Working for a think tank sounds pretty cool, especially the Brookings Institution. So let’s meet Stephanie, who not only helps them think in the tank, but helps them write in the tank, too. No.. not that kind of tank….. No, not that kind, either…. Just read on…..
What do you do for work?
I’m an editor for a think tank, which means that I get to work with scholars to form topics and provide feedback as they write long-form papers focused on the Middle East. Technically, my title is “publication manager,” so in addition to working on these long-term projects, I also work on our center’s outreach– things like e-newsletters, marketing, helping with our website.
It takes a bit of neurosis to argue over comma placement (I’m a fan of the Oxford comma), and to make sure footnotes are absolutely right, but I enjoy polishing work into an amazing publication. I also get to be a fly on the wall to discussions about current events and foreign policy. That’s a priceless benefit.
What do you do for play or enrichment?
I continue to take Arabic classes (a never-ending process), and I write (currently I’m working on a lifestyle blog exploring ideas through the lens of modern feminism.). I also like to travel– and I’m lucky that I get five weeks of vacation every year– so I am constantly planning trips I’d like to take (currently on the docket for 2014 is Qatar, Oman, Mexico, and the UK).
I also try to be involved in whatever community I’m currently living in. I was just appointed to serve as a commissioner for my Advisory Neighborhood Commission, a unique branch of Washington, D.C.’s government. I am also on the board of our local dog park. I’ve met a ton of new people through the process, and– wherever I’m living– I love being a part of a neighborhood.
How did you prepare for your career/life so far?
I worked. Hard.
At NYU, I double majored (in Journalism, and History) and minored (in Middle East Studies). I worked the entire time, as a tutor, as a Resident Assistant, and had paid internships with a business author and at ABC News. After college, I worked as a journalist at Forbes, which was a dream job and excellent experience. I knew that I wanted to shift my focus more towards my interest in the Middle East, so I took Arabic classes at night and applied for a Fulbright grant, which I received in 2010. I spent a year in the region: living in Egypt, and the Sultanate of Oman before, during, and after the Arab Spring. I did a research project and studied Arabic. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has paid dividends in my life professionally– and personally (I met my husband in Oman).
You’ve got to want to have these experiences, and work relentlessly to make them a reality. Now, I keep a list of short, medium, and long-term goals on my refrigerator. It’s great to be reminded daily of what I am striving towards.
What are you proud of?
I’m crossing dreams off my “to do” list, and having a lot of fun in the process. Living in places like New York City, Cairo, and Muscat were incredible experiences and I’m no longer fazed by the idea of starting over in a new place by myself.
I’m also really proud of the fact I was finally able to adopt a dog. It was a process– we had to find a pet-friendly apartment and I had a “future puppy” fund in our savings account for a long time– but I’m so glad we brought him home. He has brought so much laughter and joy!
What advice do you have for young(er) people as they prepare to launch themselves into the adult world?
Four pieces of advice I always give my interns:
–Simply put, you’ve got to learn how to get stuff done. No matter how intimated you are, or how overqualified you think you are. No one cares about excuses. You’ve got to learn to roll with the punches and move on. You may not ever be the smartest/wealthiest/prettiest person in a room, but you can always be the hardest worker. Never say something “isn’t my job”– because doing those menial tasks can be used as leverage into other opportunities.
–Set up a budget. Now. Don’t live your life in debt, or you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities. Being frugal can be fun in your 20s, especially if you’re laying the foundation for a secure future. Once you set up an emergency fund, start an “opportunity fund” as well. That way, if you get a last-minute travel deal, or stumble upon a class you’d like to take, you can do it without any sort of guilt (or debt!).
–This may sound a bit New Age, but find out what nourishes your soul, respect that it changes as you go through life’s transitions. It can be scenic drives (a favorite of mine when I lived in Oman) or it can be long walks (something I loved to do in New York) or yoga sessions (my current favorite). Recognize the things you do that leave you feeling rested, and make sure to do them. In Ghana, someone told me that they have a phrase that roughly translates as “Americans have their watches, but we have the time.” Give yourself time to relax. My British husband is always reminding me that Americans aren’t taught or encouraged to relax like they are– and to stop constantly working.
–Finally, give yourself grace to make mistakes. Learn from them, and move on.