Jobs of the Future: Pursuing a Career in Asian International Affairs

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The 21st century will be the Asian century. It’s exciting to watch, and to try to understand the economic and power shifts that are taking place right before our very eyes. There is a growing demand to understand the perspectives of Asia’s new powers and its impact on worldwide issues including geopolitical changes, poverty, climate change, terrorism, economics and more.

Possible Career Paths

You can pursue a career in policy, business, consulting, research, or academia. Positions are available in a wide range of fields from government agencies and diplomacy/foreign service to international banking and multinational corporations to health organizations, educational institutions and global relief and non-profit organizations.

Identifying Your Strengths/Clarifying Your Career Goals

First you need to determine what is your passion — in what area do you want to have the most worldwide influence?   Is it diplomacy, environmental sustainability, human rights, nutrition, education, cyber security, conflict resolution, urban planning?   Truly examine what your skills are. Understand your strengths, discover your value proposition, and learn to articulate it. And finally, ask yourself how you can use your unique skills to effect change in the world.

Skill Building and Education

Do you need to increase your knowledge of Asia and your problem-solving skills? Further your education and expand your horizons with an international affairs degree, preferably with at least one semester abroad in Asia, either at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Studying abroad gives you a perspective that can only be obtained by becoming immersed in the culture and interacting with representatives from Asian nations. Imagine discussing the South China Sea disputes in a class with students from China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, India, and the U.S. and discussing developments and policies from the perspective of those at the receiving end of those policies.

Practical Steps

Make a concrete plan. Attend guest lectures at your university. Research different industries, jobs and fields. Explore internship opportunities with government offices, think tanks or organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations, World Health Organization and other non-profits.

Create a compelling resume and cover letter. Build your portfolio and your network of contacts by reaching out to potential employers, colleagues, friends and extended family, and get to know people in the sector you wish to build a career in. Start with your school’s network of alumni who are working in a variety of international and multilateral organizations.

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Khong Yuen Foong

Contributor

Singapore

Professor Khong Yuen Foong is Li Ka Shing Professor of Political Science at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. A scholar in International Relations of the Asia Pacific, he was formerly Professor of International Relations, and a Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford University. He was also Assistant/Associate Professor at Harvard University’s Government Department from1987-1994.

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