I guess I am kinda lucky that I found this connection E through my department’s advisor. To be honest, that informational interview gave me too much shock that I literally spent the entire evening(reading 4–5hrs) to do some soul searching process. It was painful and brutal, to say the least.
After some connection issues, I finally was able to hear E through Skype. As an alumni from REES, he is one of the few that enters into a private sector instead. I was expecting that at least someone is doing something related to the major without being tied to academia nor government. I might as well pursue a path like that, too. However, the first thing he told me was, I’m sorry but my consulting job actually has nothing to do with REES.
I was disappointed. He told me that maybe 20 years earlier there are many jobs available in the field, and now it is slowly declining, even more so. As a non native speaker of that region’s language, it is even more difficult to get hired. I definitely have that realization before–knowing that if someone is planning on hire me it is probably because my Chinese language skill not my Russian skill, but to direct hear the bleak prospect of my field feels super depressing, if not more.
Fortunately E was quite helpful. He pointed out that given my background, I could probably look into Chinese companies who are trying to invest in infrastructure in Central Asia, and the Balkans. He suggested me to look into International Development Consulting that helps to implement projects in the third world and have contract with the government. He taught me a ton of practical networking skills, in particular, how to cold email people and try to come up ways to keep in touch with them, especially with alumni. Maybe 1 in 10 would reply, but it is totally legit to approach people like that.
He couldn’t help emphasizing the importance of working experience, especially related work experience and connections within the field. He said unless I truly know what I can do with a master degree in REES, maybe I should consider working a few years and explore other industries first. (Just because the job prospect is terrible.)
I did feel terrifying. On one hand, I felt like it would be great to do concurrent study program to finish a master degree in a year instead of two. (and have a thesis in hand.) On the other, I do know that one year probably wouldn’t help much in terms of refining my career goals. I always know I wanted to do something practical and useful with that region (aka not academia), it’s just I haven’t been able to finalize a clear path or a specific job position yet.
After I hung up the Skype call, I panicked.
It was a great Skype conversation because at least someone was able to point me towards something tangible, unlike the vague idea of “oh you could work for private sector” , this is a real career path that I could consider. International Development consulting will give me plenty of opportunities to travel overseas and stay, while at the same time making some potential positive impact for the locals, instead of merely helping to make profit for a business. Meanwhile, it was not a great Skype conversation because I guess I has a grasp of the depressing reality out there which it makes me feel overwhelmed. If I truly ended up pursuing that path, I’ll have to be wandering in the world alone again for a couple years down the line, always from family and friends. I’ve been wandering before, and I loved travel, but that loneliness is hard to swallow, at midnight, at sunset, at every evening when I walk home alone with grocery bags, when I got sick lying on bed for the entire day, when I saw other people having their parents attending their performance, and pick them up for holidays. Those scenarios hit me hard.
Now after this conversation, my future seems like a mixed of complicated dichotomies in my head, and I’m close to explode.
I talked to my parents and my partner for an hour straight talking about it. Earlier I was planning on doing the concurrent program immediately after my undergrad, so that at least I can save some money and get the master degree asap. Originally I thought that master degree may help me breaking into the door of think tanks(ask Liz to confirm that part!), or any international non profit organization, or private sector for that sake. Apparently, work experience weighs more than that, especially in consulting. I wasn’t intended on pursuing consulting because of heavy workload, high pressure and long endless nights. However, I do enjoy the practical problem solving part, research and analysis.
I spent the entire night sitting in front of desk, flipping through my journals and sticky notes, trying to find my scattered reflection on my career goals in between lines. I asked myself again what I wanted to do…and eventually finalize to one sentence. With 3 full papers of ideas on my table.
“I’d like to do something that involves research and creative problem solving, a career that allows me to express my individuality, while working towards the greater good of humanity.”
I haven’t found the name of the job yet, but I think I will find it. Some tangible steps included doing a lot of research on networking through linked and google, finding people that I can talk to in the international development consulting while exploring the creative industry, like people in art administration, music and art industry marketing, etc to find out the reality of these careers. It will be slow, but I’m sure I can find something out of it.