Becoming Ambassador: Patterns of Status and Geography in the Trajectories of Career Diplomats

Friday, June 24, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:00 PM
255 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Lasse Folke Henriksen, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark
Stefan Andrade, The Danish National Centre for Social Research, copenhagen, Denmark
What does it take to become a succesful diplomat? Diplomacy as a profession has undergone great changes in past decades with new, and increasingly specialized, policy fields taking center stage when states negotiate agreements (Sending et al. 2015). Environmental regulation is a field where most Foreign Service Organizations have had to strengthen their expertise, but trade, finance and cyber security also increasingly require inputs from highly specialized staff. Yet, small state Foreign Service Organizations are constrained in their size and resources and as a result they have traditionally valued generalist skills and focused on training a ‘jack of all trades’ type of diplomat. Diplomats should have a sufficiently broad training to deal with any type of case or any country-specific task, it was thought (Neumann 2012). Today, when international regulations hinge increasingly on expert or area specialists, how organizations of diplomacy train their staff is fundamentally challenged, especially when facing severe resource constraints. They face a clear trade-off between promoting specialists who can recognize issue specific policy opportunities and maintain generalists who know the broad set of tasks within the organization and the general dynamics of the political system. This trade-off is also reflected in the career considerations of diplomats who seek to juggle the perceived benefits of diversified vs more focused experience. When the salience of specialist-professional categories increase, this may also have potential implications for the alleged elite status of diplomats within society more broadly. Cultural capital for instance used to be a key resource that diplomats as a resource used in interactions with their peers in a quest for status. Is cultural capital transported from social background characteristics becoming less important in attaining professional status in diplomatic institutions? In this paper we explore these questions through sequence analysis of small state diplomats career trajectories. We use an original data set on the monthly job registrations of all career diplomats from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs that entered the organization from 1970-2015 to analyze changes in career patterns over time, including the dynamics of status categories and geographical mobility. We add to this data detailed characteristics on the social background and educational trajectories of the diplomats. Modeling more than 10.000 careers deploying a combination of sequence analysis and regression techniques to this data reveals that differences in career patterns can partially be explained by historical contextual factors, institutional traits and individual characteristics. We trace the changing role cultural capital in diplomacy from 1970-2015 and locate new groups of ascending specialists.