Working with Young Professionals to Advance Careers: Presentations at the University of Pittsburgh, Association for Conflict Resolution, and Peace and Justice Studies Association

My last two weeks have been focused on conferences and giving presentations on career awareness.  I was at the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA)  meeting in Philadelphia 9/27-9/30, the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) meeting in Pittsburgh 10/3 – 10/6 and I spoke at the University of Pittsburgh on 10/6.  Throughout, my focus was on presenting to young professionals reasonable expectations for the careers they seek in international affairs, peacebuilding, and conflict resolution.

At the ACR and PJSA conferences I took an elicitive approach asking attendees to first identify some questions and concerns.  I used large butcher paper to have students answer questions. Here is what I learned:

  • What is “an expectation” you have for your career?
    • To be able to make a living because people understand what I do
    • To follow my passion, even if I have many and they are ever evolving
  • What is “a question” you have about your career?
    • Can I market myself and my service well/clearly?
    • How to break into a profession that is known as being difficult to break into?
    • Will I be able to be a successful independent business person?
    • Are there enough jobs in peacebuilding?
    • What more do I need to do to find a job?
  • What is “a fear” that you have about your career?
    • Settling for a job I don’t want out of fear of not obtaining one I do want
    • Not enough opportunities
    • I’m not knowledgable enough
    • Burn out in a sometimes thankless field
  • What is “a need” that you have about your career?
    • Some tangible skill-building in the field of peacebuilding
    • To pay off student loan
  • What is “a hope” that you have about your career?
    • To make an impact
    • Expansion of the ADR (alternative dispute resolution) field
    • Mediation becomes institutionalized in all aspects of society

My goal was to help answer or least bring some understanding to the questions.  I certainly don’t have all the answers: no one does.  And there is much speculation about the future of the field.

In my presentations, we talked about this slide (below) which indicates how conflict and peacebuilding will continue to be important in the future.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 11.50.07 AM.png

At the University of Pittsburgh, my talk was  to students in global studies related master’s degrees programs (and a few undergrads).  Here, my objective was to show that global peacebuilding work is a part of all endeavors and has wide applications.  I shared with them the Lederach/Mansfield Strategy Peacebuilding Pathways Model (below).  It is helpful in seeing how working for peace can be integrated broadly.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 11.53.25 AM.pngThere is an important need for those of us more advanced in the fields of peacebuilding and conflict resolution to mentor and provide guidance to those just coming up through the ranks. Conferences and talks our important opportunities to share insights, make connections, and provide hope for those who will carry on our work.


Published by David J. Smith

I am a career coach, consultant, and head of a not for profit - the Forage Center - that offers humanitarian education training. I also teach at George Mason University and Drexel University. A one time lawyer, I spent many years teaching in a community college where I was a Fulbright U.S. Scholar teaching in Estonia. I'm the author of Peace Jobs: A Student's Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (IAP 2016). I've been married to my best friend for over 31 years and we have two well adjusted adult children who teach me something new everyday. I live in Rockville, Maryland.

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