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Professional Self-Realization can be Slow, but it's Attainable; Keep at it!

By Christine Kitoko

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

Through the International Youth Internship Programme with the United Nations Association in Canada, I am completing a six-month internship with the World Food Programme’s Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. In my role as a Junior Professional Consultant (my official internship position), my responsibilities consist of: i) supporting the Regional Partnerships Officer by mapping partnership and engagement opportunities with international financial institutions and other key stakeholders; ii) developing marketing material that captures the World Food Programme’s work and value proposition in the area of climate finance; iii) helping increase the visibility of the World Food Programme’s efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities, through its women centred approach; and iv) developing and contributing to country specific and regional funding proposals.

In light of this position, with the prestige of working in the United Nations system, one might consider my path to be that of a successful young professional. It might appear as though, all along, I have had the right vision and made the right moves to be able to reach this point. However, would you believe me if I told you that, similarly to other millennials and gen-Z-ers, I have struggled with a lack of clarity, uncertainty, doubt and feelings of inadequacy and despair when it comes to my career and fulfilling the idea of success? Although I knew that I was interested in social justice, and eventually that I wanted to use my abilities to work in the realm of international development; for a long time –much of my twenties– I wasn’t sure how to translate these interests and aspirations into a solid career.

JPC Christine Kitoko

As a field, international development seemed so broad and yet so saturated at the same time. It seemed as though for one to establish themselves within the field as a working professional, they needed to advance in their education and gain connections that could open doors. Hence, as a young person, I often felt confused, discouraged and even hopeless in the face of such apparent barriers. Further, all of this, combined with the other pressures of ‘adulting’, only overwhelmed me even more. Nevertheless, with perseverance, the willingness to work hard and start from anywhere, as well as the ability to keep my end goal –my vision– in sight, I began to experience breakthroughs in due time.

So, with this in mind, I turn to you. As you are working toward establishing yourself as a young professional, whether in this same field or another, and are encountering obstacles that are discouraging you; what are some ways in which you could keep your vision in sight and remain steadfast in working toward achieving it?

Based on my experience, I have the following advice for you:

  1. Do not despise ‘small’ beginnings: be willing to do the grunt work in order to strengthen your foundation and increase your value as a young professional. This can be through anything, from volunteering, to accepting a low paying job that can provide you pertinent experience, or going or returning to school.

  2. Leverage your relationships to obtain opportunities and direction: go through the list of people that you know (former professors, mentors, friends, family, etc.); there might be someone who works somewhere or runs something or knows of something that could constitute an opportunity or resource for you. Reach out and ask.

  3. Give yourself time and take moments to acknowledge your achievements along the way: despite the ideas that we are fed about the idea of success; you are not in a race against anyone and none of your achievements are insignificant. Show yourself grace and celebrate whenever you are able to bring yourself closer to realizing your vision. This will foster optimism and help keep you going.


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