A Fellowship? In This Economy?

Nov 01, 2012

One of the most common questions I received from students on our recent university tour was “Should I pursue a short-term fellowship in this bad economy? Shouldn’t I just pursue a permanent job?” I advise that pursuing a competitive fellowship is one of the best things you can do for your career during a down-turned economy. The reason jobs are hard to find is because there are fewer open positions and more people competing for them. So to get a great job, your resume needs to stand out among your peers. A competitive fellowship – particularly fellowships that provide international experience, language training or hard skills in research, analysis or field work – can give your resume that edge. If you are concerned about your student loans, the good news is that most students loans can be deferred while you are on a fellowship. Also, some fellowships like the Presidential Management Fellowship or the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship are designed to give you a foot-in-the-door to a more permanent job in Washington, DC, working in the federal government or think tank industry.

Emily Glazer of the Wall Street Journal wrote in January:

Sometimes a fellowship can lead to a new job altogether. Lauren Parnell Marino, 27, worked at a Chicago nonprofit and then at a fair-trade crafts business in Uganda for the first two years after college. While in Uganda, she decided to apply to the George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program since it would sponsor a master’s degree in Ireland. The fellowship covered the cost of the master’s program in addition to a living stipend. When the program ended, Ms. Parnell Marino was able to use her degree, international experience and network to land a job at Ashoka, a nonprofit based in Washington that supports social entrepreneurship. She now works on a global project for the nonprofit, often tapping the network she cultivated during the fellowship.

This is just one example of how fellowships can help you discover and carve an exciting career path, even in a slow economy.

© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.