AC4 Interviews Danielle Goldberg, Program Coordinator for the Program on Peacebuilding and Human Rights at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights

How did you get the job you are currently in, and what do you think helped you most in getting hired for your position?

I was finishing a year-long Atlas Corps fellowship in Bogota, Colombia when I came across an announcement for my current job on Columbia’s website through a basic internet search for positions related to peace-building.  Since I was out of the country, I conducted a few interviews over SKYPE from Bogota before being offered the job.  From later conversations with my supervisors, I understand that several attributes helped me to get the job over others with the same or greater qualifications, including: a demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit, concrete skills related to the job (in my case, training/facilitation and curriculum development skills), international work experience (including volunteer work within the U.S. and abroad), and most importantly, great enthusiasm and commitment to peace-building and human rights. Working for the Peace-building and Rights Program can be very demanding, and my colleagues determined that I was not only capable of doing the job, but that I was also passionate and willing to give 110% to our mission.  This is something we can all learn from– skills and experience may get you through the first round, though being able to authentically share why you are inspired to do this work can go a long way to inspiring others to want to work with you.


What’s the most exciting aspect of your current position?

It may sound trite, though it’s exciting to come to work every day with colleagues who are truly determined to make a positive difference in the world—in areas facing some of the most difficult challenges to peace, security and human rights.  David Phillips, the Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights is a great mentor and demonstrates what is possible when you combine a solid course of action with strong collaborative partners and the will to see anything through with integrity and hard work. I’m also inspired by the incredible perseverance and courage of our partners on the ground, who often risk their own lives and security in the hope of securing a better future for themselves and their children. I view every interaction with our partners around the world as a valuable challenge and opportunity for personal and professional growth. Such experiences include leading a workshop on communications strategy with Darfuri civil society leaders, facilitating dialogue among Turks and Armenians on cross-border cooperation and training professors from the war affected city of Jaffna, Sri Lanka to launch a course on conflict resolution with their freshmen. Just as conflict is multidimensional and complex, so is my work at the Program on Peace-building and Rights.  There’s rarely a dull moment, and I like it that way.


How do you balance administrative duties with more “substantive” issues of program design, long-term visions and research?

I’ve discovered this amazing technique of expanding my day beyond 24 hours. Ok.  That’s not true, though that would make things easier, wouldn’t it? I may not be able to make my days longer, though I find ways to make the time I spend on administrative tasks shorter.  This has included improving my Excel skills to automatize budgeting, prioritizing responsibilities, learning when to say no to some requests, and delegating administrative tasks where possible.  Tools like have also helped me to organize. As I’ve developed more efficient systems to handle administration, it’s been easier for me to seek other opportunities to do more substantiate work, like curriculum development and training.  I also find it’s important to regularly set aside time with my colleagues to step back from the daily rush to take stock on how well we’ve been accomplishing our overarching goals and where we’re going as a Program. That said, I’ve come to see every task, whether administrative or not, as an essential component to the substance of our work.  Every interaction with a partner or donor agency, whether it relates to budgets or project design, is an important part of relationship building, which is at the center of everything we do.


What advice or pointers can you give to students currently studying international affairs, peacebuilding etc. when it comes to leaving school and finding long term employment?

My advice to students is not to wait for that degree or that full time job to act upon your desire to be a global changemakers.  This can be as a volunteer, an activist, a researcher or founder of your own organization.  There is no replacement for real world experience, and no shortage of need out there.  It’s important to be able to demonstrate to future employers that you know not only the theory but have tangible skills for the workplace. Most jobs in international affairs will require a basic understanding of project development, proposal writing, budgeting and monitoring and evaluation.  After I graduated, I also discovered I needed more conflict resolution skills, so I took additional training in mediation skills and processes.  I also took a domestic job to gain skills and experience in dialogue facilitation and workshop development, which have been valuable tools in peace-building. In order to boost my international field experience, I also secured an international fellowship through Atlas Corps to serve for a year with a non-profit in Bogota, Colombia. Atlas Corps and other fellowship and international volunteer opportunities are a great way to close gaps in your resume and these organizations can advocate for you in the future. Finally, I can’t underestimate the power of networking.  By the time jobs are posted online, it’s likely they already have possible candidates and you will be among hundreds of other applicants.  Don’t wait to find the perfect job posting.  Identify the organizations and individuals doing the work you want to do and conduct informational interviews with them. Find ways to stay in contact with them and don’t leave any interview without getting advice other people you can contact.  I also recommend connecting with people through professional networks like the Peace and Collaborative Development network and Linkedin.  Build your profiles and use these networks to build personal contacts at organizations where you want to work. This can lead to new friends as well as future colleagues.


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