Launching a Podcast to Show My Commitment to Work

Bunmi Akinnusotu

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The foreign policy sector is difficult to enter. Often, professionals in this space have family connections or military experience to gain access. If you have neither, programs like study abroad, Peace Corps, or unpaid fellowships are other avenues for breaking in to the field. From there, you’re most successful when you become an expert on an issue (e.g. terrorism) and/or region of the world. I’ve always stayed abreast of foreign policy issues through volunteer with organizations with some global footprint and my own personal study through magazines like the Economist of Foreign Policy. I even went so far as to get two advanced degrees that I thought would catapult my career into the foreign policy space, giving me the institutional prestige to validate what I know. I took the foreign service office test three times and only progressed as far as the personal narrative portion before being rejected. While I was trying unconventional paths to breaking in to the sector, I built a large network of experts and practitioners in the foreign policy space. Ironically, I finally received an opportunity to work on international issues while working in the Obama Administration. Finally, I thought, I had both the network and work experience to secure a position at a think tank, non-profit organization, or consulting firm. After the end of the Administration in January 2017, it was clear to me, I needed to do more.

Washington D.C. is a competitive town. Not only are the jobs more or less the same, but so are the job seekers. Everyone has multiple advanced degrees from the same prestigious Universities. Everyone knows of the organizations, congressional leaders, or companies working in their area of interests. Everyone knows that 70% of jobs in DC are NOT posted publicly. And sadly, there’s an unspoken understanding that everyone conveniently exaggerates the truth of what they’ve accomplished in previous roles. Often, when you find out who has been hired for a job you applied for, there’s a look of “really? Them? But they know nothing about xyz”. When I ended my tenure in the Administration, I knew all of this but I didn’t know the potency until I began interviewing. I have not yet figured out the key to success in Washington or what people are saying in interviews that is so much better than what I am saying. But I do know that launching my podcast has opened more doors and demonstrated further evidence of my commitment to foreign relations.

My long term is to become American’s first Nigerian-American Ambassador. From what I’ve been told there is no roadmap for becoming an Ambassador, particularly a politically appointed one. However, Ambassadors have certain qualities: they are bridge builders, they are social and cultural chameleons and can fit in with diverse groups, they are curious about the world and have a unique ability to view the world from others’ perspective. And most importantly, as the President’s representative abroad, they operate with the utmost professionalism and humility. I haven’t quite mastered all of this. Through my radio program and podcast, What in the World? I am a lot closer. The show has also been a useful conversation starter during job interviews and particularly because I don’t fit the profile of the older, white, male, Yale “foreign policy expert”, people seem very intrigued. But more than anything, this show has boosted my confidence which had been challenged by a storm of rejections and a parade of disappointments that come with the job search. In a town full of uniform resumes and “looks”, What in the World? helps me offer something unique to potential employers and the show demonstrates how serious I am about my long-term goals. Often my guests, friends, and strangers share how impressed they are that I took an idea from concept to action. Apparently, like I suspected about DC, a lot of people talk a big game but accomplish little. I have no doubt that someday, someone will recognize that this show reflects of the type of foreign policy leaders America needs. Until then, I will continue to grow as a podcaster, connect Americans to the world, and hone the skills I need to achieve my dream of becoming an Ambassador.