In the past they would arrive at their first embassy, self-confident, well connected, aware of their country’s global status and assured of a career in the higher realms of diplomacy. And they would watch their superiors in action, learning the art of negotiation and the trademark suavity that concealed a Machiavellian mind.
Young British diplomats today have no time for such a gentle induction. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, like all government departments, is under permanent pressure to cut its costs and its staff. And a young diplomat has to be able to plunge straight in – engage in multilateral negotiations, represent Britain in conferences, promote British exports, deal with consular emergencies, appear on TV and master social media in a revamped communications strategy. There is no time to slip gently into the routine – and no money for elegant dinner parties.