Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Diplomat

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Diplomat

Overview: Diplomats are foreign service officials appointed to represent their home nation to other countries around the world. They have many responsibilities, including negotiating treaties, improving relations, gathering and reporting information, issuing visas, protecting their citizens overseas, and influencing other nations in regard to various issues, such as war and peace, economics, the environment, and human rights. Whatever job they’re doing, the diplomat should always be representing the interests and policies of their home country.

While diplomats may remain in their home nation, they most often are posted to an embassy in another country. Many assignments are short term, lasting two to four years, after which time the diplomat will be reassigned to a new country. Newbies are required to do consular work and can move up to other more desirable postings and assignments with a few years of tenure under their belts.

There are different kinds of diplomats. The names and responsibilities vary between countries and can include any of the following, ranked by seniority: ambassador, minister or envoy, secretary (first, second, third, etc.), and attaché.

Necessary Training: Each country’s requirements are different, but as an example, someone wanting to become a diplomat in the US must be a US citizen between the ages of 20 and 59 years old. They must take a written aptitude test and go through a rigorous interview process to determine their suitability for the job. Following a successful background check, the applicant will enter the Foreign Service Institute for training that can last up to nine months.

Candidates must understand up front that they will be posted where they’re needed rather than where they might want to go. In some of the more dangerous postings, the diplomat’s family may not be allowed to accompany them. So people pursuing a career in this field need to take things like this into consideration before committing.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, charm, empathy, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, haggling, hospitality, mentalism, promotion, reading people, strategic thinking, writing

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, adventurous, ambitious, analytical, appreciative, bold, calm, charming, confident, cooperative, courteous, decisive, diplomatic, discreet, empathetic, enthusiastic, extroverted, honorable, hospitable, inspirational, intelligent, meticulous, organized, passionate, patient, patriotic, persistent, persuasive, proactive, protective, socially aware, sophisticated, tolerant, wise

NEGATIVE: Confrontational, evasive, manipulative, nosy, perfectionist, pushy, suspicious

Sources of Friction: Being posted to an undesirable location, an attack on one’s embassy, language barriers that make communication difficult, working with an inept or biased translator, officials from the hosting country who are inflexible and uncooperative, being assigned a dangerous posting that one’s family can’t accompany one to, being reassigned and having to leave a beloved place and close friends, one’s children having difficulty adjusting to frequent moves, one’s family struggling with culture shock, moving to a location where common creature comforts aren’t available, failing in a negotiation, conflicts of interest, being threatened with or targeted for assassination, getting caught in a civil uprising or war, homesickness

People They Might Interact With: ambassadors, envoys, attachés, foreign diplomats, reporters, translators, government officials and heads of state

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization:  Anyone working in politics is subject to the whims of those they report to. A diplomat may work very hard to achieve their given objectives on an assignment only to learn they’ve been used as part of a political scheme. Getting burned too many times in this way could make them doubt their ability to make a difference in the world.
  • Esteem and Recognition: There’s a clear diplomatic ranking in most governments. Someone at the bottom of the ladder who has trouble working their way up may become discouraged by the lack of esteem with their position.
  • Love and Belonging: A diplomat must be flexible, going where he’s sent and changing countries frequently. This can make it difficult to develop romantic relationships and maintain close friendships.
  • Safety and Security: Diplomats are often needed in places defined by unrest and instability. This can make it a dangerous position in some circumstances.
  • Physiological Needs: Should a country’s situation devolve into violence, the residing diplomat’s life could easily be threatened.

Common Work-Related Settings: Airplane, airport, alley, bazaar, big city street, black-tie event, boardroom, elevator, mansion, military base, refugee camp

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype:

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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