Careers advice

I get a lot of people coming to me asking how they can get a job like mine. This was my most recent reply:

Dear X,

Thanks for your letter of 1 January. As an astrophysics graduate myself I sympathise with your position as a technologically literate individual who wants to get into the more exciting world of international relations. If you’re interested in how I got here, my CV is at .

I have to say that your experience, extensive and impressive as it is, doesn’t immediately signal [my employers] as an appropriate next place of employment. Of the three heads of field offices currently on my team, one has years of writing politically sensitive material combined with some time spent managing international aid programmes in the former Soviet Union, and the other two actually have doctorates in the politics of the regions they work on backed up by experience of working on the ground. Academic qualifications are not indispensable for this line of work (though they certainly help); however field experience, preferably in a politically sensitive role, is completely essential. For more junior positions, while experience is less of an issue, linguistic skills are very important. (In any case I don’t think you are interested in a junior position.)

If you’re really keen to get into the sort of work we do, I suggest you put your foot in the water by getting onto the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission for the coming Georgian parliamentary elections, whose date has been announced today as March 28th. [Your country’s foreign ministry] will by now be desperately hunting for people to send, and if you can actually pronounce “Tbilisi” they will probably not hesitate to offer you a place. That will at least allow you to get a sense of what the work is like, or could be like, and also gives you a head start in looking for OSCE field positions. The other option, which is what I advise everyone who asks me this question, is simply to choose a target country, move to its capital for a month, and knock on doors until you find a job. (I admit that although I give everyone this advice I am not at all sure that anyone has taken it!)

I’m sure there is international work out there in the sort of area we work in for you. If you do end up in Georgia in March let me know and I’ll put you in touch with our head of office there.

Best of luck,

One thought on “Careers advice

  1. I thought that there was legislation now to prevent people being both MLAs and councillors. Stephen Agnew is both! How does that work?

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