How To Get A Job In A Foreign Affairs Department

By Subodh / November 19, 2013

Looking for employment in foreign affairs? You will need both academic and professional training as well as practice in building strong relationships and resolving conflict. Of course, it’s a no brainer that a position in foreign affairs requires that you specialize in a foreign language as well as in English, because you may be asked to regularly translate documents as well as communicate in and interpret native and alien languages.

Preparing For A Career In Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs

  1. Learn the theory of international peace and the various practices adopted by countries in resolving conflicts.
  2. Choose a specialization – for example, conflict sensitivity, program monitoring, conflict management or any other. Do not attempt to become a jack-of-all-trades.  Your niche will help you find the right job.
  3. Your courses will cover how international development organizations, educational institutions, governments, not-for-profits and other organizations function. Therefore, when you are studying a course in foreign affairs, you are also learning how a variety of institutions function by understanding how they work towards achieving their goals.  A degree in international relations can yield a surprising number of job possibilities: from journalist to diplomat to market research analyst.
  4. Before sending out your resume, take the time to interview friends or acquaintances who are employed in the same industry. If you don’t have any diplomat friends, use Facebook or LinkedIn to make connections in the field of international affairs. Such folks can give you terrific insights into the sector and help you make a decision about which area best suits your skills and temperament.
  5. Learn to be a good listener – no, make that a fantastically patient listener. You must hear everything, digest the information, and then react. This is one profession where acting too quickly can result in saying or doing the wrong thing.
  6. Develop a thick skin, because you will be criticized and even condemned by your countrymen and aliens. So, if you sport sensitive skin, now is the time to shed it and put on thick fleece.
  7. Ethics are as important as a thick skin. Examine each organization’s ethical practices before applying for a job.
  8. Whatever you say must be sugar coated. Every criticism that comes out of your mouth should fair, reasonable, and empathetic to the listener. This is an art and not everyone can master it.
  9. Write a strong resume and a compelling cover letter. If writing scares you, hire a professional to do the job.
  10. Get creative when exploring job vacancies. Exciting foreign affairs job opportunities may not be posted on regular employment sites. You should check out peace building and foreign affair forums, the UN job list, sites like Idealist (which post non-profit jobs), government sites that carry job vacancies in international agencies, social entrepreneurship sites, social change job sites, EU jobs, philanthropy sites, etc.
  11. If you are unsure about your capabilities, enroll as a volunteer to obtain necessary experience.

These steps may help you prepare for a job in any foreign affairs agency. It all comes down to your skills, professionalism and work ethic. Good luck.