as acronyms are a common part of the IO lexicon.)  In addition to doing excellent work, these students learned how their organization functions, what types of positions are commonly available, and the culture of the organization.  They were also able to make an objective assessment of the skills they need strengthen to be competitive candidates for full-time employment within the IO.

When it comes to full-time employment, the ability to draw upon the networks developed during the internship is crucial to success. Often, IOs hire short-term consultants for a specific project or task and these opportunities are rarely published.  One must have an “inside” contact to help.  Short-term contracts are the most common entry point for Fletcher graduates.  Seven 2010 graduates obtained short-term contracts with the World Bank in Washington, DC after graduation, for example.

Once you are at Fletcher, you will have the opportunity to meet with alumni, faculty, staff, and students who bring knowledge of these areas, based on their experiences, to help you with your career goals.  While an IO career is challenging to break into, Fletcher alumni who have found their way into an IO have been very satisfied with the experience, and we look forward to working with you to help you meet your career goals!

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Although the initials PDP could stand for many things (People’s Democratic Party, Pretty Darn Practical), at Fletcher we all know it refers to Professional Development Program, the nine-week course offered by the Office of Career Services for new students each fall.  Applicants often ask us about OCS, and I answer that students and OCS start working together almost from Day One.  (To be precise — Day Four of Orientation.)  Once classes begin, the focus of the OCS-student partnership is initially PDP.

I’ll be honest — some students think they don’t need PDP.  They’ve held professional positions for several years and don’t see the value.  But they’re nearly all quickly persuaded.  If nothing else, they see that putting everyone on the same page is important to the smooth functioning of OCS.  But most provide insightful comments on how PDP has helped transform their thinking about their new career/job hunt.  Here are a few samples, kindly provided by the folks at OCS:

“Even though I have had significant professional experience, the PDP allowed me the chance to focus on my career in a way I would not have without it.”

“I’m glad you guys require these sessions – especially in the first half of the first term.  It reminds us why we are here – as a key step in our careers.”

“The PDP forced me not only to think about what I want to do, but to develop a realistic path of how to get there.”

“While many of us know what we’re supposed to do regarding networking, interviewing, etc., PDP gave us the structured venue we needed to PRACTICE these skills.”

“Since I’m here at Fletcher to change fields, the PDP was helpful to start me thinking about how to most effectively market myself to a new industry.”

“I thought I had a good résumé, but the PDP made it MUCH better – I am ashamed to think of the document I used to hand out!”

“The PDP forced me to stop and think about what is important to me, and how best to market myself, and then gave me the opportunity to try out new approaches with peers.”

I’ve asked my OCS friends to provide more information about their work.  I hope to share their reflections next week.

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Lunch today will be with the staff from the Office of Career Services (OCS).  We like to connect with them periodically to find out what they’re thinking.  The Admissions Office is the first point of contact for students, while the partnership with Career Services continues through to the end of a student’s Fletcher experience and beyond.  Together, we confront an interesting challenge.  A key measure that OCS uses in evaluating itself is through students’ success in finding internships and permanent jobs.  But Admissions needs to select students who both have the potential for employment and, also, will succeed academically during the in-class time leading to graduation.  This is one of the points that keeps our admissions process from becoming formulaic.

Beyond the general content of today’s conversation, we’ll also talk about LLM and MIB, our newest degree programs, and how we work with their applicants/students/alumni.  The first MIB and second LLM classes just graduated, so it’s time to break out the pencils and start analyzing the data they left behind.

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It’s Open House day today and the building is abuzz with admitted students.  Since my own creativity is in short supply, I wanted to share something written by one of our pals over in the Office of Career Services (OCS).  Branden was responding to questions about pursuing a U.S. government career after graduating from Fletcher.  Here’s Branden’s email to the prospective student:

Thank you for your email and interest in The Fletcher School.  It sounds like your career interest is focused mainly on the Department of State and becoming a Foreign Service Officer (FSO). We are fortunate to have over 50 Fletcher graduates currently working with the Department – most of whom are FSOs. While we at OCS do not specifically “place” graduates with the Department, we do provide resources to help students facilitate a smooth transition from graduate school to full-time employment. For example, every year Fletcher hosts a Diplomat-in-Residence (DIR):  a current State Department employee who is an FSO, but whose responsibility is to liaise with universities and promote career opportunities with the Department.  Our current DIR has an office on campus and has been very involved with programming designed to prepare students to successfully pass the written and oral FSO assessments. Because of this unique resource, I can tell you that we already have a number of students who have passed both assessments, as well as dozens of students who have received summer internship offers at embassies abroad and in bureaus based in D.C.

Speaking to your other point about Fletcher’s location being outside of D.C., I have to say that I really see this as a strength for two reasons. First, while a small handful of Fletcher students complete internships during the academic year, we generally encourage students to keep their focus on their studies.  The rigor of the academic program here is quite intense, and most students find it overwhelming enough to simply be enrolled as a full-time student, as well as to participate in clubs, organize conferences, and complete their thesis. Second, while graduate internships during the academic year provide exposure to government agencies, which can be useful, the work is often clerical in nature.  On the other hand, the full-time internships during the summer that most of our students take advantage of tend to be more substantive. Very often full-time staff are traveling, which allows summer interns to complete higher level work usually done by full-time employees.

Fletcher’s alumni network in D.C. is vast and reaches all parts of the federal government. The capstone career event for both first-year and graduating students is our annual D.C. Career Trip in February – a two-day networking trip that includes over 60 events, 250 alumni, and 200-plus students.

I hope this information is helpful to you in making an informed decision.  Congratulations on your admission, and I hope to work with you next fall.

Best,
Branden
Branden F. Grimmett
Assistant Director, Office of Career Services

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