Pursuing a Career in Foreign Policy: An Interview with Cameo Cheung
The Young Professionals Interview Series is geared toward undergraduate students and recent graduates interested in learning more about how YPFP staff members have broken into the field of foreign policy, and what advice they may have for their younger colleagues.
This week, Cameo Cheung, YPFP’s managing director of marketing and communications and current recruitment and public affairs specialist at the U.S. Department of State, shares her experiences that have brought her to Washington, D.C.
Name: Cameo Cheung
Member since: September 2013
- Recruitment & Public Affairs Specialist – Office of Academic Exchange Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State
YPFP Positions held:
- Associate Director, Human Capital (Sept 2013 – April 2014)
- Director, Human Capital (April 2014 – June 2014)
- Managing Director, Marketing & Communications (June 2014 – Nov 2014)
- Managing Director, Communications & Advancement (Nov 2014 – Present)
- Speech Communications (BA), Oregon State University (2007-2011)
- International Relations (MA), Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse (2011-2013)
- Public Relations (MS), Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse (2011-2013)
What did you want to do before you went to college?
Write speeches for the president of the United States.
How did your career choice evolve throughout school?
As I had opportunities to learn more about communications and people, I became increasingly interested in supporting international and global dialogue. This led me to pursue a career in public diplomacy, promoting mutual understanding around the world.
Did you receive any special training or schooling that led you to your current job title? And if so, what was it?
After graduating from college, I knew I wanted to do something in global communications, but not having any background in international affairs I knew I needed to look for graduate programs that would give me the theoretical foundation I needed. That’s how I found the Public Diplomacy Program at Syracuse University, and that was where I honed my interests and skill set to pursue my current path.
What area of the international arena interests you the most and why?
I am most interested in the intersection of public diplomacy and international development. There are so many great ideas and great people in the world—who, if able to find the right connections—could do amazing things.
Where do you see yourself a decade from now?
In ten years, I hope to have an extra thick passport to hold all my stamps. There is so much to see and experience in this world, and I hope my career will be flexible enough to let me try it all.
If you weren’t in the foreign affairs world, what would be your alternative, pie-in-the-sky dream job?
I would love to work on an Olympic Games host committee. The planning and logistics for an event of that magnitude would be a dream come true. There are so many connections made and conversations started with something like the Olympic Games that it would be the highlight of my life to be a part of supporting them.
What do you know now that you wish you could tell your undergraduate self?
I would tell 18-year-old me, “Take a breath and figure out what you like to do. There’s no point in pursuing something you aren’t passionate about. Also, it’s not about the job, it’s about the passion you have for what you’re doing.”
I spent a lot of time in college trying majors because I thought they would be the “smart choice” rather than pursuing things that I actually loved. I don’t regret trying those things, but what I did learn is that once you’ve found something you love to do, there’s nothing that can stop you from pursuing it.
What would be the tips you would give for undergraduates to do well in interviews?
Interviews can be really tricky. I think the most important thing you can do is to be prepared. Do your research about the organization, and if possible about the person with whom you are interviewing. Have at least three copies of your resume and portfolio to share. (This will give you something to refer the interviewer to if they ask about your experience.) Most importantly, have a story to tell. You should be able to explain how and why your experiences have led you to the specific organization and position and how the position for which you are applying fits with that story. What’s your story? Where are you headed? How will the position help you get there?