Name: Shehryar Rashid
Graduation year: December 2009
Degree: M.S. in Economics
Company and location: Field Coordinator at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in South Sudan
1. What do you do?
I am currently working as a Field Coordinator for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and I am based in South Sudan. IOM is a part of the United Nations system.
In my current role, I am leading a team in three counties in South Sudan to support the establishment, construction, and promotion of sustainable community infrastructure and services. Specifically, I am responsible for working with local communities in implementing a community-based development project.
2. What’s the coolest part of your job?
The best part of my job is that it provides the opportunity to offer lifesaving humanitarian support to communities that are affected by conflict or natural disasters. Many of the communities I am working with have been displaced from their homes. The knowledge that, in some way, I can contribute to their recovery or promote their resilience brings immense satisfaction to me.
3. Why are you passionate about this work?
I am passionate about my work because I feel like I am genuinely contributing to making a difference. In my previous jobs I was required to meet with clients and companies and help them with their economic and financial needs. In my current job, I am working with communities displaced by previous conflict who are in need of humanitarian and development support. The feedback I receive from these communities at the end of a workshop, training, or project implementation really makes me feel that in my own small way I am making a difference.
4. How did you find your job/what’s the best resource for jobs or networking you’ve found?
I initially started working for IOM in 2017 in my home country of Pakistan. Back then, I found the job through the UN’s online job portal/vacancy notice website. I found my current job in South Sudan through IOM’s own internal job portal/vacancy notice website. These websites are an excellent resource to find vacancies fitting any background. The key is to never give up, and keep applying. Be confident and persistent. It took me seven years to eventually find a job in the United Nations.
5. What’s the most surprising detour you’ve taken from your career path? What did you learn from it?
I have been working for twelve years now, and I have already changed my field four times. My first job was in corporate banking. Soon after, I switched to economic research because I felt it was more closely aligned with my interests and educational background. After that, I switched to a job in market research. Now, for the past 4.5 years, I have been doing pure humanitarian work and supporting populations affected by conflict and natural disasters.
The main thing I have learned from my career path is that it is ok to make changes. You can have fixed opinions and ideas when you graduate about where you want to work or what type of work you want to do. I realized that there are many factors that influence the course of a career, including the people you work with, the protocols in place that should allow one to learn, and opportunities for further advancement. So do not be afraid to try something or even change your job or field if you feel it is not giving you the satisfaction you deserve.
6. What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced since graduating, and how did you overcome it?
I have faced many significant challenges since graduating, which I feel is common for other alumni as well. Probably the greatest challenge I have faced is being able to work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything about how we think, how we act, how we communicate, and how we work. Many of us have lost someone to this virus. When the pandemic initially began, I was in a location that went into lockdown for 4.5 months and I was away from my family. The pandemic also meant that many activities and projects had to be canceled for safety reasons. Many of my friends and colleagues suffered as a result and were let go. I have never seen stress levels as high as they were during the first Covid-19 enforced lockdown from March to July 2020.
Eventually, now I feel that the world is learning how to work and live with Covid-19. It is common now to see basic safety measures being implemented in offices. For example, we have reduced staff presence in our office, and many colleagues now work from home. Most meetings are held online. Social distancing has become common. Training sessions and workshops are held with reduced numbers. It is also common to see hand sanitizers in every office and regular mask-wearing. Testing and contact tracing are also strictly enforced.
I still do not feel I have fully overcome this situation. My recommendation to others is to be patient, persistent, and trust others. Be patient in terms of how you behave and how you react. Be persistent in terms of what you want to do and how to do it. Trust others, especially your senior advisors, and be open to suggestions and solutions.
7. What’s your #1 tip for students and alumni interested in your field?
There are some basic things I would say and some more general recommendations:
Do not use your Georgia Tech email address when applying for jobs. I know some people who made this mistake, and their email address was canceled after they graduated, meaning companies were not able to contact them for a test/interview.
Do the basic things correctly. We are receiving a higher number of applications for each position every year. Meaning the selection process is very competitive nowadays. It is common to receive more than a thousand applications per position. Therefore, you have to make yourself stand out. I have been amazed by the number of candidates who were rejected for seemingly obvious reasons. For example, make a proper professional email address. Come dressed properly in formal attire for tests/interviews. Have your CV/resume prepared in a professional manner or get it checked by a career counselor.
Do your research fully. Some may be surprised to learn that the requirements for graduating may be very different from the requirements for getting a job at a specific company or gaining admission to a graduate/Ph.D. program. For example, Georgia Tech has a standard list of courses every student has to take to graduate with a certain degree. However, certain companies and graduate/Ph.D. programs will have other additional requirements. So do your research fully and take as many of these courses as you can.
Come fully prepared. The standard job application process is that an organization will initially invite you for a test, and then if you clear that round, they will invite you for one or two interviews. Come fully prepared for each portion. Make sure you do your full research about the organization, what type of work they do, and what sort of qualifications and experience they are looking for. At the end of an interview, they always allow you to ask questions yourself, so be confident and ask questions that show your level of interest and understanding.
Networking. Speak to alumni, students, friends, and family who are working in a field/organization/company you are interested in. Establish a relationship with them, even if it means just talking about your interests. Networking effectively and properly can help you go a long way in terms of providing opportunities, resolving significant problems, and many other things.
Being able to sell yourself. This is a difficult skill. However, I have learned that it is important in a career. This doesn’t mean that you have to be presumptuous and complacent. It means you have to act and speak in a manner that shows you have value. Once you do this properly, you have a better chance of being retained and being given offers for career advancement.
8. Do you recommend any events, conferences, groups, etc., for people interested in your field?
I would recommend that interested students or alumni follow relevant organizations in my field on LinkedIn or social media. Keep track of the events they are organizing and attend an event where possible. Try and learn and absorb as much knowledge as possible at these events. Make sure you establish a network, which can help immensely in terms of future opportunities and also completing difficult tasks.
9. Can students and alumni in the School of Economics contact you if they’re interested in following in your footsteps?
Yes, sure, feel free to contact me through email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Shehryar!