International affairs is a captivating and expansive industry. However, the field is not historically diverse, and this can be challenging for women or minorities who may be hesitant to pursue this path. So how can you approach a career in international affairs?
Step 1: Address the Knowledge Gap
What does a career in international affairs look like? You can answer this question with a little research. The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) breaks down the field of international affairs into four key sectors: public, private, non-governmental (NGO), and multilateral. Within each of these sectors there are various subject areas, including human rights, environmental sustainability, trade policy, and more. Learn more here.
As you research these sectors and subject areas, consider the following:
- Do I see myself working for the public sector (like the U.S. government) or a multilateral organization (like the World Bank)?
- Am I more interested in advocating for the environment, teaching English abroad, or helping with disaster relief?
Step 2: Identify Key Skills
What can you do now to prepare for your future career? First, identify the key skills that are necessary for a successful career in any sector of international affairs. To determine the key skills for international affairs careers, consult this chart:
While different sectors require competency in different skill sets, we can see that there are four competencies that are crucial for international affairs careers in all sectors: oral/written communication; critical thinking; global and intercultural fluency, in addition to other skills like knowledge of a foreign language and quantitative analysis. Explore these competencies and more on our Career Readiness page, which includes a reflection worksheet.
Grow your international affairs skills by considering the following:
- Which skills do I feel confident in?
- Which skill areas do I need to further develop?
- What are some ways I can further develop my skills?
Step 3: Celebrate Representation
As we stated, international affairs is not a historically diverse field. But we can celebrate and recognize some notable leaders paving the way for diverse students. Watch this Council on Foreign Relations panel and listen to the three panelists discuss how they challenged and navigated underrepresentation in their respective positions. Read this article about Black leaders in American national security and foreign policy to hear more successful career stories.
There are also several fellowships, including the Pickering and Rangel fellowships, which are dedicated to women and minorities who wish to pursue international affairs. In terms of next steps, grow your network and reach out to people with experiences similar to yours.
PRO-TIP: Use Eagle Exchange! Alumni are always willing to help students, so draw on the BC community.
Step 4: Connect with a Career Coach
Make an appointment with a career coach to discuss your interests, discover opportunities, leverage resources, and achieve your goals.
Follow these steps to gain confidence in your career path! The more you learn about the field of international affairs, the more you will feel confident in your future steps. Keep learning, keep connecting, and keep growing!
—By Katie Osterkamp, LSOEHD ’22, Graduate Assistant