Jobs in external affairs, sometimes called external relations, are all about managing relationships with an organization's external stakeholders. For a company, this may include external shareholders, customers, regulators, journalists and members of the community. Nonprofits, meanwhile, cultivate relationships with donors and other funding bodies. Jobs in external affairs include both entry-level, tactical roles and very senior positions with a strategic focus.
Typical degrees for people starting a career in external affairs include marketing, public relations and other business degrees. Companies that work in highly regulated environments would be very interested if you were a graduate in political science or a similar subject. In addition, you may work in external affairs without a degree or by working your way up from an administrative position.
Writing, presentation, and interpersonal skills are essential at every level in external affairs. For jobs with a media relations focus, strong writing skills are particularly important. External affairs jobs that focus on government relations require strong persuasion and negotiation skills. Strong management skills are critical if you lead a department, and senior positions require good business acumen and political awareness.
External affairs is a broad field that may include a wide range of responsibilities. The head of external relations is in charge of devising and implementing external communications plans that help deliver the organization's strategy. This professional may implement media relations programs that create a positive image for the organization, or produce an annual report to reassure stockholders that their investment is in good hands. Some professionals arrange conferences, and write speeches and presentations for senior executives. Others work with lobbyists to influence the laws and regulations in their fields.
Managing external relations is important for all types of organization, especially since the introduction of social media. Publicly distributed negative comments can make or break reputations. Jobs in external relations are available in-house in large corporations, and at other types of enterprises and nonprofits. Alternatively, you can gain experience by working with a PR agency.
- Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images