Alum-spiration: “Always keep an open mind”

Ephraim Abwe Diabe explains how career setbacks can become an inspiration for new initiatives.

2009 MPP graduate Ephraim Abwe Diabe currently works at the UN Department of Peace Operations as the Head of MONUSCO (the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) Sub Office and Coordinator of Civil Affairs Section for Kasai Province. He previously worked as Child Protection Officer at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

You graduated from the Hertie School during the global financial crisis. What were the main challenges you had to face?

Finding a job that matched my newly acquired skills was a huge challenge. The Ministry of Secondary Education in my country where I worked as a civil servant had a service on good governance. The role aims (i) to prevent performance/ resources management leakages and (ii) to promote and enhance behaviours that favour good governance, through sensitisation etc. When I left the Hertie School in 2009, I was hoping to join this team and contribute in improving delivery of secondary education in my country. Due to the financial crisis, that was not possible.

Do you have any advice for graduates searching for a job during a global crisis? How can they navigate the job market?

The type of training I received during the MPP programme at the Hertie School is one that prepares you to thrive even in difficult circumstances. When the job market is tight, we get busy digging into the dryness for ideas that we use as raw materials for jobs. I went back into my community, which at that time had a lot of idle youths, and I helped to organise them into a common initiative group that provides pro-bono peace education as well as human rights and gender sensitisation in schools and communities.

What are the most important skills to highlight in an application?

You have to prove you are highly pro-active. Always keep an open mind – every new experience, good or bad, leaves you better prepared to face the next. The ability to work in highly diverse contexts is another important skill in a world that is getting narrower by the day.

Do you have any tips on how to deal with setbacks?

I see setbacks as opportunities to grow stronger. I learn from every setback, be it in my work life or family life. In most cases, I use them as building blocks for new dimensions or new initiatives.

Ephraim's post-it mantra

In what way was the Hertie School network beneficial to you during your job search?

I will not easily forget the seminars with Stein Kuhnle, which helped to bring in professionals and practitioners from around the world to share perspectives, practical lessons and hands-on experience. Most of them remain my references until today.

From your current standpoint, how did the difficult situation after your graduation prepare you for the career you pursued? Do you have pearls of wisdom you would like to share?

At the Hertie School, I learned to serve and to be more results-oriented. I also came out of the programme with more positive perspectives on volunteering. Today I see that this volunteering experience is vital for my current work.

In this series, Hertie School alumni speak about what it was like to enter the job market around the time of the 2008/09 financial crisis, offering words of wisdom to the Class of 2020, which is facing similar challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.