As a U.S. Fulbrighter, upon returning your focus is understandably on next steps: be that further education or pursuing a career. When I returned to my college after teaching abroad, I knew I had to make some changes. My immediate focus was seeking another graduate degree in a field that was aligned with my experiences in Estonia as a Fulbrighter. But I also started to explore a career change. A year later, I left my college to work for the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, DC.
Changing careers or looking for a first job can be overwhelming. We may recognize that we need to find work, but might be uncertain as to the field, the type of position, or how to start the job search. Stress can mount if you have financial obligations or are dealing with pressure from family. Keeping connected with the Fulbright community can go a long way to providing support. One of the first things I did upon my return was join the Fulbright Association and attend events of my local chapter.
Recently, I presented at the Career Connections Seminar in Los Angeles. This program, which is taking place around the U.S., is designed for alum of Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) programs including Fulbright. I wish such a program had existed when I was making my post-Fulbright change, but I’m glad it is here today, especially for younger professionals just starting out.
Funded by ECA, the program is run by Partners for the Americas, a DC-based NGO. A seminar takes place over all several days and brings together experts in careers and professionals who have made successful transitions after an overseas experience with alum of State Department programs.
At the LA program, there were close to 100 alum attending who benefited from presentations from over 20 experts. The presentations ranged from the basics of writing a resume or creating a LinkedIn profile, to interviewing techniques and how to apply for a job with the U.S. government. Besides the important interaction between the presenters and alum, there was opportunity for participants to learn from each other. Sometimes it helps to recognize that others are in the same boat you are in. Knowing you are not alone in the journey can be comforting.
The seminar included several opportunities to informally mix with others, including with the Los Angeles international affairs community which was invited to a reception. A visit to the Pacific Council on International Policy was also included. Since a large number of the participants were based in California, knowing about groups that advance international issues allows Fulbrighters to continue to pursue their interests.
The Career Connections Seminars continue with the next one scheduled for New York City October 23-25, 2019. To attend as an ECA program alum, you must apply to Partners for the Americas. You can apply here. The deadline for applications is September 16, 2019. You can also apply to present at the seminar. That deadline is September 9, 2019. If accepted as either a presenter or participant, much of your travel costs are covered.
There is no age limit or limit on when you engaged in your overseas program to apply. If you are in transition, whether a recently returned grantee or a more senior professional, consider applying.
—David J. Smith
David J. Smith (Fulbright Scholar, Estonia 2003-2004) is a career coach and the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016). He is on the career advisory board of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network. David writes regularly on career issues at davidjsmithconsulting.com. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.