Careers Advice, Preparing for your future, What's On

International Relations – Is it the job for you?

Virginia Bonet Morrell, final year Jomec student, attended John Hemmings career talk and shares her experience with you …

john hemmings

Last Thursday, 23rd October, John Hemmings, who is part of Cardiff University Alumni, gave an inspiring talk about life in International Relations (IR) today.

In a friendly and approachable manner, John engaged with students from the start in a talk full of interesting stories and valuable advice. International Relations is a broad field that involves theoretical knowledge as well as practical experience. John Hemmings’s career exemplifies this dual nature of IR since he is a doctoral candidate in the International Relations Department at the LSE, but also has a vast experience in the field, for instance he has been UK secretariat at the UK-Japan 21st Century Group’s 30th Annual Conference and he has become a Committee Member of the CSCAP-EU.

Furthermore, as “politics is always changing” there are many aspects in International Relations and he has been involved in many different activities from organising conferences to negotiating with the Taliban to writing reports about military tactics. He is definitely an interesting persona.

Here are some tips John gave to students on how to start a career in IR and be successful:

–        Find a region or theme of expertise

According to John it is essential to specialise in a sector since that would put you apart from others. For instance, his region of expertise is East Asia since he spent several years researching in Japan, the Korean Peninsula and China in order to write reports for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR).

–        “Follow your passion”

It is important to pursue a career in something that interests you. In order to decide this he encouraged students to do “The bookstore test”. When he was younger he intended to go to Law School, however he always found himself in the politics and IR section of bookstores instead so he decided to follow his passion professionally.

–        Travel as much as you can

John reiterated the necessity to be a travel person in order to make a career in the field of IR. According to him “going abroad puts you in the real category rather than an aspirant”. Hence, even if you have not had the chance to travel too much yet, you should definitely show your willingness to travel when applying for positions, internships and masters.

–        Do a Masters Degree

International Relations is a very competitive field so an MA degree sets you apart. Furthermore, it is the best way to start a career in this sector, particularly if you do your masters in a prestigious university, because here is where you start to build your contacts from professors and lecturers who might recommend you to organisations.

–        Stay in Capital Cities

He stressed the importance of living in Capital cities such as London, Washington or Paris since these are the places where government decisions take place.

–        Make your own business Cards

Contacts and networking is essential in International Relations, this is why he recommended having your own business cards. Give them around whenever you meet someone as this will force others to give you theirs.

–        “Keep trying and don’t give up”

Finally, John admitted it seems hard to start a career particularly because you will be rejected often. However, it is important to never give up and it is ok to be a bit “pushy” sometimes. He explained how he got his first job after handing his CV directly to the employer.

Students were very impressed by the end of the talk and many raised their hands to ask questions on masters applications, internship advice and personal requirements to make a career in the field.

I would like to encourage you to go as many Guest Lectures, Careers Fairs and talks as possible, even if they’re not related to what you’re studying, meeting successful people might be an enlightening experience that will motivate you to work harder in your studies.


Best wishes


Learn more about John and his career


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