Alexander W.

Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Alexander W.
Economics and Related Studies
United Kingdom

My employment

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
United Kingdom
Government and civil service
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Diplomat in the United Kingdom

Currently based at the British Embassy in Beijing, managing the UK’s trade and investment relationship with China.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

The FCO oversees the UK’s international relationships, in support of our security and prosperity

What do you do?

Currently based at the British Embassy in Beijing, managing the UK’s trade and investment relationship with China. Previously spent three years at the Embassy in Moscow, as well as jobs in London on Brexit, counter proliferation and the Western Balkans.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

Always wanted to work for my country, and the opportunity to live and work overseas is another huge draw of working in the FCO.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

I always had an interest in working in the civil service, but failed to get onto the Faststream programme during my final year at York. I therefore worked in the City for a couple of years before trying again, with success.

Describe your most memorable day at work

As the coronavirus first emerged in China, the UK government decided to run charter flights to evacuate Brits from Wuhan. I volunteered to travel down from Beijing to Wuhan to help run the flight. Was an incredibly stressful and nervous day, but ultimately the flight was a success (though it meant I then had to be quarantined in a Milton Keynes hotel for two weeks...)

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

It’s not easy being apart from friends and family for long periods when posted abroad. But modern technology makes things easier, and colleagues become really close friends. It’s also hard on partners, who often have to make sacrifices in their own career.

What’s your work environment and culture like?

Diplomacy is quite old fashioned, but the FCO is actually a very modern and diverse employer, though still quite hierarchical.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

Nothing particularly special if I’m honest! Lots of socialising with friends. But this is really important in itself: at York I met people from different backgrounds, supported others at times of trouble, and grew up emotionally.

What would you like to do next with your career?

I’m very happy in the FCO, and hope to continue my career here.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Think about what you want to do, and don’t worry if you don’t get your dream role straight out of uni. Use the York university careers centre - I remember they gave me a mock competency based interview and talked through assessment centres, which was vital in helping me figure out how to approach them. They aren’t as scary as they sound, and you can get better at them if you prepare and practice!

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

Anything really!

Next steps...

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