Introduction to International Affairs

A career in international affairs can be fueled by a passion to travel and a desire to learn about our global environment, effectuate change, and make a difference in the world. As an interdisciplinary field at Wellesley, the international affairs major exposes students to an array of perspectives and analytical methodologies that equip them to enter a workforce in a broad range of organizations and experiences. The work in international affairs can truly change the world; however, it is important to focus on the small sSETPH that will maximize your success and lead you to a fruitful career in international affairs. The first, and arguably the most important, step is to develop your skills. 

Skills
A strong skill set is paramount in the international affairs, and especially the international development space. Skills can set you apart from an incredibly competitive applicant pool. In the 2016 Devex survey of 114 global development recruiters, the three most important skills (regardless of sector) for a development professional to remain competitive in the current hiring landscape were the following: 1

  • Capacity Building: Ranked #1 by a margin of nearly 25%
  • Data Driven & Evidence-Based Programming
  • Impact Evaluation

In addition, language ability and fluency continue to be important and often required when applying for positions. In the recent 2017 Hiring Trends Analysis by Devex, “49% of recruiters listed French as the most in-demand language, other than English in 2017. Additional in-demand languages include Spanish (21.4%), Arabic (15.5%).”2

While the aforementioned skills are especially crucial to the international development space, it is important to note that they are helpful in any global role or position in international affairs. Organizations (regardless of sector) must assess the ability to make an impact, and success in different regions. As you search for opportunities, be sure to research organizations that align with your interests and understand how you can add value to the organizations. Outlined below are additional sample skills that are important in this industry. Please bear in mind that you can develop these skills in a variety of industries, but can leverage them as you apply for positions in international affairs.
 

Key Skills

 

  • Analytics, statistics and quantitative reasoning
  • Program Management
  • Research & Writing
  • Language
  • Field Experience
  • Comfort with ambiguity, adaptability
  • Understanding navigating new cultures
  • Teamwork & Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Conflict Resolution

 

 

International Affairs Interests and Potential Job Titles (Adapted from APSIA)

A career in international affairs often invovles combining your interests and skills. The following are examples of combinations of interests gleaned through coursework and experiences that create potential job titles. The jobs could be in the private, public, multilateral, or nongovernmental sectors. 

Area Studies + Environment = Climate Change Specialist

Geography + Energy = Sustainable Transportation Coordinator

Politics + Economics + History + Language = Country Officer

Computer Science/Tech interest + Policy = Cybersecurity Analyst

History + Business + Area Studies = Political Risk Analyst

Development + Technology = Mobile Health Manager

Communications + Policy = Public Diplomacy Coordinator

Area Studies + Journalism = Human Rights Monitor

Engineering + Development = Monitoring and Evaluation Expert

Diplomacy + Economics = Trade Negotiator

Human Rights + Education = Refugee Assistant

 

Interested in a career as a US Foreign Service Officer? 

Watch a informational interview with U.S. Diplomat Pamela L. Spratlen, United States Ambassador to Uzbekistan and former United States Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan. The video can be found on the GIALP Handshake resource page in the "International Affairs" section. Please note that you will need to log in using your Wellesley credentials — to retrieve your password, click here.

Learn more about the State Department's Internship Program (applications in September for the following summer). There are also virtual internships available through State's Virtual Foreign Service Program. Applications open July 1-31 for the academic year. 

1 Source: 2016 Devex Job Seeker's Guide to Development Recruiting
2 Source: 2017 Hiring Trends Analysis by Devex

 

Resources/Job Boards, and Professional Associations

Resources/Job Boards

  • AidBoard: International Aid Jobs: United Nations, NGOs and non-profit job opportunities.
  • APSIA: Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs. Info about grad programs and careers in IA. 
  • CharityJOB: UK’s busiest site for charity jobs, fundraising jobs, NGO jobs and not for profit jobs
  • Devex: Most popular international development website.
  • DevNetJobs: International development and consultancies offer listings on this site, membership is required to gain access to the complete listings available.
  • Eurobrussels: European Affairs Job website
  • Foreign Policy Association (FPA): Nonprofit organization that seeks to educate the public about foreign policy.
  • GenevaJobs: jobs and consulting opportunities arising within the international development sector in Geneva, Switzerland and Europe
  • Global Jobs: Jobs for global professionals: NGO’s, Think Tanks, Government, Private Sector
  • Hacesfalta: Spanish website with volunteering and NGO’s jobs
  • Idealist.org: Resource for nonprofit, volunteer, and public service oriented opportunities.
  • International Association of Students in Economics and Commerce (AIESEC): A university-based, worldwide internship program for student members interested in international business and management.
  • Jobs4Development: International development jobs
  • National Institute for Research Advancement: NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks, indexed by name or by country of origin.  
  • NGO Advisor: Rankings of NGO, top 20 are free to see
  • NGOJobsVacancies: NGO jobs, Development jobs, Relief jobs and career, humanitarian relief jobs
  • NGO Pulse Vacancies: NGO jobs from South Africa
  • NGO Worldline: A place on the Web for and about the international community of non-governmental organizations (organized by country and region)
  • NGOjobboard: Jobs & internships in relief and development 
  • OneWorld Jobs: The latest ethical jobs and volunteer positions working in development, climate change, human rights and social justice around the world.
  • Policy Jobs: The latest research and policymaking jobs from around the world
  • ReliefWeb: United Nations website providing information to humanitarian relief organizations. Also a director of non-governmental organizations.
  • United Nations: Internships (for graduate students) and job openings in the United Nations are listed.
  • USAJOBS.com: Federal government jobs and internships. Remember that many federal agencies have an international affairs team, even the Smithsonian! 
  • USAID: Provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States.
  • U.S. Department of State: The site provides information about the department's mission, objectives and current international topics and issues.

Selected Professional Associations

International Affairs in the Boston Area

Students interested in careers in international affairs may choose to study or intern abroad, but there are always ways to get experience in the local Boston area. You'll notice that several of the ideas are related to international trade. 

International Development

Introduction

International development is a broad term used to describe work done in the United States or abroad to help international communities (local, national, regional) develop, usually economically and politically. The type of organizations that engage in international develop range from large international organizations—United National Development Programme—to small companies of a dozen people who focus on one aspect of international development. What individuals in this professional share is love for travel and learning about and from new cultures; an area of expertise in development (politics, economic inequality), and a desire to share their experience with others. Along with these traits come strengths including flexibility, adaptability, critical thinking, analytic skills, and empathy.

Working in International Development

Working in international development typically requires some time, even years, spend living and working abroad. Professionals may spend time working internationally and then come back to their home countries to move up to a managerial position or move into the consulting sector. International development projects range in length from decades to months. Consultants in this sector therefore may work on a project for a few months and then move on to a new project. Consulting work is common in international development; consulting provides flexibility to move among companies and projects, but provides less stability.

Sample jobs in international development

  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Economic or political expert
  • Health specialist

See the above section on job boards for links to helpful job search websites

Organizations to explore opportunities in this sector

Skills

  • Intercultural communication
  • Foreign Language
  • Evaluating: Analytics and data analysis, including statistics
  • Writing
  • Knowledge of micro and marcoeconomics
  • Flexibility and adaptability

Check out the content on the Next Generation Development Profession by DEVEX

A Place To Start: Building Relationships & Informational Conversations

Navigating a job search or career path in international affairs can feel overwhelming as there are many options to explore. As you get started, it is important to think about the type of work that you would find to be the most fulfilling - Is there a cause you are passionate about? Are there specific populations you would like to work with? What aspect of the change do you want to be involved in?

As careers in the international affairs industry can be found in a variety of organizations, it is important to learn as much as possible.  This includes the following sectors: public (government), private (development consulting firms and multinational companies), non-profit/non-governmental organization (NGO), and think tanks. It is crucial to build relationships and networks and connect with other students, alumnae, employers, and contacts in your desired area within the industry. The hiring process is much more informal and requires proactive skill development and relationship building to navigate. Informational conversations can help you understand the industry landscape and key players, and gain insight into cultural competencies.

Check out our Informational Interviewing Resource for more information on preparing for your informational interviews.