Keys to Getting Ahead in Foreign Policy: Understanding, Relationship Building, and Paying Your Dues

by Elizabeth Fischer Laurie

Takeaways for professional success from YPFP’s Global Leader Advisor Series with Brooke Neuman.

On February 10, 2015, Brooke Neuman, global leader and chief of staff at the McChrystal Group, a consultancy, kicked off YPFP’s new Global Leader Advisor Series, a program designed to foster mentorship of the next generation of foreign policy leaders. The call was kicked off by YPFP Founder and Chairman, Joshua Marcuse. Brooke then began by sharing her best career advice and ended by taking questions from the audience.

Brooke stressed the importance of understanding, relationship building, and paying your dues when developing a successful career in any field. She began by discussing two crucial foundations that have underpinned her career: understanding and relationship building. She suggests that having an understanding of your workplace is key to figuring out how you as a professional fit into the mission of the organization, and allows you to figure out how to stand out from your peers. As for relationship building, Brooke acknowledged that relationships must be both personal and specific. Starting from a genuine interest in working together or getting along is essential to creating these lasting and meaningful relationships. She suggests asking insightful questions to those you want to get to know over coffee.

Brooke then tackled the issue of establishing a career in foreign policy. Job seekers, she says, can benefit by considering looking for employment outside the traditional foreign policy realm (e.g., at the Department of State, Defense, or USAID), like at the Department of Treasury or Commerce, think tanks, or non-governmental organizations. Given how difficult and time-consuming it is to become a full-time federal employee, open-mindedness is important. Brook then discussed how once you are working in the foreign policy field, it becomes easier to network and build the career you want.

Brooke then explored the topic of mentorship, the main theme of the Global Leader Advisor Series. First, she reminded listeners that everyone needs a mentor, that formal relationships are not important, and that you are never too young to start mentoring. Mentors can be found in a variety of places: your alma maters, supervisors, and your personal network. She cautions that your mentor is not going to find your next career move for you. Rather, the point of the relationship is to share information with a mentor to get advice, thoughts, and wisdom from someone who may have been in your situation before you. Next, Brooke discussed the importance of having many different types of mentors to call upon when a particular issue arises in your career. Developing these relationships before you actually need them ensures they are available when you do. Finally, she reminded everyone that mentoring comes back around and that by helping others you help yourself, too.

Finally, Brooke concluded her talk with a few stories from her own career on the issue of the importance of paying your dues. She discussed how paying dues never stops in your career and is often necessary to prove that you are a capable employee. Brooke closed her remarks by telling listeners that even the most important senior leaders pay dues because it is the best training for being a good colleague and a team player.

Like what you read? Join us for our upcoming Global Leader Advisor Series on Monday, March 30 with Sarah Platts, global leader and senior consultant at Monitor Deloitte, the strategy unit of Deloitte Consulting, LLP. YPFP members can RSVP here.

Elizabeth Fischer Laurie is the YPFP Global Leaders Coordinator and currently works as an Attorney-Advisor for the Department of Health and Human Services.

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