The summer run of L+A labs ended on a high note, as we proudly presented our final career development program of the season, “How To Get a Job in International Relations,” to a full house of interns and young professionals. Council on Foreign Relations, one of our newest partners, hosted the July 27 event at their DC office.
Contributing a wealth of professional experience to the program were speakers Zaid A Zaid, former Special Assistant to the President and Associate White House Counsel in the Obama Administration; Alexandria Gilkey, Director of Washington Human Resources at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Ronald S. Robinson, Senior Advisor for Human Resources at the State Department.
Throughout the program, the speakers reiterated that working in international relations requires a high degree of flexibility in relation to all aspects of one’s career. “Be flexible about what you want to do in foreign affairs. You likely won’t find the exact job you are looking for, so find a way to be flexible about pursuing your passion. You have to be open to having different experiences and be able to go anywhere,” said Zaid A. Zaid. “This applies to jobs within the Foreign Service, as well as having an openness to positions outside of it. Even if you are firm on wanting to join the Foreign Service, the current hiring freeze necessitates seeking other positions in the interim.” However, “in a city like DC, there’s something for everyone,” Ronald Robinson assured the audience. “There are a lot of opportunities in DC: nonprofits, church humanitarian organizations, the Red Cross, etc. You have to take an inventory of your skill set and find what’s right for you.”
Ms. Gilkey, a human resources director, addressed some of the audience concerns related to applying for their first job in international relations. She explained that she looks at a lot of factors when reviewing applications for entry-level positions, including education, leadership experiences and volunteer activity, and that an error-free resume and cover letter are essential. Applicants who secure an interview with a government agency, NGO or think tank should demonstrate a willingness “to be a jack-of-all-trades in that first position.” Strong communication skills are equally crucial, and applicants should expect to complete a writing test as part of the interview process
Liberty and Access for All extends special thanks to Council on Foreign Relations for sponsoring this event.