What Does A Diplomat Do?

"I want a career that would enable to experience new cultures and meet new people at the same time. A friend advised that if I’m serious about this, I should work for the US Foreign Service and become a diplomat. It sounds appealing but my question is: What does a diplomat do?"

asked by Ray H. from Palm Springs, California

Diplomats represent the interests of the United States in different countries around the world. The ambassador heads a diplomatic team in various countries and is considered the representative of the US President in a particular country. Foreign Service Officers are trained diplomats who help the ambassador in representing the United States as well as in understanding the events and culture in the country that they are assigned in.

Diplomats may be further divided into economic officers, management officers, political officers, public diplomacy officers and consular officers. They all carry out different responsibilities. Negotiating with foreign governments for new trade and business laws is the task of economic officers while the charge to keep the ambassador informed of the latest developments in the country’s political scene lies with political officers.

Activities that have to do with establishing mutual understanding and drumming up support for US policies are taken care of by public diplomacy officers while assisting and safeguarding the rights of American citizens in a foreign country are tasks of consular officers. All the activities of the embassy, consulate or diplomatic mission must be coordinated by management officers.

No matter what their responsibilities are, diplomats are required to always put their best foot forward in their dealings with the representatives of any foreign county. They must always keep in mind that their mission is to positively characterize and support the economic, political and social stance of the United States on different issues. They must not only be knowledgeable about current affairs but also have the knack for talking about these topics and getting the right message across without causing friction to diplomatic ties as much as possible.

Diplomats must also be keen observers and dedicated researchers because they have to relay the information they have gathered to their ambassador who will also give it to the folks at Washington. A very important task that diplomats regularly participate in is negotiating treaties and agreements. These are crucial in maintaining strong international ties, keeping the peace and continuing a dynamic business relationship with foreign countries.

Diplomats must be conscientious in conducting all the necessary research first to determine the pros and cons of a proposed agreement before proceeding to the negotiating table.

Frequent travel and assignments to different areas of the world is a regular feature in the life of diplomats. Meetings and negotiations with world leaders is another. This is what makes it a very challenging and often stressful job. Despite the exhaustion and homesickness that can strike diplomats at any given time, they should always be ready and confident when a situation requires them to defend and uphold the interests of the United States in foreign countries. This is not the career for the faint-of-heart but it’s definitely fulfilling and rewarding for those who are called to a life of diplomacy and international relations.

Career Spotlight: Diplomat

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