One of the most recurring questions when I am giving training on International affairs is how to build a career. Trying to answer it, as far as in 2007, I even published a guide (in Spanish and Galician) with other colleagues. However, I do not have a magical formula and I will not be able to say “send your application there or there, I am sure you will be hired”. But I can speak from ten years experience and I guess that it also may serve to other fields of work. So, I propose three simple but not quick steps:
Search for a specialization:
Most of us went out of the University with a generic diploma, type Law, Political Science, European studies,… And we are many in the same case. Subsequent studies, the first experiences or even affinities will help us to define a more specific profile.
For example, someone with the title “European studies” can be specialized in Regional Policy, Competition Law, in R+D, in Transport… The same goes for “Development cooperation”: Logistics, Food Security, Governance, Emergency Actions… etc. You can try to apply the same reasoning to your own studies.
This facilitates not only the search for work, but also “to be recognizable” as a possible value for the organization that recruits.
Improve your knowledge of languages:
It seems obvious, but many international relations professionals do not speak more than ”average” English and their own language. In a context where our colleagues (and competitors) speak at least three languages as if they had been born three times, “average” English does not open doors, but it may close them.
My advice would be to improve your skills in the language of Shakespeare and (try to) learn a less common language: Romanian, Bulgarian, Russian, Chinese, Czech, Farsi, Arabic… Something to help, once again, to position yourself as a different product in the labour market
Build a reputation:
Once the specific profile has been defined and you speak (and write) English, the time has come to make yourself known. In this connected world, where the majority of jobs are found through the trite “networking”, it is essential to show off, and often demonstrate that you are an eminence in your field. It is not enough to write down in your CV “I know lots on the exogenous reproduction of the bengali duck” (or anything as appropriate), you must display it. The best way is to write (and publish) about it.
Discussion in LinkedIn groups, for example, is a good way to start sharing knowledge and evaluating the context. If you have an account on Twitter (or even facebook) it would be interesting to “follow” other experts or organizations working in the same subject, and publish content (own or others) of the chosen field.
In a second phase, once that our repertoire of sources is organized and updated, it is the time to write. Where? The simplest answer is to open your own blog. However, in order to improve reputation, you must be praised by others, so the advice is to navigate (and wreck) in the various “Call for Papers” in paper and virtual publications, guest blogging and so on.
Once your content is published, please do not forget to advertise it on social networks, avoiding spam techniques (!). Do not forget to leave the floor open for exchange and to target your public through key words.
And, of course, please start commenting here! May you add any tip?