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The Job Search: Eda Emil

March 17, 2018

The Job Search is a series for international graduate students.

Eda Emil

With a population of almost 5 million, the ancient city of Ankara is affectionately known as the ‘Heart of Turkey.’ For centuries, the city has been a crossroads for many cultures, and faiths. Long before the rise of today’s large metropolitan epicenters, Ankara was a global commercial, financial, and administrative focal point.

This is the place Eda Emil calls home. Growing up Ankarali means breathing the capital city’s air of authority and work ethic. Not too far from one’s abode is the seat of government, where practical and existential decisions are made on a daily basis. And it is very likely that you or someone you know is a public servant.

When Emil was growing up, her parents both worked for the Turkish Treasury, and in other overseas diplomatic roles. As an only child of two economists, she grew up in an environment that valued responsibility, hard work, and resilience. She was encouraged to think critically, to speak her mind, and to follow her curiosity. “My mother always told me that, as a child, I would continually ask questions in gatherings. As I got older, I perfected that skill, and learned that asking the right question at the right time had an impact in ways other types of resistance or discourse would not have,” recalls Emil. “This eventually pushed me into a deeper interest in data and analysis, as I felt I was finally getting answers to some of my lingering questions,” she adds.

Some of these questions have to do with global equity, and justice. Emil believes that applied economics can shine a light on these matters. “I believe economics in particular provides a fundamental platform for these discussions not only in a philosophical manner but also rooted in a technical model. However, I am also well aware that many times, the discourse remains purely academic. This is why I value applied studies and field work. Understanding and commenting on a certain topic with hypothetical assumptions is one thing, however actually being a part of the discussion and experiencing it is another thing altogether,” says Emil.

Before coming to Maryland's Applied Economics program, Emil completed her undergraduate studies in Economics at Bilkent University during which time she completed a number of internships in the development and finance sectors. After her degree, she spent 3 years at Ernst & Young Turkey, as a Global Compliance and Reporting Tax Consultant. Emil came to UMD to firm up her data and research skills, so that she can cabably work in development economics. As a testament to her parents’ example, Emil aspires to use her talents for advocacy, and in doing so, exercise the same grace, creativity, and composure as was shown to her in her formative years.

When you came wanted to study in U.S. what were your perceptions? Expectations?

My undergraduate program in Bilkent University was pretty similar to the American system so I had a very clear understanding of what was expected of a graduate student in such a program. As I applied to UMD, I had relatively realistic expectations of what I would be subject to. I think the thing that excited me the most was being able to communicate in a global classroom setting with classmates and institutions from all over the world - with experiences similar and opposite to my own experiences. The discussions we sparked have been priceless.

How is your field perceived in your home country?  Why did you come and study in the U.S.?

Economics is a well-regarded area of employment in Turkey. We also had our share of economic crises that made the country an interesting precedent and platform for the work of trained economists. My reasoning for coming to study in the U.S. had to do with being close to an epicenter of economic policy and activity (being close to D.C. is important in this respect) and I wanted to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of many of the faculty here who all are practicing economists with years of experience.

How did you prepare for your job search?

I think the preparation all begins with knowing, at least at a certain level, what you are interested in doing. It is easy to lose yourself in all of the positions open at a certain institution where a lot of positions sort of meet your minimum qualifications, but sort of don’t match what you are actually able to bring to the table. It is helpful to think thematically and go from there. In Turkey, I worked for international organizations so I started at looking at these organizations’ D.C. offices and looking at their openings on a regular basis. Moreover, I was vigilant about updating my resume and continuing to identify key strengths in the resume; points that I thought are particular to me and then looking for openings that would value these aspects of my skillset.

Did you do any informational interviews?

Career events pose useful for informational interviews. I found it to be helpful to attend these events and gather information about the firms. Also, as an international student, it may be hard to gather information on domestic employers so such events are great because generally you gain access to many organizations in one place.

Did you have an internship as a graduate student?  What did you learn there?  How did it help or influence your job search?

This winter during my graduate studies, I interned at the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Washington D.C. office. The UNDP works in about 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequality and exclusion. The operational area of the organization aims to help countries develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities, and build resilience in order to sustain development results. This particular experience solidified my interest in development economics especially through an environmental and health economics perception.

What does networking mean in your home country?

Networking is somewhat similar in Turkey as in the United States but I presume knowing family members who work in certain organizations or who hold certain positions are also considered a network. The act of networking is comparable in that everything starts off with a coffee invite where you try your hardest not to scream ‘I need a job.’ So instead, you beat around the bush and try to lure the person into hearing about your successes and ventures. One thing I have come to understand here in the U.S., is that it is easier to communicate. People here tend to be more responsive to one’s emails and people genuinely want to connect with others. I think once you meet up with a potential connection the intentions are clear from the beginning, they know you are there for potential opportunities and that’s why the conversation flows more easily. In a sense, being a little more direct is appreciated.

What advice or tool worked well as you searched? What did not work?

The most important advice that I received was ‘don’t be shy and don’t take everything personally.’ You try to connect with as many people as you can and obviously not everyone responds to your emails or phone calls. I think you need to keep the ones who reply close and move on from there. Also, as you talk with individuals and figure out what is valued in the job market, take notes - this is to your advantage. Once these conversations are done you have the opportunity to revisit your resume, and cover letter, and edit them accordingly.

Being an economist is a specialized skill set?  How did you convince people that you were well-prepared?

Having prior work experience in the organization where you seek a position is especially important. To the employer, this is a huge indicator that I will be well-prepared for what is to come. I think my current colleagues understood that I already knew the inner workings of our work environment, which is very important in any multilateral organization. Moreover, I think I was also successful in clearly articulating and demonstrating the skills I gained from my master’s program here at UMD.

How did you work on your resume? What was the process? Who looked at it?

I summarized all I had done, as best as I could. Then I looked at the type of jobs I wanted to apply for, and mixed and matched my experiences with what would best fit the requirements of those possible jobs. I was careful to give a coherent time line in my resume and emphasize a strength (whatever that may be) by letting the employers know exactly what kind of work I was involved in, and what I had accomplished. At that point, I asked my academic advisor and friends to review my resume. They have honest feedback and let me know what I should edit out or put in depending on my skillset. 

Where did you actually obtain work? What was the process like? Any surprises?

I obtained my position this winter at the U.N. through an application process which took a long time. During this time, I also attended programs where my future colleagues would be present so they could name to a face. This hastened the process a bit. Being an international student the amount of paper work that goes into tiny procedures was the most surprising element. 

How do you continue honing your networking?

I try to attend events as regularly as possible, whether they are career-related or not. Even presentations, lectures or programs in my field can be an opportunity to meet other colleges and connect in a professional setting.

Any advice to others?

Honestly, I don’t think I am in any position to give advice as I am also struggling as much as other international students. However, one thing I do tell myself is to keep working at it – so I would say the same to others. I would also say that as international students, we can have confidence in that we add tremendous value by coming to any situation with a multi-cultural, and multi-faceted approach.

More information about Eda Emil can be found here.

(By Anna De Cheke Qualls)

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