Advice in Picking a Career
August 18, 2009 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I have two options for my (budding) career, help me decide which one is better.

I realize you guys are going to be working with limited information, but I'll try to give you as much as I can.

Live, study and work in the Caribbean, have a Bachelor's in Computer Science. Worked for just a couple years in IT, then decided to move and do my MBA (within the region). Almost done and I'm pretty much a straight-A student.

During my MBA I decided I was no longer interested in pursuing a career in IT, but was really interested in Finance, and was considering doing the CFA, as my MBA also provided a pretty good foundation for that. Also it would be pretty marketable and I could potentially live and work in quite a few different countries if I desired.

However, I then landed an internship at a large multilateral organization, where I help in project design, evaluation, research, report-writing for projects, that sort of work. I've realized that I really enjoy doing it, and I would get the opportunity to work in many different countries doing what I enjoy. I also get to network a lot here, meet new people, etc.

The thing is however, I'll have to give up my current job in about 6 months to move to North America (regretful, cannot be avoided). I can always come back to the Caribbean in 3 years, with better qualifications and more experience. My aim is to work at one of the multilaterals that operate in the region, because I enjoy being involved in any aspect of developmental work.

So I have 2 paths in front of me.

1. Should I do the CFA, or another Masters/PhD in Finance while seeking jobs in that area?

2. Study Developmental Economics/Project Management while seeking jobs in this area?

I realize that right now it's probably not the best time to be looking for a job in Finance (understatement), but also it is very competitive to work in one of the multilaterals that are involved in developmental work.

Without sounding too full of myself, I find that when I give 100% I can do very well at my studies, and my work, and this is recognized by my colleagues. I am pretty ambitious, single, debt-free right now, and think that if I chose a career, while I'm not in the 99th percentile, I do think with hard work I could manage 90-95th percentile.

Any advice would be very appreciated.
posted by althanis to Work & Money (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Another option is that you could sort of split the difference - multilaterals need finance expertise, too. Internal audit of international organization might be something to consider. And finance and MBA degrees are definitely desirable in microfinance institutions and microfinance-focused organizations (Accion International, for example). Georgetown might be a good place to start looking at degree programs, or talking to folks about options for your career. Good luck!
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:54 AM on August 18, 2009

Since you've discovered that you enjoy the development work, I'd incline toward that path. Everybody wants enjoyment in their work. Why not go with the path that you're enjoying?
posted by kristi at 10:06 AM on August 18, 2009

From my experience in business in the Carribbean (principally in Haiti, DR, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Trinidad/Tabago), I'd observe that development projects are ultimately heavily influenced by politics and then by initial funding sources, if external funding is needed. As time goes on, if you were to progress in development work, you would, simply by experience and seniority, be called upon to work in situations where an understanding of political leadership was a more vital part of the job, than financial acumen, or management capability. So, you have to think about that, in terms of staking out a career in economic development.

In my experience, finance offers more alternatives for career over a lifetime. Also, it is possible to achieve real prominence as a financier, while remaining remarkably apolitical, given the real power that the ability to direct money flows confers. Yet, if you choose a career in finance, you will always look at economic development more through a lens of money, in terms of feasibility and worth, than through human life improvement, and the politics/economics thereof.

For the variety of career experiences available to you with the right education, and the insulation from the often irrational political process, if I enjoyed the study of finance, I would pursue additional training in finance, and build a career from there.
posted by paulsc at 10:10 AM on August 18, 2009

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