Why International Relations Skills will be Essential in 2019

3 minutes   |  BUSINESS & MANAGEMENT, CAREER ADVICE


Globalisation is defined as a phenomenon based on international strategies which expands business operations worldwide. This is facilitated by technological, socioeconomic, political, and environmental developments which have improved global communications.1 Despite the politics of globalisation, the world continues to merge and grow through these advancements and digital dynamics.

It’s an uncertain time to try grapple with global affairs. Brexit, Iran, and Trump’s trade war with China have created political and economic anxiety, and are threatening globalisation by creating an economic backlash in traditionally powerful world economies.2 An article published by the Independent offered the following commentary on the state of our world: “If the human race is wiped out in the next 50 years it will not be because of disease or an asteroid hitting the earth, but because of foreign policy and international relations.”3 Understanding globalised markets, and the factors influencing relations between countries, has never been so pertinent.

If the human race is wiped out in the next 50 years it will not be because of disease or an asteroid hitting the earth, but because of foreign policy and international relations.

The importance of international relations

The theory behind international relations studies stems from political science and the way international systems operate, investigating the relationships between countries and foreign policies.4 Though the concept may seem foreign, every member of society is involved in international relations. Your place is actively defined by the choices you make: whether you buy fair trade products, your religion, your cultural background, where you live, and the resources you own. Why international relations is important, is that it goes beyond peace and war, past poverty and business; rather it explores the key players in world politics, intrinsic political patterns, and identifies the theories for how resolution and cooperation can be reached.

As the world becomes increasingly globalised, it is essential for us to develop the ability to understand the effects of globalisation and other forces like populism, and how they impact regions, and thus the decision of policy makers and leaders. Despite our globalised network, populism is on the rise, in both Europe and America. Populism is a political program or movement that champions the common person, by contrast with the elite.5 The popularity of populism is threatening the liberal theories of international relations and globalisation, as Theresa May sums it up: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere”.6 But what does this mean for our global, interdependent economy? As politics establishes firm divides between people and places, how will this affect society as a whole, and will globalisation then cease to exist?

These skills allow you to critically interpret the contemporary world, and analyse the shifting complexities that dynamically occur in politics.

Why study international relations?

International relations knowledge and skills enables you to interpret and navigate global affairs, through the intricate and often subversive layer of influences. This framework effectively analyses how it impacts both developed and developing economies – and how to adapt to this. International relations imparts transferable skills in history, politics, analysis, and research.7 These skills allow you to critically interpret the contemporary world, and analyse the shifting complexities that dynamically occur in politics.

Individuals learn to be objective and analytical when considering various issues and events from multiple perspectives.8 This goes much further than only knowing history – contemporary global affairs also explores:

  • The natural environment
  • Resource scarcity
  • Technological disruption (with the threat of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics)
  • Major concerns regarding nuclear weaponry9

These skills have the potential to expand professional opportunities, and create an understanding of how and why people from homogeneous or heterogeneous groups interact with each other in specific ways. It is precisely because of global uncertainty that skills in international relations are becoming so relevant. This landscape provides exciting opportunities for innovation, growth, and partnerships. Compared to other disciplines, expanding your knowledge in the theories of international relations better positions you to understand and develop solutions to complex, global challenges.10 Studies in international relations prompt you to think of change and reform, to unify thoughts and actions – across generations and communities, among public, private, and nonprofit sectors.11

Understanding how the world has evolved is crucial for future development. Events don’t occur in isolation, as happenings in one part of the globe can have unlikely consequences in another. Globalisation has affected political, socio-economic, and cultural forces across the globe, and despite populist movements, globalisation continues to develop.12 Technology continues to defy borders, bringing diverse populations closer together. We live in an interdependent world, and gaining an understanding of this through a global lens can profoundly inform your perspective for the future.

  • 1 Pologeorgis, N. (Mar, 2017). ‘How globalization affects developed countries’. Retrieved from Investopedia.
  • 2 Kenny, C. (Nov, 2018). ‘The bogus backlash to globalisation’. Retrieved from Foreign Affairs.
  • 3 Sheehan, M & Brocklehurst, H. (Jul, 2006).‘Why international relations is the key to all our futures’. Retrieved from Independent.
  • 4 Retrieved from Merriam-Webster.
  • 5 Munro, A. (Nd). ‘Populism’. Retrieved from Britannica.
  • 6 McRae, H. (May, 2017). ‘Can economic globalisation continue, despite the populist push-back against social globalisation’. Retrieved from Independent.
  • 7 Sheehan, M & Brocklehurst, H. (Jul, 2006).‘Why international relations is the key to all our futures’. Retrieved from Independent.
  • 8 Sheehan, M & Brocklehurst, H. (Jul, 2006).‘Why international relations is the key to all our futures’. Retrieved from Independent.
  • 9 Gavin, F. (Feb, 2018). ‘It’s never been a better time to study IR’. Retrieved from Foreign Policy.
  • 10 Gavin, F. (Feb, 2018). ‘It’s never been a better time to study IR’. Retrieved from Foreign Policy.
  • 11 Gavin, F. (Feb, 2018). ‘It’s never been a better time to study IR’. Retrieved from Foreign Policy.
  • 12 Gavin, F. (Feb, 2018). ‘It’s never been a better time to study IR’. Retrieved from Foreign Policy.