7 Alternative Ways of Becoming a Diplomat

So, you want to become a diplomat? Are you sure you know what that means?

Dennis Rodman with Kim Jong Un

Dennis Rodman with Kim Jong Un

Sure, being a diplomat sounds glamourous. Who doesn’t want to travel on the government’s dime and represent their country on the world stage, shaking hands with the most influential people, and being the face people go to for on-the-ground advice! But have you considered the long years you will be away from home, uprooting your family and starting all over again? How about feeling isolated in an environment you know nothing about, and the struggles that comes with social and cultural immersion? If this still sounds great to you, you will be glad to know that there are many different ways of joining the diplomatic elite without taking the traditional route. Here are a few cheating alternatives to climbing the ladder. 

1.      Ground Yourself with Self-Purpose

Before you seek any position in government, ask yourself “why” you want to join in the first place. Without a firm purpose, you will find yourself lost when making difficult decisions that could affect your, the local people, or even an entire country. Be honest with yourself. If you want to join just to travel and live in new environments, you may struggle with the hard slog that follows after.

2.      Knowledge is Power

Generally, diplomats must have international experience and knowledge with an affinity for languages and the ability to move at a words notice. You must also be comfortable working with various people, and manage situations under difficult circumstances. The best way to gain these skills is by travelling and meeting new people. There is no point staying committed to your country when you don’t know how to deal with people with different lifestyles and ways of thinking. Be versatile. Be water.

3.       Who Would Hire ME?!

Officially, your country’s foreign ministry is the main source of jobs in the field of diplomacy, but you might be surprised with what other opportunities you may find.  Consider joining the Peace Corps, or a non-government organisation that has UN-status. You may be sent on ad hoc UN missions through an organisation you feel passionate about. This is one of the easiest routes to gain experience when you have zero on your resume. Only fresh, eager candidates may apply.

4.      Everyone is an Unofficial Ambassador

When Dennis Rodman went to North Korea a few years ago, believe it or not, he went as a diplomatic envoy to unofficially strengthen bilateral relationships. When Beyonce and Jay-Z visited Cuba, they were considered ‘citizen diplomats’ by engaging with local people and sharing US culture abroad. Luckily, you don’t have to be a celebrity to share your nationality. Every time you travel, you are acting as an Ambassador of your country, by engaging with people, displaying your culture, and speaking in an accent that may not be known to the area you travel into. Show respect, and learn on the job. Who knows? You may be welcomed back by a local host in the future.

5.      But I want to be a REAL diplomat

Well ok, don’t fret. Being a member of an NGO will help you climb the ladder. The goal is to be present in as many important events as possible so that you are recognised as an expert in the field. If this doesn’t quite entice you, consider putting yourself forward as an Honorary Consul. Get someone to nominate you to your local embassy, and grab this position through the back door.

6.      Gaining Influence in the Private Sphere

While diplomats are civil servants in their home countries, much of the world’s influence comes directly from the private sector. Major corporations have interest in international relations, especially if they do business abroad. Trade is the heart of diplomacy, and without interaction with the Trade Office and handful of embassies, your company will lose a large share of foreign customers. Take your talents to the private sector, and you will find yourself on equal footing with formal diplomats with better pay and far fewer restrictions.

7.      Master the Pressure Points

If you are serious about the government route, be prepared to go through a rigorous process of oral and written exams. Each country has a different process, but the key is to master analytics and being loyal to your country. Number crunching is essential, but so is the ability to test your strength of nerve under pressure.