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Diplomatic Services operational officer: Job description

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A Diplomatic Services operational officer protects and promotes UK interests throughout the world in a variety of ways. Operational entrants (grade B3) specialise in the practical side of diplomatic work, but also have the opportunity to influence international and diplomatic development.

Following an initial period of at least three years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) , usually at two separate postings, entrants take an overseas posting in a British embassy, high commission, mission or consulate.

Individual roles vary and may include consular work, immigration work, and political and commercial projects. They can also provide support and advice to ministers responsible for developing UK foreign policy.

Typical work activities

At operational entry level, new employees may work in managerial roles as geographic desk officers, in human resources (HR), or in the consular service within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Most new entrants are placed in one of the FCO's main departments in London. The range of tasks undertaken varies according to the department. For example, in a geographical section, you will be collating country profiles and disseminating this information, while in the human resources (HR) department, you will deal with recruitment, training and a broad range of HR work.

Typical work activities may include:

  • drafting and proofreading written reports;
  • liaising with high commissions and embassies;
  • organising and ensuring the smooth running of ministerial and diplomatic visits, from transport arrangements to entertainment;
  • answering general written correspondence by letter or email;
  • analysing and interpreting written material;
  • dealing with queries by telephone from other departments, members of the public and overseas contacts;
  • dealing with queries from the public face to face;
  • updating travel advice and information;
  • managing staff, including overseeing staff performance and carrying out annual appraisals;
  • managing departmental or project budgets;
  • updating and completing personnel details, accounts and other administrative tasks;
  • supporting and assisting colleagues with their policy work;
  • undertaking other specific activities related to your particular department.

Overseas, the role may involve similar activities to those listed above, in addition to:

  • assisting British exporters and individuals;
  • working as an entry clearance officer, assessing visa applications and conducting interviews;
  • undertaking specialist project work, depending on where you are posted.

These initial postings are decided on the basis of candidates' experience and skills at entry. For later postings, post holders apply internally and go through a selection process.

Written by AGCAS editors
February 2013

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