For decades, practitioners operating in international affairs have been trained to have traditional skills that are no longer adequate. Former British ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer summed up the diplomat’s traits as:
insatiable curiosity about other countries;
willingness to spend half of one’s life abroad;
profound knowledge and understanding of foreign countries; and,
a keen interest in foreign policy.
Those are staple skills and traits of the diplomat. Proficiency in negotiations, protocol and political reporting will always be indispensable. The deficit in training is a reluctance to upgrade instruction so practitioners can learn to understand how international interests directly affects citizens at a more personal level.
In our progressively interconnected world---our aptly named “global village”---new demands on professionals go far beyond the simple addressing of standard state-to-state interests. Increasingly, we deal with non-state actors to take global issues forward and respond to civic engagements on digital platforms. Careers in international relations are stymied by complex sensitivities and difficult decisions that require a balance of raw emotional intelligence with practical common sense.
To be successful in this age, we must be able to balance both hard and soft skills. Both skills are required to effectively engage with global stakeholders who do not always share the same language, culture, approach or interests. The best candidates re-imagine their natural transferable skills so they can adapt to new work environments. These could be as diverse and far-flung as a desk job in New York or a relief agent’s job in Calais. The best in the field equip themselves with essential language skills that could make or break relationships at a fundamental level. As the diplomat Oliver Miles once said, “Diplomat’s language skills can stop wars [and so] we must not let them slide”.
When it comes to international careers, preparedness evolves from conscious choices that create the right skills for the job. Identifying our skills gap is essential, but it doesn’t have to demoralise us. The good news is we are likely to find we have more soft skills acquired from trial and error than from formal education. The knack for good communication, likeability and flexibility are basic qualities, but they can take you quite far in being recognised for your interpersonal work. Transferable hard skills can also be honed from informal self-instruction, such as reading and remote observation, and these can be perfected over time. How you apply these innate talents and this funnelling of powerful knowledge will determine whether you turn weaknesses into positions of strength.
To help you through many of the challenges described above, an entire chapter called “Skills for a Changing World” was created in the Diplomatic Planner that is dedicated to helping you assess and focus your skills for an international career.
In the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy, you will find a whole host of resources that will help you get to grips on the kind of skills that is necessary to survive and thrive in international relations. We will be there with you every step of the way.
“Skills for a Changing World” is a dedicated resource to help you appraise your skills through a series of competency analysis that examines technical and soft skills. You will also critically examine your current experiences through a series of quizzes, tests, and assessments. Our goal is to help you have enough information to discover gaps in your skills, and to draw up a personal development plan that prepares you for the wider scope of international relations. At any time you feel lost or require further help in discovering your skills gap and strengths, you can always choose to take up Diplomatic Career Coaching with us where you will be given one-to-one personalised and tailoured coaching to suit your needs and schedule.
Don’t forget, that as a member of the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy, you are provided with a discount for any of our training and coaching. Use the code: COACHME at the checkout.