Where Are They Now: Managing Expectations During the “Trump Era” After Earning a Degree in International Relations

For all of you international relations majors out there, I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about life after undergrad—finding the perfect internship that leads to the perfect job doing exactly what you want to do and are legitimately passionate about. You have your office on Capitol Hill picked out already and have emailed at least five senators you want to work with in the near future. As soon as you’re done at AU, you’ll be out there living the life.

Well, maybe not.

Today, I met with Ellen Myers, an AU alumni who graduated in December 2017.

It’s four months after graduation now, and Myers is here to tell it to you straight. So far, Myers has applied to over 150 jobs and has been interviewing on a fairly regular basis. Unfortunately, there have been no job offers as of yet, but this doesn't’t mean she’s unqualified for the positions—it simply means that, ever since a certain comedy sketch gone wrong in late 2016, there haven’t been enough jobs to go around within Myers’ field.

“I’m in international development, and democratization, and lots of the things that the state department does,” Myers begins, talking about how excited she would be to have a job working in the state department before getting into the root cause of her post-graduation troubles. “A lot of people [hate this government],” she states matter-of-factly, and I find it hard to disagree with her there—the government has been a source of agitation among the general populace pretty much since its inception over two hundred years ago. In fact, “I hate the government” is a pretty common thought among people worldwide. It makes sense—no one likes to be told what to do. But no one likes anarchy very much either, so we settle for being told what to do, at least to a certain extent—taxes, anti-murder laws, child educations laws.

Myers, however, is not referring to just any government—she is referring to the government headed by President Donald Trump and primarily controlled by the Republican Party. “A lot of people, when Donald Trump got elected, they all quit the state department, because they knew it was going to get gutted from the inside out and nothing would stay.... and it hasn’t. And a lot of people quit. And they decided to flood the NGOs, and the Think Tanks, and the rest of private industry in the field—and that’s what has hindered me from getting a job.”

While this may seem bad as it is, it is not the only obstacle in Myers’ way. As all of these highly-qualified and experienced professionals flood the private industry Myers is trying to break into, she has found that she is not as unique in her own experiences as she might have been. There are so many other people who have had those “six internships” and “know everything about the EU there is to know” that the job-search process has turned out to be more competitive than it was even just a few years ago. “Masters degrees are starting to be recommended for entry level jobs, and there are people who, if they don’t have Masters degrees, they have years of [experience] at the state department. And that’s the ultimate experience.”

But Myers hasn’t lost hope. There are more complications than she bargained for, but she remains optimistic. She has learned to manage her expectations more than anything else, and has been racking up lots of valuable interviewing experience. Even if the transition from undergrad to the workforce has been a bit rougher than expected, she knows she’ll come out on top, in the end. For everyone still in undergrad, this means that you should start managing your own expectations as well. It may not be a clean transition, although you’re lucky if it is. Be prepared to sit in limbo for a while—Myers says it's totally normal and reminds you not to panic.