June 16th, 2011
It is a fortunate thing to work at a genuinely exciting job. By that measure, recent Bachelor of Arts graduate Sam Nadler can surely be considered fortunate. She has just begun working as a junior specialist at the Office of the Secretary for Multidimensional Security at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C. “It’s a pretty cool department,” she says modestly. Given the cross-section of issues her work engages, few would disagree.
The Secretariat of Multidimensional Security, where she was employed shortly after graduation, deals with issues of development, foreign affairs, and security. A large part of her role is reporting back to the Canadian government agencies – mainly DFAIT and CIDA – that contribute funds to the OAS about its work. She gathers much of the information she needs by liaising directly with OAS specialists working on various projects. They span the gamut of hemispheric security concerns from police capacity-building and corruption to drug trafficking and terrorism. Eventually, she will also relay her observations and expertise back to her supervisors at the OAS, making suggestions for how to better manage funds and projects.
Sam’s story at the OAS started serendipitously. She interned there in the summer of 2010 as a Joint Honours International Development Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies student with the help of an Anderson Family Arts Internship Award. She hadn’t intended to end up in Washington, D.C., but when another internship opportunity fell through, she was connected to a former OAS intern from McGill through the Arts Internship Office who, in turn, connected her to the opportunity at the OAS. Her internship was at the external relations department of the OAS, where she helped to organize events and formulate the communications strategy for the Secretariat. She also got some experience writing donor reports for CIDA.
How did Sam turn a summer internship into a post-graduation job? The answer lies partly in some smart planning and partly in decisively placing herself in the right place at the right time. After leaving the OAS that summer, she kept in touch with her former supervisors. When she returned to Washington, D.C. after graduation to take on an internship at a different organization, she met with one of them for coffee, and found out that a position had opened up in the Secretariat under the Director who had supervised her internship.
“I knew that he comes in to work really early, so I showed up at 8am the following Monday to speak to him about the position,” she recalls. One impromptu interview and a few weeks later, she was offered the contract.
Sam’s experience highlights some important realities about the job market new graduates face. “You don’t get a job by applying anymore,” she emphasizes. “You’ve got to show up, know who’s involved in hiring, and ask who needs help.” After creating her own good fortune, Sam is now enjoying reaping the benefits – which include sharing a cafeteria with the World Bank, experiencing the dynamism of Washington D.C., and immersing herself in the highly international community of the OAS.