Monday, December 17, 2012

The Spreadsheets: Let's Get Employed!

In theory, the ultimate purpose of higher education is to increase one's job market competitiveness, overall employability, and hopefully one's salary as well. Once, when I was considering a postgraduate degree in history, my mentor - a history PhD himself - told me that unless a postgraduate degree would definitely pay for itself in higher wages, I shouldn't pursue one because it would be a waste of time. Despite jokes like I've already posted here and here, I'm fairly confident that my MSc in Strategic Studies will facilitate long-term professional success.

I'm currently on a leave of absence from my company, but the entire defense industry is holding its breath over the current "fiscal cliff" crisis and the impending drawdown following the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to find a position in my company once I'm ready to return to the workforce, but my life is all about risk management. In a case like this, managing my risks means preparing in advance to saturate a number of potential employers with my credentials just prior to graduation. Those who have known me for a long time (or just followed this blog for the last couple of months) will know that I'm an inveterate planner - whether it's spreadsheets or 3"x5" index cards, I'm constantly making and adjusting plans in one manner or another. One might even say that I'm reminiscent of Brian Boitano...

"What would Brian Boitano do if he was right now? He'd make a plan and he'd follow through. That's what Brian Boitano'd do."
- South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, 1999
So, I've put together a spreadsheet with a bunch of potential employers. I've divided them into several categories to keep them straight. Based on my current background, and the additional credentials and experience I'll be able to offer in late 2013, I think these are probably among the best prospects. I also intend to keep expanding the list as additional prospects reveal themselves, as well as adding some additional companies and organizations that some of my multinational classmates might benefit from. As I mentioned, it's all about aiming for my preferred option - returning to my current employer and doing risk management (and, in fact, I have another spreadsheet that includes the contact information for a number of hiring managers and recruiters from my current employer) - while managing the risk that they won't be in a position to offer me a job.

One potential employer that's grabbed my attention is the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. Thus far, I've specialized in the Middle East, and I've spent fifteen months of my life in the Gulf already. Another stint in the Gulf region, particularly working on international security issues at a think tank like the ECSSR, could be a really good opportunity that would allow me to continue developing some key credentials after graduation. The Director also happens to have some ties to the ECSSR that I could benefit from if I were to apply there (particularly if I continue on my current track to be among the top graduates in the course). The ECSSR is located here, in Abu Dhabi, which benefits from being a bit less socially austere than other Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or even nearby Sharjah. The Emirates are also located next door to Oman, which could facilitate my goal of writing the authoritative history of the Dhofar Rebellion. Since the ECSSR prospect is fresh, it's prominent in my mind, but it would also be nice to spend some time back in the States after having spent a couple of years abroad.

I suppose the bottom line is that it's good to have some prospects, and I'm glad that I have sufficient forethought to start planning for this well in advance.