As part of our 2022 Careers in political risk, conflict and security programme, LSE Careers hosted a brilliant panel discussion with a range of professionals working in the sector. In this blog post, we explore some of the insights the panel shared about the industry, skills development, and their day-to-day work…
Meet the panelists:
- Sarah Pickwick is a Senior Security Analyst at World Vision International. This work involves understanding dangerous contexts and the associated risk factors and advising on ways to manage and mitigate those risks.
- Jonathan Friedman is a Partner at Wallbrook, his work helping investors understand their impact on people and the world.
- Christie Makuwa is an Analyst in the ESG and Human Rights Practice at Wallbrook. Her work involves researching the impact companies have on human rights with clients ranging from pharmaceuticals to technology companies.
What we learned:
1. There is no one perfect route to your dream job.
As Sarah pointed out, there are multiple paths and routes to take you where you want to go. The notion of a ‘dream job’ is also not fixed: it will likely evolve as you do. For Christie, she found her current job through LSE Careers and reached out to Jonathan on LinkedIn.
2. Lower your expectations of yourself.
Coming from rigorous academic settings and entering a competitive job market can come with high expectations of yourself. Become comfortable with the uncertainty of a changing job market and less clear career paths. It is a journey with twists and turns, so remain vigilant and don’t give up hope.
3. Jobs, clients, and the industry are always changing – so remain adaptable.
Roles in risk and security can mean working with multiple clients from completely different contexts, so focus on honing your analysis skills. The panel noted that they do not pretend they are experts at everything, so even if you are moving from a project on social media’s impact on human rights to something completely different, adapt where you can and learn along the way. Companies such as Wallbrook also make it a priority to get complementary local help such as local human rights experts and regional specialists to aid analysts in their ever-changing jobs.
4. Soft and hard skills are both valuable.
Most risk and analyst jobs require candidates to have a master’s degree, but it’s also important to display soft skills. Jonathan highlighted that “students that have experience working even a non-related job can bring valuable skills that we appreciate.”
5. In your application, show both quantitative and qualitative skills.
Qualitative experience can weave an interesting story about your background and how this will inform your work. Increasingly, companies are looking to hire more qualitative students with a more mixed background.
6. Regional and thematic expertise are both important.
For Jonathan, if you’re applying for a role in a specific region, having an in-depth knowledge of the issues affecting that area is advantageous in the hiring process. It displays your suitability for the role, and if you end up in a different area you can replicate displayed skills. For Sarah, thematic expertise is also fundamentally important. Working in a child-welfare focused organisation, showing keen interest and insight into this theme is crucial: geographical-based knowledge is easier to adapt.
7. Take things slowly and be kind to yourself.
For Jonathan, in the short term, it’s about timing and luck. However, over time, you create your own luck. Your expertise will be recognised eventually, and even if everybody else seems like they have everything figured out, they don’t. Sarah said to take it slow and steady, and Christie said not to fall prey to imposter syndrome. Upsell rather than undersell yourself and learn to set boundaries at work.
8. Employers are looking for great communicators.
People skills, a passion for the field, foreign language skills, tech skills – these are just some of the competencies that can help you get into this sector. All three panellists, however, cited that an aptitude for communicating with people is vital. Are you able to connect with clients and colleagues? Are you driven and focused?