Adaptability and flexibility, communication, and research and critical thinking

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Anna and I received my Master’s degree in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response from The University of Manchester in 2020. Currently, I live in Washington, D.C. where I work as an Information Officer for International Humanitarian Reporting with the United States Agency for International Developement's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA).

How are adaptability and flexibility, communication skills, and research and critical thinking important in your current role?

As an Information Officer I work in a fast-paced environment where deadlines are a priority and handling multiple tasks simultaneously is the standard. In this role, I regularly engage with geographically diverse colleagues in the development of information products that highlight how the US government is responding to global crises. Communication, research, and critical thinking skills are key to success, as I report on complex humanitarian topics and highlight how USAID/BHA’s implementing partners are responding to humanitarian needs on the ground.

Adaptability and flexibility are paramount to the role. During my first two months on the job, I covered the Asia, Latin America, and Caribbean portfolios, where my reporting duties primarily focused on sudden-onset disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. While I did not study oceanography or seismology during my Master's degree, I applied my critical thinking and research skills to interpret the technical language around how these natural phenomena are monitored and communicate key humanitarian impacts that emerge from these events. I am now supporting the Southern and West Africa portfolios, which require more coverage over complex emergencies often characterized by widespread food insecurity, protracted conflict, and climatic shocks, among others.

How did you develop each of these skills during your degree?

I developed my communication and research skills both in and outside of my degree. The classroom lectures challenged me to critically think about complex humanitarian landscapes and further analyse how assistance can generate more sustainable and far-reaching outcomes from the onset of crisis.

My degree also offered a field research component that made a lasting impression on my career trajectory. Specifically, during the field research trip to Uganda, the communication skills I developed throughout my graduate courses prepared me to interview stakeholders in refugee affairs—including protracted refugees, UNHCR staff, government officials, and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - regarding the country’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. Following this trip, I used the data collected to inform my Master’s dissertation, which centered on humanitarian accountability in protracted refugee situations. This field experience provided a great foundation for understanding response landscapes firsthand and prepared me to communicate with humanitarian stakeholders in a meaningful way.

Furthermore, I learned the importance of adaptability as an international student at The University of Manchester, which allowed me to grow further dgree. These regular cross-cultural experiences both on- and off-campus were critical in honing my adaptability for international environments and prepared me well for the global nature of my current role.

How did these skills help you get your first graduate job?

The interview process for my current position was quite rigorous and required demonstration of strong communication and research skills, including two written tests. The University of Manchester prepared me for this process, as there was a strong course emphasis on developing students’ communication abilities through debates, essays, presentations, and projects. The field research trip to Uganda provided further evidence of my adaptability and flexibility, two skills necessary in my current role, which requires frequent travel to overseas field posts and collaboration with international response stakeholders.

What were the main factors that influenced your choice of first graduate job?

The main factors that influenced my pursuit of my current role were the meaningful mission of USAID/BHA, the opportunity for regular international travel, and the suitability of my skillset for the position.