You are considering a career in International Relations and need some directions on how to go about. This article is one of a series of articles designed to help you with your personal career development in International Relations. As with any career, a career in International Relations requires dedication, and a pro-active attitude.
Understanding the field
The field of International Relations is a broad one, and it helps to understand what qualifies. Students of International Relations will find out there is a large difference between the different universities due to the coursework, interdisciplinary approach and specializations. You can earn a bachelor's, master's, or a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree in International Relations. But having a degree in International Relations is just one of the first steps you need to take to actually start working in the field.
Students and professionals often will voice their desire to start an International Relations career. But this desire is often vague and general and doesn't fit the positions out there. It therefore helps if you choose an interdisciplinary approach or specialization that fits with your personal skills and background. One should also be aware that not everybody out there understands what the field of International Relations is. So if you find yourself in a job interview and you are being asked what your degree is all about, chances are they do not understand. And you should wonder if this is the job you want.
Develop & Promote Skills
It is common for professionals in this field have a specific skill set that makes them stick out. E.g., most professionals know more then 1 language, especially in Europe. You should be aware that in order for you to stick out you should know at least 1 more language at C1 or C2 level (you should know what a C1 or C2 language level is).
The same applies for other skills. This means that if you look for job openings you should carefully read the requirements in the description. And only select those positions for which you are truly qualified degree and skill wise!
As with all skills the same universal rule applies; if you don't use it, you will loose it!
This means that in order for you to keep your skills you should use them frequently. This can be in your current job, or you can volunteer for a charity that allows you to promote and/or develop your skills. The field of International Relations is a dynamic field that constantly evolves. So make sure you stay up to date!
Be ready to volunteer when you are still studying and even after you graduate. Find organizations that match your specialization and publish in an a journal.
There are generally three kind of positions for graduates of International Relations, depending on their specialization and their preference. This list of course doesn't cover all kind of positions out there but it does give you a good overview of what to expect. One of the things that you should expect is that many positions require you to be flexible about where you live. So be prepared to move to another country or be willing to travel a lot depending on the position.
Government positions vary from positions like "Diplomat" or "Political Analyst" or "Intelligence Specialist". As with most of these positions you will start out as a trainee and depending on your career path you will be able to achieve one of these positions. What you should know is that there is not a job opening for "Diplomat", these are positions you grow into from other positions such as a Foreign Service Officer.
There are many non-profit organizations that operate in the field of International Relations. A lot of these organizations are often charities and have a specialized agenda such as human rights, children rights, etc. Positions such as "Communication Specialist" or "Fund Raiser" are more common with non-profit organizations but also research positions are frequently used. The latter applies to Academic careers in the field.
For Profit Positions
Although Lobbyists are not only hired by for profits they usually are associated with profit organizations. Lobbyists have a strong background in political sciences and International Relations as they research and analyze legislation. Besides "Lobbyists", "Public Affairs Adviser" is a common job opening in the profit sector.
We live in an era of online job portals and resume databases, and the market is competitive. The competition is fierce and especially in this age it is important to network. It really helps if you attend networking events and expand your network. In person meetings help tremendously and it is your personal network that will make the difference so you stand out.
CIRIS is here to help you with this by facilitating these kind of connections by providing you with tools to stand out, such as our journal and other projects.