HNC Alumna shares tips on optimizing the HNC experience for the job market

HNC Alumna shares tips on optimizing the HNC experience for the job market

Taylore Roth is an Economics & Trade Policy Analyst at the U.S.- China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC). She attended the Hopkins-Nanjing Center as a Certificate student 2017-2018 and went on to receive a Masters in International Economics and Asian Studies (China) at Johns Hopkins SAIS in DC. She spoke with HNC student Grace Faerber about her HNC experience:

Why did you choose to attend the Hopkins-Nanjing Center and pursue graduate studies in China?

As I began to look for graduate schools, I knew I wanted to spend at least part of my graduate experience studying in China. While I had previously studied abroad in Chengdu and taught English in Beijing, I wanted a program that would build upon my previous experiences rather than replicate them. Whereas other IR-focused grad programs in China seemed to replicate my prior experiences of living within a conclave of English speakers and attending classes taught in English, the HNC offered something much more immersive. As someone who was interested in pursuing a career in U.S.-China relations, the opportunity to begin using my Chinese language skills to study Chinese language documents opened entirely new doors to understanding the minds of Chinese policymakers. I knew that this unique facet of my graduate experience would likely give me a competitive edge in the job market.

To be able to bring my Chinese language to that level of fluency was also just a life goal of mine and a valuable experience I wanted to have.

How do you employ the knowledge and skills you gained at the HNC in your current role at the USCC?

I use my Chinese language skills quite often to read through Chinese government documents, including relevant policy documents, white papers, and statistical releases from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the People's Bank of China (PBOC). A lot of my analysis about the Chinese economy and political system is often undergirded by the foundational knowledge and understanding that I began to build through classes like Chinese politics, Chinese foreign policy, and rural development.

Because the Chinese economic and political systems function based on a different set of assumptions and drivers than the U.S. side, the experiences I had living in China and learning from Chinese teachers helped to instill an understanding of these fundamental differences and helped me to understand the Chinese model.

How did you navigate the job market after graduating from Johns Hopkins SAIS and what recommendations do you have to graduating HNC students?

When I began applying for jobs after graduation, I lacked a strategy or plan. Because of this, I essentially learned from my mistakes as I navigated the process. 

I quickly learned the following lessons:

 Spend the majority of your time applying to jobs you actually care about. In the end, it’s worth your time to research a company and position in order to tailor your application rather than send something in that’s generic and you don’t hear back. Spend time actually envisioning whether it’s the type of place where you want to work, that shares your values, and is a place where you could see yourself developing skills and growing. Having given thought to these aspects will also shine through in your application and in interviews. 

 It’s helpful to talk to alumni that work at the places you are applying, but also alumni that work in the sector where you are applying. In a lot of cases, those connections alone won’t get you a job, but you can receive valuable insight from them. Whenever you end a networking call, ask if they know of any other colleagues that you should be reaching out to.

 If you are interested in jobs with the U.S. government, you need to begin thinking about security clearances. Depending on your number of foreign contacts, experiences in foreign countries, previous employers etc., your clearance could take longer to process and delay your start date.

 Quite basic, but meticulously proofread your cover letters and resumes. When you’re applying to hundreds of jobs, proofreading your application materials can feel like a slog, but needless errors will likely be noticed immediately by whoever is reading your application and will make you appear careless – a quality no one wants in an employee.  

 Finally, be kind to yourself. When getting a job feels like the most important thing in the world, a rejection can be heartbreaking. I would encourage students to stay positive and keep networking and applying until something works out – because something always does. After graduating from Johns Hopkins SAIS I was rejected from multiple employers for positions I thought looked interesting at the time. Looking back a few years later, I’m actually quite thankful they rejected me because had they not, I may not have found my way to my current position.

Did you try to sustain your Chinese language skills after leaving the HNC? If so, what are the most successful methods you have found?

After leaving the Hopkins-Nanjing Center I did not consciously maintain my Chinese language skills and found that they quickly deteriorated. Luckily, my current job encourages me to use my Chinese language skills on a daily basis while also offering Chinese language classes every week, and this has helped me to maintain my language skills. If you don’t use it, you most certainly will lose it.

What recommendations do you have for HNC students and graduates looking to work at the USCC or similar organizations?

 Policy work requires impeccable communication skills. Make sure you have a good writing sample, and for interviews be prepared to be tested both on the way you communicate ideas and for the way you are able to synthesize information. These types of jobs are looking for applicants who can look at events or developments in international relations and then connect them to implications for the United States and broader themes. Additionally, try to maintain concision and precision in your writing samples, cover letters, and resumes. In the policy world, few people have time to read long elegant metaphors or dissect academic theories.

 Try to develop an area of concentration and expertise, but show that you are also able to go beyond that area. Being both well-rounded and intellectually curious is a must, as research needs can change rapidly and a genuine interest in learning about new topics can save you from burnout.

 Stay up to date on developments in U.S.-China relations, the Chinese economy, and Chinese politics. After graduating there might be a temptation to take a break from reading articles on these topics, but things change so quickly that it’s important to continue following the news so that you can offer a perspective more nuanced than a simple regurgitation of the news.