Life 2.1

Assuming the return from Sarufutsu is life 2.0, it’s fair enough to say that 2010 for me shall be life 2.1! Holidays aside, John has found meaningful work (at a trade organisation nogal) and is promptly attempting to learn as much as humanly possible in the process.

The period from when I graduated from honours back in 2006 and February 2010 post-thesis hand-in has been… interesting, to say the least. One thing is certain though, trying to get even a second glance employment-wise in this field is a real bitch. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Honours isn’t enough: Nor is a Bachelors. If you want to do something meaningful in this field you need a Masters. Minimum. Anything less and your lack of knowledge is likely going to cause far more harm than good in whatever you do, assuming anyone would even give you an interview. If all you want to do is man a Human Resources desk, then sure, stop right here :-p
  2. Don’t be academically-lazy: So often students thing that doing the bare minimum of readings, the absolute least number of pages required in an essay, and treading the line between vague interest and indifference is enough to hack it. It’s not. Plain and simple. If you want to actually be involved in this field as a career you’d better bloody well be prepared to read a shitload. Books people, not just extracts and the front/back page of the Sowetan.
  3. Become an Expert: Find a goddamned specialisation. I know exactly one person my age who is intelligent enough to be a generalist. For the rest of us numpties, it’s crucial to find a specific area of expertise which interests you and then get FUCKING GOOD at it.
  4. Make Friends/Enemies: Don’t leave right after a lecture or seminar. Don’t just cruise through classes. Speak to your lecturers. Ask questions in class. Challenge idiotic arguments. Create debate. If nobody notices you, you’re not going to be getting anywhere.
  5. NagNagNagNagNagNagNag: Nobody’s going to phone you offering a fantastic career at the UN wiping the bums of Somali children. Send applications and phone calls everywhere. As I’ve told some friends, I’ve sent uot over 200 applications in total from 2006-2010, and received maybe 10% replies, of which the majority are “thanks but no thanks” emails. Harass everybody and anybody until someone gives up and employs you 🙂
  6. Be prepared to sacrifice years of your life: I went to Japan, and then spent many months having my brain turn slowly to mush. God only knows what folks do there if they spend several years teaching kids how to pronounce basic English words to keep their brains functioning. At any rate, the experience itself os good not only for personal development, but also in creating a niche skillset which can be exploited later on (as I only just recently discovered). Taking time off from studies can easily be perceived as a waste of time, but it can yield good results if you’re doing something useful. Backpacking across the world sleeping with dirty French people, while entertaining, probably wouldn’t help much in developing your skills in anything other than penicillin application.

On the plus side, from what I’ve seen speaking to folks at the top of the field of International Relations, it seems to be an imminently fulfilling experience, filled with shitloads of travel, interactions with presidents, and the ability to sleep at night know they’re making important historical events happen. Also, it can pay very well, depending on the occupation. So that’s encouraging. I’d entered into Political Science and Philosophy fully expecting to be amazed if I could simply feed myself. It would appear that, should I ever ascend to directorship, that would be more than matched. Hell, even if it wouldn’t, it still looks like a damned good way to spend one’s life in.

Now, in this the year of the Tiger, I have just a couple of goals which I need to do in order to call it a good expenditure of my life:

  1. Get Published in a Proper Academic-ish Journal
  2. Learn the business of private organisations in International Relations
  3. Start a wine collection

Easier said than done, especially #3, but we shall see how it all goes!

Song of the day: Killswitch Engage – My Curse

Written by admin in: Africa,Political | Tags: ,


  • John,

    Haven’t been to the blog for a long time. Glad to find you’re still doing good work. I completely agree with the specialization part. I’d be intrigued if you could develop more what “niche skillset” you got from Japan.


    Comment | March 16, 2010
  • Hey Charlie!

    For me Japan provided me with ‘experience’ in the Japanese work environment, how kids in Japan grow up and how it translates in their adult lives. Sure, Hokkaido, and certainly up North where we were is no ‘typical’ environment for generalisation, but it did provide much-needed context.

    More internally it helped me build the self-confidence I desperately needed in my own abilities to learn and grow, and it ultimately provided a healthy break from virtually everything I’d conceived to be ‘normal’. That includes meeting non-South Africans as well mind you. Even Chris and Heather provided a completely new frame of reference outside of dealing with South or Southern Africans, and it was, I think, a great learning experience personally and professionally.

    Halfway through my ALT year I was having difficulty understanding just what the fuck the benefit was of me wasting my time 8-5 every day teaching dumbed-down retarded-syllabus English, but then I realised that the year enabled me to appreciate the world I lived in, my place in it, and just how much further I had to grow.

    When I came back to Johannesburg and stopped by the professor who’d initially suggested the JET programme in 2006, he welcomed me back and said “I’m glad you only spent one year there.” If you settle in one place just because it’s comfy, then something’s deeply wrong with it all. At least, for me that’s the case. I’m sure some folks only seek comfort and are happy in that bubble. My professor meant that spending too long in Japan can kinda suck you into a vortex, out of which one emerges realising that the better part of their youth was spent chasing a dream. Just a year or two and you learn to appreciate what’s there, but leave with nothing but the best impressions of the city, town or hamlet you lived in for a year.

    Japan tested every single boundary I had created in my 22 years in SA, and at the end of the year I came out imminently grateful for being able to learn from it. Any more and I’d just be sticking it out for the salary and the kawaii :p

    Comment | March 24, 2010
  • Awesome track, and I’m not really into that type of music.

    Comment | June 5, 2010

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