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–By Deah James 

I remember being excited and hopeful for the future when I finished my master’s degree in International Trade Policy. The thought of being able to work in the world of international trade and development sparked something in me that I couldn’t wait to let out.

Graduating University of the West Indies 

With this program, I would be spending a month in Geneva, Switzerland as part of a study tour with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Along with my other classmates, I participated in discussions, presentations, and tours of several international organizations based in Geneva. We got the chance to see some of what we learned over the year. It was on this trip that I realized: One day this is going to be my life. I am going to be working in one of these international organizations in Geneva. I left Geneva at the end of May 2014 with my mind set on returning, permanently.

New friend 

It turns out that what I thought was going to be a straight road of graduating, finding employment and then moving to Geneva was anything but. I returned from University in Barbados to my home country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines after graduation in October 2014 with no job prospects. Luckily, through networking for my research paper I landed an internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Commerce.

That two-month internship led to a one-year internship on a government program for graduates at the same ministry. And although I was disappointed in not having a full-time job, I was still grateful to at least be working and also doing so in my field. This is rare, especially in the Caribbean. I know many people whose jobs have nothing to do with their field of study but they do it because the bills and student loans aren’t going to pay themselves. 

The infamously broken chair which is located opposite the UN building 

In March 2016 my internship at the ministry ended and I was once again back in limbo. My director, the best boss anyone could have, was even more crushed than I when I wasn’t offered a permanent position even after his recommendation. Just after I left, I found out that the World Trade Organization (WTO) was about to begin a Young Professionals Program (YPP) and I met the requirements. This gave me hope and I applied but was turned down. I was disappointed, but not discouraged. It just wasn’t for me this time. And like I have done so many times before, I picked myself up and moved forward, knowing that things would eventually work themselves out.

World Trade Organization. It faces the lake 

And work themselves out, they did. In October 2016, a million and one job applications later, I was contacted by the Chief Personnel Officer (the head of the public service, the Government’s hiring agency), and was told to report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Commerce the next day. I couldn’t have been more excited. Finally, a permanent job, after quitting my last permanent position back in 2008 to pursue my Bachelors. I was glad to be back at the Ministry to continue under the guidance of the Director of Trade. I knew that with his help I would be able to grow in the field and my dream of working at an international organization would not be too far off.

At the beginning of 2017, my director got a promotion and was moved to another Ministry. I was happy for him and sad all at once. Around the same time, the Ministry started to undergo a lot of changes and it was very difficult especially being a junior officer. I began to do some reflections. Where do I see myself in 5 years? What do I want career-wise? What are my goals? I knew that for me to be able to achieve my goals I needed an opportunity to grow and the environment at my job wasn’t conducive to that at the moment. My faith has always guided me and like many times before I turned to prayer. I remember asking God to please help me get to a place where I can grow – That’s all I needed.

By magic or divine intervention, things started happening! A colleague told me about a job opportunity at the Ministry of Trade in Trinidad and Tobago; I was selected for a two-month international trade training being held by the WTO in Barbados; and just before that the application for cohort 2 of the YPP opened and of course, I applied. This time, instead of a rejection email I was contacted for an interview. Imagine my surprise when two of the people on the interview panel were from the WTO I had interacted with at the training in Barbados (I see you working, God). A few weeks later I got the most amazing news: I was selected to be a part of Cohort 2 of the WTO YPP beginning in January 2018. I felt like all the hard work was finally paying off and I could only continue to go up from there.

Fast-forward, it is now April of 2018 and I have been in Geneva, Switzerland for four months. I began the YPP on January 8th, 2018 and I’ll be here for one year. I am attached to the Development Division of the WTO Secretariat where I work mainly on issues pertaining to the Sustainable Development Goals and Least Developed Countries. I love the work in the Division and it is exactly in line with what I see myself doing career-wise, so please believe I am soaking in everything like a sponge. 

Friends from the Program 

After the program ends, who knows what will happen. I can return to my job at the Ministry because I am currently on secondment or I might find something here in Geneva. I am networking and meeting as many people as possible while still finding time to enjoy living in Europe. This hasn’t been my first time living away from home as I have lived for four years in Barbados, but it is the first time outside of the Caribbean. Geneva, though it’s a city, is not like the larger cities of New York and London. It’s a more slow-paced lifestyle. Places close by 6 or 7 pm and hardly anything is open on a Sunday. Some people hate that but I don’t mind it at all especially coming from a small island, which is practically the same.

In the end, this is my story and this is where I am now. But before I go, here’s a little advice. It might sound cliché but…

  1. Set Goals. 
  2. Don’t get flustered if you feel stuck or things aren’t going the way you want. Take a step back and re-evaluate. 
  3. Network. 
  4. Don’t be disheartened by rejection. If it is something that you really want, try and try and try again .
  5. Don’t feel “less than” just because everyone is going ahead and you’re still trying to find your way. Everyone has their own path, focus on yours! 
  6. Enjoy your journey. Don’t be too caught up in trying to achieve that you miss out on life. Take time for yourself, your family and friends. 

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