It’s been a fun four weeks. At the halfway point through anything, though, you stop looking solely at your current work and start thinking about your career as a whole. It happened after a few days during my five-day stint at The York Press; it happened two weeks into my month’s stay at Political Intelligence in Brussels; and it’s happening now – 4 weeks into my two-month internship with Monocle. The horizon seems awfully close, and you simply ask yourself: what’s next?
Well, in the short-term, I have an answer – The Observer’s tech supplement for 2 weeks. But that’s not what everyone means when they ask what your professional plans are. I met up with my friends this weekend and, amongst joking about feeling slightly too sober to be in a club at 4:30 in the afternoon, the conversation covered the relatively hot potatoes of careers and the future. It sounds super cliché but if you start talking about that stuff for long enough, you ask each other slightly more casual versions of interview classics, like ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ or ‘What is it about the work you’re doing that you really love?’
There’s part of me – and I don’t mean this as a slight against anybody that I’ve worked with so far – that feels like I’ve yet to do anything useful with my time. That, when you boil it all down, everything I’ve been striving towards has been relatively vacuous. I’ve been helping one of the producers this week to plan a documentary series on ‘contested territories’ (areas such as the Western Sahara and Kosovo that are at the centre of competing claims for recognition), and through looking for guests I came into contact with a couple of high ranking people at UNICEF in South Sudan. Day in, day out, those people struggle to make things better, on a real and calculable level, for actual human beings. There’s a great (in that it’s moving, informative and well written, not that it’s at all a fun read) blog post by one of the child protection officers in South Sudan that I was sent, and it really made me think about all that stuff properly.
It’s incredibly clear that my various internships have been very useful for my personal development, but they haven’t done anything for international development. I’m of course aware of how naïve that sounds, but it’s rooted in truth. My communication skills, written skills, researching skills (this list is making me want to add in Napoleon’s computer hacking skills) have all come on leaps and bounds in recent months. The opportunity to work in thriving and youthful professional environments has, without question, been extremely exciting. But it’s all been very self involved.
So whilst I’m very excited about seeing my time at Monocle out, and getting stuck-in at the Observer, I’m thinking about going back and pouring a lot of effort into learning Spanish once I finish. And from there, maybe I’ll be able to use my language skills – I already speak French – to do something positive and international.