Case study

Civil servant — Jack Mably

With excellent opportunities for travel, and scope for learning and development, Jack enjoys working for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). Find out how his degree helped him secure his first job in diplomatic relations

How did you get your job?

I studied international relations at the University of Birmingham, graduating in July 2017, and am currently working for the FCO.

During my time at university I took on a lot of extracurricular responsibilities, including serving two terms as vice president and president of my students' union. Getting involved in the students' union and part-time work gave me both the skills and experience needed to secure my dream job.

Despite all this, I found it difficult to communicate all the various things I'd done in a way that was suitable for the job application process. Thankfully, with the help of the university's careers network, I was able to polish my CV and brush up on my interview skills to get me over the finish line.

How relevant is your international relations degree?

Very relevant. I initially chose international relations because I thought it would complement the International Baccalaureate I studied at Truro College. I knew I wanted to work in a globally-focused organisation with travel opportunities, but had no idea where I would end up. International relations turned out to be the perfect course for me to build on my love of history and think critically about the modern international political system. This in turn provided an excellent foundation for me to begin to build my career in the FCO.

What's a typical day like?

The best part of working in the FCO is the variety of tasks and issues you deal with on a day-to-day basis.

In my short time here, however, I have travelled round the Western Balkans, built up the skills to work through complex legal documents and assisted ministers with their business in Parliament. For example, I have worked on Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) and worked closely with a junior minister covering the Americas region.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The travel is an obvious perk and is something I had always looked for in any graduate role I was applying for. However, I also really appreciate the importance that is placed on learning and development. There are opportunities to learn new languages, develop key diplomatic skillsets and enhance your knowledge in key policy areas through the FCO's Diplomatic Academy.

What are the challenges?

One of the main challenges is that once every three to five years you have to change roles, and often countries. For some, including myself, this is exciting. However, it does mean diplomats are often away from family and friends in the UK.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

In five years' time I hope to still be at the FCO, working abroad in one of the many embassies located across the world.

What are you tips for other international relations students?

  • Make the most of university. Your international relations degree is just one part of what employers are looking for. Get involved in student groups, sports teams or part-time work to start getting the transferable skills and experience needed for any graduate career.
  • Use your university careers service. Whether it's helping to figure out your career path, checking your CV or preparing for interviews, you would be foolish not to give yourself that extra advantage going into any job application.
  • Keep your options open. A degree in international relations doesn't only lead to jobs in government and politics. I have course friends now working internationally for local charities, consulting for multinational organisations and developing food products for large online retailers.

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