Ben Dille (LLM, 1991) now works in the USA as a U.S Diplomat.

Ben Dille, LLM Law (1991)

Why did you choose to study here?

It had one of the more prestigious European law programs in the UK.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

Good professors, with relevant experience, and beautiful campus more accessible than those in big cities

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I have been a U.S. diplomat since 1991 and have served in nine countries and Washington. At the same time, I obtained a PhD from LSE which has facilitated my teaching positions (both on the side, on my own time, and as part of a formal detail to George Washington University).

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Making a difference in the world. Supporting colleagues.

How have your University of Exeter studies helped in your career?

Yes, indirectly. It reinforced my interest in international work and the LLM I received thagt was useful in my getting into a doctoral program at LSE, with my PhD being essential to my future goal of teaching after retiring from the U.S. State Department.

Do you have any advice for current students wishing to pursue your career?

I advise those interested in an international career to get international experience both as a student and employee. Get out of your comfort zone. Also, for those US citizens specifically interested in the U.S. Foreign Service, the best practice for the Foreign Service Exam is taking the exam, which is free.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to continue my career until mandatory retirement at age 65, then go into university teaching or public administration and management.

Do you have any tips or advice on being employable?

It is essential to be a good writer and be comfortable speaking to strangers (for the latter, I recommend Toastmasters as a cheap way to gain public speaking confidence). Though I have some unconventional views in my personal life, I think that maintaining a conservative appearance helps establish professional credibility (rightly or wrongly, that is life. Going to interviews and work well groomed, with no visible tattoos, and wearing professional clothing (business suits for men and something comparable for women) is the best way to gain confidence of employers, unless you work in an unconventional industry.

I think that caring about other people is generally a good way to get ahead, even if we are treated to images of "tough" and aggressive people who step on others to advance themselves. When I have had professional challenges, it was people that I had helped and supported who came to my aid.

I also advise networking, including LinkedIn, while at the same time avoiding silly social network posts. Though my job requires it, I have long avoided discussing politics and religion on Facebook, just as we were always told to avoid those topics in casual work and personal relationships (with close friends is another story, but ideally face-to-face).

Volunteer, do internships, take tangentially related jobs, and publish anything are all ways to advance short of getting your dream job. I was a lawyer for a couple of years but always wanted the career I ended up having, so be open to detours on the way that help you build skills. You might even find one of those detours becomes your preferred path.

Overall, flexibility is key in the modern economy. Also, I would stress that doing something you like is generally better than doing something that you think will earn you more money; generally people are better at doing work that they enjoy and are not good at doing work they feel forced to do.

Be self-aware of your strengths and the kinds of work you are good at (do you like working alone or with others, do you like desk work or moving around; in the end, do you like predictable or varying work, this will be a greater predictor of whether the profession you choose suits you than one subject you studied in University).

Learn good time management and do not give up, even when you fail. In our failures, if we evaluate them, we can often gain the best insights and lessons.