Interested in a Career in Foreign Affairs?
Article written by Amy Sandiford-Watts
Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, director and founder of diplomatic consultancy group Grassroot Diplomat is offering one-on-one coaching sessions to students looking to pursue a career in the foreign affairs and government sector.
Rahman-Figueroa, who is 26, founded Grassroot Diplomat when she found that, despite having a Masters degree and two years of unpaid work experience under her belt, being a recent graduate still meant it was difficult for her to compete against older candidates for government positions.
Rahman-Figueroa took the advice of an acquaintance at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who suggested she set up her own diplomatic consultancy business. She used the skills she gained studying a postgraduate degree in Diplomatic Studies at the University of Westminster, along with training from the European Union Commission and the United Nations that she completed whilst studying, to set up Grassroot Diplomat. Within a month, she had her first paid client.
Now Grassroot Diplomat is a consultancy service with clients that include non-governmental organisations (NGOs), youth networks and community leaders from around the world. It has no allegiance to one particular government and assists in strengthening policy-related projects. The name comes from the concept of grassroots diplomacy: creating a link between political leaders and the rest of society to ensure that policies created are in the public interest. They have already represented clients in Canada, Ghana, Pakistan and Britain, and offer services including policy research and project assessment.
Now an employer herself, Rahman-Figueroa often receives CVs from graduates in the same position she was once in. She believes in giving graduates a chance – her team includes experienced diplomats along with graduates who have an interest in foreign affairs, but little or no experience in the field, who she offers short-term research positions.
But with such a competitive jobs market, she knows from experience that many more graduates are struggling to get themselves noticed. Surprisingly, the United Nations is struggling to fill internships not because applications are low, but because all applicants are so similar.
She is now offering coaching sessions to students and graduates to give them the chance to get personalised feedback on their CV and covering letter (as an employer she’s seen more than 3000), and tips on how best to present themselves to set themselves apart from the competition when applying for jobs and internships. Rahman-Figueroa is in the unique position of being able to see both sides of the coin – her advice comes from her own experience as a frustrated graduate struggling to get noticed, as well as the knowledge and expertise she has gained running Grassroot Diplomat. For students applying for extremely competitive posts at national and international government institutions such as the United Nations, it’s an invaluable chance to find out if they’ve done enough to give themselves an edge in the jobs market.