Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to Wash U alumnus Pushkar Sharma speak about his job at the UN and his career path from Wash U to the UN. This event was part of a series of events at the Gephardt Institute Office, an office at Wash U that helps students get involved in civic life in St. Louis. The Gephardt Institute held this series to inspire students through exposing them to civic leader’s stories. I chose to attend the event because I’m interested in having a career like Pushkar Sharma’s, and so I wanted to learn more about how he started working at the UN and what advice he has for students interested in that career path. He gave thoughtful, insightful answers that helped me think about my future after Wash U.
The most important takeaways from Pushkar Sharma’s talk for me were: 1. Focus on the skillsets you have and how they would be useful to organizations and companies. 2. Don’t go to graduate school straight out of college; get some experience first. 3. Humility is essential in international relations.
He spoke about how the critical thinking, mediation, and writing skills that he gained at Wash U allowed him to flourish in his career. One class he took with Professor Timothy Parsons taught him that it’s important to check the source of an article or report in order to evaluate it properly. He learned conflict resolutions skills as an RA that helped him in his peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Writing poetry and plays sharpened his writing skills. Even classes he didn’t excel at like statistical analysis proved to be useful when he was researching literacy levels in India.
Finally, he discussed how the humility he learned at Wash U prepared him for a career in international relations. In a class he took with Professor Duncan in the education department, he internalized a way of working with others that doesn’t simply prioritize one type of knowledge over another. Instead, it looks at combining different perspectives to accomplish goals. This served him well in international relations because he doesn’t assume he knows everything, but relies on local knowledge to guide him. He did recommend that students get some experience in the working world to help them figure out what they want to do before going to graduate school.
He ended by saying that students should get outside of their comfort zones to become better citizens, one thing the Gephardt Institute helps students do. I would recommend attending Gephardt Institute events to anyone who has an interest in policy and civic engagement.