First jobs and keeping dreams alive
I recently had a conversation with a young woman in New York City struggling with a career decision. About to graduate law school, she is trying to decide whether to take a domestic job working in children's rights or to return to Asia where she wants to pursue her dream job working in international human rights. She worried that working in a U.S.. domestic organization for a few years would make it harder for her to find a job abroad in the future.
My advice: there is no problem at all in deferring your dream job a few years to work in a first or even a second job that helps you develop transferrable skills. Transferrable skills are those that you develop in one job that you can use in a later job. Research, writing, public speaking, counseling, are just a few transferable skills that you can develop working in a domestic organization that you can apply if you work in an international organization. The key is staying involved in your dream field. In the case of the graduating law student, I urged her to keep up her Mandarin language ability and to seek out opportunities in New York to connect to the international human rights community. Attend meetings and conferences. Ask questions. Introduce yourself to speakers. Be sure to have a business card that is independent of your employer -- a personal business card indicating your field of interest. Writing a blog is an excellent way to keep abreast of developments in your chosen dream field and it is an indication to a future employer in the field that you are serious about making a transition. Also, be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile active and look for groups to join.
The upshot: Don't worry that a first or second job will derail you from your dream job. Just be sure to stay informed and to contribute to the professional community you ultimately want to join.