I recently had the opportunity to work with students and faculty at the University of Massachusetts, Boston (UMass Boston). The university’s Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development promotes conflict resolution, democracy, economic development, education building, media development, and legal and judicial reform through partnerships and training programs across the globe, and its Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance offers graduate programs in conflict resolution and international relations. My audience consisted not only of UMass Boston students but also a number of students from Brandeis University which offers a graduate degree in conflict resolution and coexistence.
After considering the changing nature of the work environment including the increase in millennials in the workforce and the large number of contingent (or “gig”) workers, I shared with them a recent article published in Conflict Resolution Quarterly authored by Susan Raines: “Becoming the Change We Wish to See: The Unexpected Benefits of Conflict Resolution Work.” The focus of the piece is examining the attitudes of senior conflict resolution practitioners to their work and how they believe it has impacted themselves and others. She concludes that “mediators, ombuds, and other peace workers generally see their work as a calling. They pursue this work because of a desire to help others while promoting healing and reconciliation.” I shared with the students each question she posed in her study, and asked to them consider their own answers. One question she used: “Why do you do this work?” elicited a range of answers from the students including the need for the work in society and the chance to apply their own values and skill sets.
We also considered the six steps I had previously written about in finding a job (“Career Advice: Just the Basics…Please!”). These steps include (1) organize yourself; (2) have victories; (3) always be on; (4) get out and about; (5) being turned down can be good; and (6) invest in yourself.
Our final activity was developing a 2-Minute Strategic Share. I have argued that students – particularly graduate students – need to prepare for and actively engage with others at professional events and conferences. Not doing so is a lost opportunity! Below is step 1 in the process: introducing yourself to a colleague, fellow student, or conference presenter.