The Promises and Pitfalls of International Consulting

Presentation addresses complexities in consultancy work

-By Charles Givens

February 9, 2024

As a part of the Duke Career Center’s Global Career Week, Dr. Paniz Musawi Natanzi, Postdoctoral Associate at the Duke University Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC), led a discussion on navigating the complexities of international consulting to a diverse audience that included undergraduates, graduates and staff.

Dr. Paniz Musawi Natanzi addresses attendees at her event.
Dr. Paniz Musawi Natanzi (second from left), addresses attendees at her event. (Photo credit: Rhiannon See)

Musawi Natanzi drew on her background working for NGOs, IOs, start-ups, and institutions in both Afghanistan and Germany to emphasize the importance of social relations. She underscored the power of “human connections” in professional and personal networks and in the process of applying for consultancy jobs. “Something you might not necessarily find when you Google ‘consulting’ is that friendships matter,” Musawi Natanzi added.


Musawi Natanzi encouraged participants to view setbacks as valuable learning experiences. As an example, Musawi Natanzi shared an experience working for a NGO in pandemic-stricken Kabul. She signed a contract with a three-stage workflow. However, the contract was abruptly terminated after the first stage. She assumed it was because her client did not like her work. On the contrary, they liked Musawi Natanzi’s work so much that they saw no need to continue the contract and pay her fully. “Learning from failures is how you move forward,” said Musawi Natanzi of her experience.

The latter portion of the discussion focused on practical tools for attendees to use. Examples included identifying opportunities for connections via sites like LinkedIn, taking advantage of Duke’s Alumni network, figuring out a competitive rate for consultancy work, and effectively managing the complexities of working in different political and cultural contexts. Sensitive topics like racism, taxation and ethical dilemmas within the sector were also addressed.

Musawi Natanzi’s presentation and discussion provided a valuable roadmap for aspiring international consultants. By sharing practical strategies and real-world experiences, she equipped attendees with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the intricacies of development work in a globalized world.