How to make a living representing your country’s interests abroad?

How to make a living representing your country’s interests abroad?

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Diplomats are the representatives of different States who practice the art of conducting negotiations.  They are appointed by the government and are assigned the responsibility of keeping nice and strong relations regarding the political, economic and social fields of the country with other States.  On paper, a Diplomat actually focuses on three main functions which are representing his country, negotiating and reporting.  However, two more functions could be added: catalyzing other actors with actions and relations abroad, and translating into worlds.

If you think you are a tactful and skillful person in managing delicate situations, and people with from different countries and points of view and, additionally, you love the idea of traveling and learning, this career is for you!

If you actually consider Diplomacy as your career for your professional life, you are choosing a long-term project which will allow you to participate in the planning, implementation and assessment of the foreign policy of your country.  It will also help you develop your ability to adapt to the future, a constant changing reality.  Although you will find hard to break some patterns already established, the complexity of the world requires from you new tools and ways of doing things.  In the national representation you will be competing with a number of new and not so new actors such as corporations, artists, athletes, NGOs, etc.  And, on the other hand, you will be working with technology in different formats which can help but also ruin your efforts to improve the image of your country or to open different communication channels.  

Traditional diplomacy also coexists with the so-called public diplomacy, everything related to strengthen the relation with international public opinion and its branches: cultural, exchange, economic and commercial diplomacy.  As you can notice, the nature of the functions you will be performing are highly demanding.  That is why the selection process of diplomatic staff requires different and more stringent criteria than the required in other areas of government.  You might have to participate in different competitions regulated by the Foreign Service Statute which are not the usual general competition for the recruitment of personnel established in the Civil Service Statute.  In order to participate, you –as an applicant- will be previously required to present a university degree in law, economics or international Relations.  You will also have to take an International Exam to certify competence on second or foreign languages; it is essential to any diplomatic career as you will be continually interacting with foreign colleagues who might not speak your language at all or to a limited extent.  Additionally, a lot of the work you will be doing implies reading and understanding documents in other languages.  If you as a diplomat are not able to speak at least one language different from your mother tongue, your effectiveness as a representative will be very questionable for the Ministry and the State.

Image courtesy of UN Women at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of UN Women at Flickr.com

In addition to having professional training in a specific area, such as International Relations, law, political science and economics, you as a diplomat must be a person with very broad general knowledge about culture and social influential matters.  This will allow you to ensure a satisfactory performance in protecting and promoting the interests of his country.  As you have seen, it is not enough that you have a college degree and one or more languages certified.  You will also be asked –as an applicant- to take written tests in subjects such as writing and spelling in your first language, History of your country, international protocol, universal history, economy, foreign policy of your country, global foreign policy, international law and general education.

Both, during the selection process and performance assessment, you will also be evaluated in terms of the qualities or personality traits that are essential for diplomats such as prudence, tact, courtesy, ability for public relations, common sense, people skills, patriotism, moral values, etc.  Your academic background is not all that matters.

You must know that being a diplomat is a matter of vocation as you will devote a lot of hours working for your country even in your free time.  As a representative of your country, you will be subject to various obligations and responsibilities before and after work or office hours.  For example, you are expected to maintain a decorous private life and to be particularly careful when selecting your friends and even managing family relationships as your close relatives’ attitudes may have negative repercussions in the relationship of your country with others.

Fortunately, you will find labor stability because you will always be part of the diplomatic service even if there are changes in the structure of embassies and consulates of your country.  For instance, if your embassy is closed abroad, you will keep your position and could be sent to another embassy or return to your country to be part of the Ministry of International Relations.  That means, you will not be unemployed.

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