Alum-spiration: “Anticipate the unexpected and plan accordingly”

Shaughn McArthur explains why he thinks that the Hertie School's MPP is recession-proof.

2009 MPP alum Shaughn McArthur is a policy analyst, social justice advocate and political communicator. Working with governments and thought leaders at all levels, Shaughn is best known for his efforts to anchor human rights provisions within Canadian and international climate change, refugee and humanitarian policy.
Prior to joining CARE in 2015 to establish and lead the organization’s advocacy and influencing strategies, Shaughn worked at the Senate of Canada. In addition to working as an independent consultant, speechwriter, and as the editor of an academic journal, Shaughn has held previous positions with the Secretariat of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development in Bonn, Migrants Against AIDS in Berlin, and Voices for Burma UK. Shaughn’s political commentary and academic work has been published in Canada, Europe and Asia.
Committed to public service and strong civil society, Shaughn currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Climate Action Network of Canada and the Wakefield La Pêche Community Centre. He also serves on the executive committee of the Canadian Coalition on Climate Change and Development, and on the Governing Board of Saint-Michael’s School in Low, Quebec. He is also the founding chair of the multi-agency Global Forced Displacement Working Group.

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

None that I can recall. I had a well-paying job before my final semester was over. Of course, the financial crisis was much more concentrated in impact. COVID stands to transform a much broader cross-section of the economy, even the way we think of employment itself as an indicator of economic and social health.

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

I'm not sure much changes. As always, you need to find creative ways of differentiating yourself. Often this depends on strong networking and personal connections. It's hard to take somebody out for a coffee amid self-isolation, but there are lots of other, virtual ways of engaging with people who can introduce you to people looking for talent. Given the anticipated transformations to be generated by this crisis, employers are going to be looking for big-picture thinkers. Finally, with belts being tightened across the Board, Hertians should also probably emphasize the multi-disciplinary nature of their education and background.

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

The ability to anticipate the unexpected, and plan accordingly. The ability to be an ambassador for your organization. The willingness to challenge prevailing ideas and process inertia.

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

Get used to it. Life is full of setbacks. Go get some exercise, hit the mountainbike trail until you're ready to collapse. Then figure out what the root cause the setback is, and take it to the cleaners.

Shaughn's post-it mantra.

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

As noted above, I don't feel like I graduated into a difficult situation. I think the MPP is in some ways recession-proof. Indeed, this is something that I researched before applying to Hertie. In times of crisis, the best organisations should be even more aware of the value of big-picture thinkers who are able to process and act on information from a variety of disciplines and sources. MPP alums are exactly what every organisation needs to help them navigate through crisis.

A GIF you think best encapsulates looking for a job in a tough and challenging climate


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.