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Be strategic in the job market

01 Aug, 2012 News Center 1,271

On May 23rd, Mr. Noorullah Jan Ahmadzai (2008 MPP, Afghanistan) visited his alma mater and gave a special lecture to his juniors about entry strategy to international organizations. He is currently working as a senior program manager of stabilization in key areas at USAID in Afghanistan and has recently been appointed as a UN officer.

He started his lecture by introducing his first job experience at the World Bank (WB). Being fresh out of college and working at a commercial bank, he met an Indian-American guy who used to work at the WB in Kabul. After having a little chat on the WB engagement in Afghanistan, the guy recommended Mr. Ahmadzai to send his CV. Fortunately, he was later asked for a formal test and interview. The procedure was very tough for a college graduate with little work experience, but Mr. Ahmadzai managed to receive an offer to serve as a manager of WB-funded project. His first assignment focused on providing portfolio analysis on human resource development to the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, as well as supporting Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in their labor market analysis. Due to his lack of experience in the field Mr. Ahmadzai had an extremely hard time handling the job, but in retrospect, he said the experience of overcoming those challenges helped him throughout his career.

He had no clue about KDI School before coming to Korea, but what drove him to apply was an enthusiastic recommendation of his college advisor who studied here in 2006. The professor strongly encouraged him to go to Korea, since he knew his protégé can grow further with the KDI School education. “So I did expect a top-notch academic program, but I did not expect to encounter people from over 40 different countries,” Mr. Ahmadzai reflects with a chuckle. “Having a chance to discuss with the fellow students and exchange opinions about current affairs made a huge difference in my life,” he added.

By the time he engaged everyone’s attention, he steered his lecture towards the main topic: how to enter and develop a career in international organizations. He first mentioned that we should be careful when choosing a position to apply. People tend to overestimate their ability and make a mistake of applying to a higher position than appropriate. No one should expect to get an answer in this case, because there are always other applicants who are actually qualified for that position. “It is only when you critically analyze yourself and apply for a position that suits your portfolio that they call you back and offer an opportunity,” he summed up. “But if you are sure to have applied for the right position and still receive no answer, don’t give up,” he emphasized. “Just keep on applying; I once got an answer after my fourth attempt,” he smiled.

The second advice was to learn the terminology used in your target organization. There may be some expressions or terms whose usage is limited to a certain organization. For example, one organization may use a term project while another calls it a program. “An HR team rarely have enough time to read through all the applicants’ CV and cover letter,” Mr. Ahmadzai noted. “If you show them you’re familiar with such terminology, they are likely to interpret it as your passion to work with them,” he explained. He further pointed out that knowledge about a target organization is a must in every stage of the job application. “During an interview, I was once asked to give a 10-minute presentation on the two projects currently conducted by the organization,” he recalled. Thanks to his meticulous prior research on the institute he was able to give a successful presentation.

Mr. Ahmadzai concluded the session by stimulating the audience: “Jump out of your pool and challenge yourself for a better position.” The moment he finished his last sentence, there was a big round of grateful applause for the inspiration he provided. Some even queued behind the podium to personally thank him afterwards, demonstrating a roaring success of the lecture.


By Inja JEON (2012 MDP, Korea)