Pursuing a Career in Foreign Policy: An Interview with Amy Chin
Amy Chin is a Project Coordinator, Monitoring & Evaluation at The QED Group, LLC. Young Professionals in Foreign Policy sat down with her to hear right from the source what it takes to succeed in pursuing a career in foreign policy.
After circumnavigating the globe and realizing her passion for human rights and international development, Amy has worked with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and now The QED Group. Specializing in USAID contracts and programs, her experience has made her a Gender and human rights expert with overseas experience promoting rights, education, and sustainable development for women and minority groups in post-conflict and transitional countries (Iraq and Kosovo).
Name: Amy Chin
Member since: 2009
Involvement with YPFP: Chair, Gender in Foreign Policy Discussion Group; Director, Discussion Groups; Managing Director, Research; Vice President, Research; Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Current Job: Project Coordinator, Monitoring & Evaluation at The QED Group, LLC
Hometown: New York, NY
Education: BBA Marketing Management, Baruch College (New York, NY); MA International Affairs, New School (New York, NY)
Certifications: Rules and regulations for USAID cooperative agreements
Pursuing a Career in Foreign Policy: An Interview with Amy Chin
What did you want to do before you went to college?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be everything–teacher, fashion designer, painter, writer, music composer, concert violinist, singer, choreographer, actress, marine biologist, psychologist–but most of all, I wanted to travel. I didn’t grow up in a happy home so the desire to run away and see what else is out there took root very early on.
How did your career choice evolve throughout school?
My high school was right across the river with a view of the World Trade Center, and I was a senior when 9/11 happened. Afterward, my urge to travel and to help make the world a better place (whatever that meant) grew significantly. However, my parents encouraged me to take a more practical route so I ended up staying in New York and attending Baruch College which is known for its business programs. Even though it wasn’t my first choice school, I made the most of my time there. I learned my strengths through my classes, my professors, and extracurricular activities.
The most significant part of college for me was studying abroad. I couldn’t decide on a single country to spend a summer in so I went on Semester At Sea which took me through northern, eastern, and western Europe. The experience had such a profound impact on me, I did another voyage right after I graduated from Baruch. The second voyage circumnavigated the globe and I got to visit far-flung places such as Japan, India, Burma, Cambodia, and Croatia. It was through my study abroad experience that I discovered my passion in human rights and international development. A couple of years later, I leveraged that passion in my grad school essay.
Did you receive any special training or schooling that led you to your current job title? And if so, what was it?
Grad school allowed me to sharpen my research, analytical, and writing skills because, well, that’s what grad school is supposed to do. I continue to use those skills in my day-to-day. My foreign language skills are also a huge asset and I use them periodically. (I studied French and Spanish for many years.) Because I’ve worked with several USAID-funded projects, I attended a week-long certification course in USAID rules and regulations. Having this training validated my previous work experiences and helped me get my current job.
What area of the international arena interests you the most and why?
I am the most interested in promoting the rights of women, children, and minority groups, especially in transitional and post-conflict countries. Those are the most vulnerable groups in armed conflicts, post-conflict, and developing countries. I’m so inspired by all the girls and women I’ve met throughout my travels, from the little nuns in the Buddhist monasteries of Burma to the war survivors in Kosovo. They’re so strong and resilient despite (or because of) everything they’ve experienced, whether it was war, poverty, sexual violence, or a combination thereof. They inspire me to get up every day and they’re my reminder that regardless of what’s happened in my past, I’m only stronger because I survived. That’s why I strive to be the voice for people who cannot speak for themselves.
Where do you see yourself a decade from now?
I see myself working on the same issues but at a higher level, and hopefully with some progress. I would also like to get my Ph.D. so I can teach at the university level when I’m closer to retirement.
If you weren’t in the foreign affairs world, what would be your alternative, pie-in-the-sky dream job?
My other passion after human rights is animal welfare and wildlife conservation. In high school, I volunteered at my local aquarium every summer. I would love to work with animals and advocate for their rights… while composing music and teaching dance in my free time.
If you could meet a deceased famous historical figure who would it be and why?
This one is tough… There are so many people I would love to meet–Jane Austen, Audrey Hepburn, Queen Elizabeth I, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller… If I had to go with one, though, it would be Benazir Bhutto, the first democratically elected woman leader of a Muslim country.
What do you know know that you wish you could tell your undergraduate self?
I think there’s too much emphasis on “what do you want to do” which places a lot of pressure on kids and young adults. I think it’s more important to first learn who you are–discover your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and passions. After you know who you are, everything else will follow and it will be easier to figure out what it is that you want to do.
What should college students be doing while they are in college to ensure they get a job after graduation?
Network, network, network. That means doing many things on top of just attending your classes and doing your schoolwork. Apply for internships. If you cannot afford to do an unpaid internship, then get a part-time job in an office you might like to work in one day. Many offices hire part-time receptionists and administrative assistants; don’t think you’re above it all–everyone starts from the bottom. Attend job fairs to practice your elevator pitches and to get business cards. Do your research on organizations you’re interested in working for one day and request informational interviews from people who work there.
What is your secret to having good time management?
Staying organized is key. I have three separate calendars (one for work and two personal calendars) that are synced up to the calendar on my iPhone so I have everything in one place. If you can get yourself organized, prioritizing comes easier. Also, don’t be afraid to say no. I’ve repeatedly over-committed myself in the past. Now, I’m more conscientious about what I agree to do and how much time I actually have available.