Robin Broadway has an MA in Social Anthropology from Cambridge, and a Diploma in Personnel Management from London School of Economics (LSE). In the course of his career, he was on the international staff of three financial institutions and is now semi-retired, working part-time with the Careers Service at LSE.

 

I was accepted by Cambridge to study Modern Languages – French and German – but I really wanted to study Sociology. However at the time, you couldn’t take sociology at Cambridge. It seemed to me rather inefficient to try to improve my foreign language skills while living in England and so after my first year I switched to anthropology, the nearest thing to sociology that Cambridge offered. Considering how my career turned out, this was probably the best possible training for a life spent in Human Resources-related work overseas. Quite apart from its usefulness, I found the course fascinating: we studied everything from the feudal system, through witchcraft, to property rights and kinship – even how you deal with your mother-in-law.

After university, I joined the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and worked for two years as an English and social studies teacher in Laos. My arrival in Vientiane was the most intense “attack” of culture shock that I have experienced: the way of life, the food and people’s beliefs and values were very different from anything I had encountered in Europe. I found that my anthropological training was invaluable in aiding me to be less judgmental and ethnocentric.

I went on to work as Administrative Officer for the Standard Chartered Bank of Bahrain. I was able to work with a diverse body of staff, ranging from expatriate chief clerks from India, to guards from Yemen. Upon quitting the bank, I undertook a Diploma in Personal Management at LSE. I was lucky enough to get a job in HR with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Part of my role there was to encourage staff to learn from their international colleagues and appreciate the different values and approaches that they brought to the institution, a role which I repeated later working for the Asian Development Bank in Manila. Now that I am semi-retired I apply my knowledge and skills to my role as a career advisor at LSE.

If you study anthropology, it is important to have a real interest in what makes people tick and why they behave and think the way they do. As there are few jobs for anthropologists per se, you need to be clear what you want to do before undertaking postgraduate studies in the field. However, a first degree (BA) in Anthropology is a most useful general preparation for life in this era of globalization where you will need to work in teams of people from different nationalities. ‘Soft skills’ are critically important and a knowledge and acceptance of other cultures can only help you in your career. I am also pleased to see that there are a number of international organisations and management consultancy companies now employing those with training in anthropology.