One of my colleagues asked me maybe a year ago "how I know so much about the countries I work on". At that time the question struck me as odd. Sure, I might know a fair bit about the geographical region I deal with in my job but isn't that supposed to be normal?
The question keeps coming back to me over the last few months, also because of comments other colleagues have made to me. Such as that I always read every document there is, know what it is about, and can comment intelligently about it. The first isn't true in my perception so these comments are always a bit mysterious to me.
But I think I know now why this is - why people see me in this way. What I do in my job links for a large part to something that is a part of my live and that I am immensely interested in and fascinated by: Asia, more specifically China right now and Japan in the past.
Just a few examples:
> I have travelled extensively in the Asian region, mostly in Japan. And would love to see more and more.
> A third of the books I've read for fun in my spare time this year were about China, with another third on that other topic which I find increasingly intriguing: sustainability. I don't read these books out of a sense of compulsory reading to keep up with my field. I read them because I enjoy them, I love reading about other people's experiences about these places, or about current developments etc.
> I follow several blogs about these countries and topics, because I'm genuinely interested.
> I happily go to debate evenings on any of these topics.
And to be honest, I don't think many of my colleagues do the same about their respective countries/regions.
So it's no surprise that I do actually know a lot. And that I can comment on a certain topic or development without having read the full 80-page report on it. That actually has nothing to do with how hard I work, but everything to do with having found a job which engages me fulltime with those issues that I find personally fascinating and worldchanging. It also doesn't mean that I've made my hobby into my work - because what I do for a living I wouldn't want to do for free. But it does feel like a pretty close ideal situation.
No wonder I'm having trouble letting go of this particular job. Though I also know that whatever comes next will ideally include the same topics and issues - and that shouldn't be too hard considering the growing importance of the region worldwide!