This post is part of a profile series on NPSIAns and their summer work experiences. If you have any questions for the student profiled, please refer to their contact information at the bottom of this post.
Name: Samar Abid
Position title: Trade Officer
Workplace: Middle East Commercial Relations Division, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
NPSIA cluster: International Development Policy
Position obtained through the Carleton co-op process?: No
Undergrad school(s): UWO
Undergrad major(s): International Relations
What is your commute to work like?
I live in Mooney’s Bay, and take the 87 to Rideau Centre (25 min ride) then either walk to 125 Sussex or take the 9.
How would you describe the dress code at your work?
Are there many other NPSIAns at your workplace?
There are many former and current Npsians at DFATD. I’ve also met students from Ottawa U, Munk, and Dalhousie.
What are the lunch options like nearby your work?
The cafeteria is over-priced and only takes cash. Definitely bring a lunch. The Byward Market is about 10 minutes away so there are a few good options there if you take a longer lunch.
How many jobs did you apply to this summer?
What is your favourite part about your job?
There are many great reasons to work at DFATD. The people are very friendly, its interesting work for an international affairs student, it pays well, there is flexibility in changing schedules, its challenging and your work gets used by our senior officials.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
What is an average day like for you?
Sometimes you are eating at your desk to make deadlines, but most of the time the pace of work is slow and you can catch up on work that is less of a priority.
How much is your hourly wage?
Is your workplace fully bilingual, or does it favour English over French (or vice versa)?
It is officially bilingual but mostly English. French language training is highly recommended, you will need it for full-time work here.
What are some exciting things happening in your workplace right now?
We recently had the King of Jordan visit. I organized Canada’s trade delegation for this event.
What surprised you the most about your workplace/position?
I had the impression that bureaucracy would be a cut-throat work environment, but I found so many people were cooperative, friendly and encouraging.
Are you also taking classes (NPSIA, language training, etc.) and/or studying abroad this summer?
Yes, I’ve taken two classes along with full time work. It can be managed if you space out your work, and get an early start. On slow days, you can get away with doing your readings and assignments at work.
Which NPSIA course best-prepared you for your position?
Rather than any single course, I found my whole grad experience at NPSIA was great for improving my skills in communication, leadership, confidence, writing, research, analysis, time management and team work.
What sort of work experience did you have before this position?
Prior to coming to NPSIA, I had no government experience. I worked for a year in construction as an assistant surveyor and labourer, then half a year picking up and delivering fridges and freezers.
What are your hours like?
Typically 9 to 5, but some days I come in at 8 or 8:30 and finish at 4 or 4:30. That latest I’ve stayed at work was 8:30pm due to an urgent deadline. I prefer coming in at 9am because of my commute.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you would’ve done differently in your job search?
I spent a lot of time fixing up my cover letters and resumes for each application, which in the end was worth it. Definitely don’t disqualify yourself.. you will miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
On a separate note, my first job interview was at CIDA and went horrible. I had never been to Gatineau before, and ended up getting lost, falling in snow/mud, and coming late. If I could go back, I would’ve taken a taxi to my interview rather than bussed it.
What is some advice you’d give to a student hoping to get hired/intern at your workplace?
Get secret clearance, that is your ticket in. Also get involved in the student association and other extra-curricular activities so that you get experience working with other people.
Anything else to add?
Don’t feel deterred if you have no work or volunteer experience, you are still building your resume. There are plenty of opportunities to improve your education, skills and experience at NPSIA, so take full advantage. Also do not dismiss a co-op opportunity just because it is not CSIS or DFATD, honestly you could miss out on working with a great group of people, plus the student rate of pay is the same across government.
Have any questions for Samar?