Overcoming Post-Graduation Uncertainty: Audrey Briggs’ Pursuit of a Career in International Development

In this blog, we hear from Audrey Briggs who graduated from Cambridge in 2023 and now works for the Global Media Campaign to end FGM (Female Genital Mutilation).

Immediately after graduating from Cambridge with a degree in HSPS in June 2023, I was overwhelmed with uncertainty. I knew I was interested in building a career in international development, but had no idea how to reach this goal or where to look. Luckily, during Easter term, I managed to secure a part-time summer internship after randomly coming across the opportunity on Facebook, giving me something to concentrate on beyond the ever-looming question of “What Now?”.

Having built these relationships, I gained some confidence and felt like less of an outsider to the career I wanted

Other than providing an occupation from the relentless job search, Connected Development allowed me the opportunity to figure out what I might like to do, and if the international development sector could be right for me. Connected Development is a non-profit, working to support and promote local community-led projects by providing access to the knowledge and skills to enter into sustainable partnerships with international donors. As part of the project, the director William Harnden links his interns with one of these community partnerships to help support their growth over the summer months. Given my interest in South Asia, I was linked with ‘CEDAR’ the Centre for Education, Development Action and Research, based in Tamil Nadu. With their roots in activism for the abolition of child labour, CEDAR now works with children from the most marginalised communities in Tamil Nadu using various forms of ‘creative development’. While working with a small team of CEDAR members, connected through a screen from well over five thousand miles away, I was able to build a strong relationship and help build the project’s international platform. I worked with CEDAR to find ways to expand their platform in the UK and build a proposal for their latest project, ‘Window for the World’. On the 17th September, I attended the Global Girl Media Film Festival, where CEDAR was exhibiting one of their short films ‘Thadaigal Thaandalaam’, and met many of the people I had worked with in person. Having built these relationships, I gained some confidence and felt like less of an outsider to the career I wanted.

One thing I was able to come to a decision on relatively quickly was to move house. Although happy at home, I felt being there for too long would limit my ability to grow after the independence at Cambridge. Also, moving out of the countryside and into the city would hugely improve the scope of job opportunities. Happily, if job searching was going to be hard, the housing market was even worse. After agreeing to live in with a friend in London, the challenge was to find somewhere just about affordable and in the right area. Once we found a likely option, there was the pressure to snap it up, meaning I found myself signing a tenancy agreement and paying a deposit to a flat I had never seen in an area I had barely visited. While slightly frightening and adding even greater pressure to my job search, the decision to move helped me focus on my goals, and the opportunity to explore a new city with new people.

After ascertaining that I was in fact moving to London at the end of the summer, the next mission was to find a job that had some semblance of a relation to what I wanted to do. I was greatly intimated by the prospect of job searching, even more so after speaking with friends of friends and likely looking people on LinkedIn that starting a career in international development was indeed a struggle, there weren’t many opportunities for the thousands of people searching and it will probably take you up to a year of applying to find something. The general plan then became to secure a job – any job – that I could work at while applying for ideal positions until something came through. Despite making use of the many resources at my disposal, the Careers network, job searching sites, and harassing anyone I knew who might have an idea of where to look, the job application grind was pretty painful. Sending out perfectly tailored CVs and cover letters, with relevant experience and degree, only to receive a rejection weeks later or better yet, nothing at all, is quite a hit to one’s self-esteem. What helped during this search – other than the support of wonderful friends and family – was knowing that I was not alone. So many people are in the exact same position, experiencing the same struggles, disappointments and uncertainty. After a long summer search, it wasn’t until the start of September, in the last days before moving out, that I had success. Ironically, after weeks of nothing, there was a flood of activity, where I actually had some positive responses to applications and was offered a few opportunities to interview. Despite this, I just so happened to get the job that I first interviewed for back in June. This position at the Global Media Campaign to end FGM combines my interest in gender studies with my desire to be part of an organisation that is efficient, locally-led, and concerned with getting funding directly to the front lines.

Make the most of every opportunity given to you, and eventually the chance will come along to find your next steps

Post-graduation life has been almost impossible to plan for. There have been ups and downs, moments of joy and despair, and I am incredibly lucky to have found myself on a pathway to a very interesting start to my career. My advice to anyone who is entering this stage of their life – from someone who still barely knows what they are doing – is to put things in perspective. You are far from being alone, you don’t have to have everything planned out, and it may take time to figure out what you want to do and where you want to be. Make the most of every opportunity given to you, and eventually the chance will come along to find your next steps.

Learn more about Global Media Campaign, and their frontline movement to end FGM on their website.

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