How people fall into the role of diplomats

Choosing a career in diplomacy is a deliberate decision that requires one to formally join the Foreign Service. However, there are many instances where people have falled into a diplomatic post more as an accident than a purposeful choice.

Ban Ki Moon, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, is an excellent example of someone with a successful career in international diplomacy. Growing up in South Korea, he studied the English and French language at an early age, which allowed him to participate in an essay writing contest for the Red Cross. As a reward for his participation, he took part in a study trip to the United States where he met former U.S. president, John F. Kennedy. Around this time, he had already made up his mind that he wanted to become a diplomat. He followed up his dream by pursuing his first degree in international relations in Seoul, which prepared him to work in global environments. Consequently, he completed further degrees in the US, before returning to South Korea to start his career as a diplomat. From humble beginnings, he went a long way to becoming the Secretary-General of one of the biggest multilateral diplomatic institutions in the world.

Another great example of a diplomatic leader is Nelson Mandela, who grew up in the Apartheid system of South Africa. He fought against injustice from an early age and decided to make a career as a lawyer to help his community. However, as the system was so oppressive, he decided to join an underground movement as a freedom fighter. As a result of many illegal activities for his people’s freedom, Mandel was imprisoned for over 20 years. It wasn’t unti after his sentence that he became president of South Africa and abolished Apartheit together with former president F. W. de Clerk. Both received a joint Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. After his political position, Mandela started a career as UNESCO Goodwill ambassador, serving as an inspiration for young changemakers worldwide.

An accidental diplomat, Angelina Jolie has become famous for her humanitarian work with the United Nations. A Hollywood star without higher education, Jolie is known to have drug addiction and mental health problems in her younger years, which didn’t stop her from becoming the Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Her desire to help people grew ever since she adopted her first child from Cambodia. Other famous diplomatic figures from the media include Steven Seagal, Sidney Poitier, Muhammed Ali and Dennis Rodman.

While getting into the Foreign Service is highly competitive and slim in chance, there are other ways to get involved in diplomacy without going via the traditional route. Grassroot Diplomat has a huge library of information that covers skills areas to help you become a specialist so that you can one day accidental move into diplomacy, without it being an accident at all!

 

Sources

Eversloh Saskia (2018) – Only one percent makes the EU concours -https://www.karriere.de/mein-naechster-job/bewerben-bei-der-eu-nur-ein-prozent-schafft-den-concours/23043468.html

Mandela Nelson (1994): The long road to freedom

Maggie Farley and Bruce Wallace (9 October 2006). "Aspiring U.N. Chief Is a Harmonizer, Not a Rock Star; South Korean career diplomat Ban Ki-moon may lack charisma, but he has many fans". LA Times

UNHCR (2019): Special Envoj Angelina Jolie - https://www.unhcr.org/special-envoy-angelina-jolie.html