EVENT REPORT: Visit by School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution Alum to my Career Class, 4/24/19

As I mentioned before, I am currently teaching a course on career development for graduate students at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University. The visits I recently posted to FEMA and CSIS were both with these students.

Meeting with students at S-CAR

This past Wednesday, April 24, 2019 was our last class. I will meet with the 13 students one-on-one for individual coaching sessions next week.

For this class we focused on interviewing and developing an action plan. We were joined by Jane Walker, director of undergraduate student services at S-CAR. She facilitated the discussion on interviewing.

Working in groups

I also invited three S-CAR grads to join us, two had been students on mine. Joey Katona is a 2015 graduate of S-CAR and currently a manager at Eagle Hill Consulting. His work focuses on supporting TSA (Transportation Security Administration) in improving best practices. Stephanie Luckam is also a 2015 grad and currently leads the Internal Justice and Ombuds Services at the World Bank Group (WBG). And Diana Milena Ortiz is a 2016 grad and is currently at family mediator with the District of Columbia Courts. They each shared about their work and background. This was followed by Jane going over the basics of behavioral interviewing, then have the three graduates meet with my students in groups to evaluate their interviewing ability.

In the backgrounds they provided, Joey shared about his early interest in law and experiences at Seeds of Peace. Seeds helped framed his interest in social justice. He also worked at Ashoka which focuses on advancing empowerment for change. One of his major interests has been promoting empathy.

Meeting in groups to go over questions

Before the WBG, Stephanie was an ombuds at TSA. While at S-CAR, she took a course in ombuds work and fell in love with it. She also interned at Northern Virginia Mediation Service. She also worked at the Inter American Development Bank (IADB) as an ombuds. Being bilingual in Spanish has been a major asset for her. Stephanie is also a coach, trained by Fast Track. She emphasized that networking one-on-one is the most important way to get work: every job she has landed has been done through networking.

Typical question

Finally, Diana is originally from Colombia. She took classes part-time at S-CAR. One of her important experiences was working as a volunteer at the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County (Maryland). There she honed her mediation skills and received mediation certification. This led to an internship at the IADB. She now is a staff family mediator working on custody and support issues. About 50% of her mediations are in Spanish. She has 2-3 cases per day. She mentioned that has been interviewed in many ways: role playing, writing, oral questions. Being prepared is important. All of these guests mentioned that job interviews can often be long, sometimes 6 hours.

Jane then looked at behavioral interviewing. She talked about the need for several things in getting work: meeting the basic qualifications, KSAs (knowledge, skills, abilities), education, and experience. Soft skills are increasingly important, she mentioned. These include team work, problem solving, conflict management, cultural sensitivity, communication, self awareness, and time management. One that is more and more emphasized is intellectual curiosity. She also talked about telling stories or presenting scenarios about one’s previous work to demonstrate ability to do the job. Other raised important aspects of getting work include having humility and gravitas (sometime considered a “leadership presence”).

Working in groups, students were asked to answer questions in the form of short stories. The guests then gave students feedback. In debriefing comments by the guests included the need to show case one’s ability more, demonstrate what you can contribute, and responding to the job description in answering questions.

After a break, we discussed developing a career action plan. This is an iterative process of thinking about what you need to do to get a job. It includes developing a timeline, thinking about skills you want to develop, and what limitations/restrictions you are dealing with in looking for work.

If you are following my other “Event Reports” go here.  Recently I have visited the International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education, the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, CSIS, World Bank, Johns Hopkins University/SAIS and the SIDW career fair at George Washington University.

David J. Smith is a career coach, speaker and consultant based in Rockville, Maryland, USA. He is the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace(IAP 2016). He is an official member of Forbes Coaches Council and member of the PCDN Career Advisory Board.  David is also the president of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc. and teaches at School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and the School of Education at Drexel University. He can be reached at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.

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