The global village is shrinking. Canadian and U.S. companies and governments
are doing more business with countries around the world. They are realizing
they need to hire extra protocol officers to help treat their growing international
clientele politely and respectfully.
Technology has made it easier for corporations and governments to conduct
business worldwide. Companies sell to clients all over the world. Heads of
state create policies with international politicians.
But dealing with different cultures can be tricky. Is bowing or handshaking
appropriate when greeting a Japanese client? How far should you stand from
a Middle Eastern politician?
You don't want to commit an etiquette faux pas that can spoil your business
or your government relations. That's where protocol officers come in. And
the need for their expertise is increasing.
A protocol officer makes encounters with people from other countries run
smoothly by making sure the proper etiquette or protocol is followed.
But that's just skimming the surface. A protocol officer's list of duties
can be long and complicated.
Dorothea Johnson is a former protocol advisor and the director of a protocol
school in Washington. She says a protocol officer's typical tasks include:
- Advising the employer about international protocol
- Planning and hosting events
- Traveling with the employer
- Greeting international clients and managing their schedule
- Assisting the employer with the drafting of speeches
Gift giving may also be part of the job. Often, protocol officers choose
presents for their international guests because they know what objects other
cultures appreciate most.
"You really have to have done your homework in the world of international
gift giving. The gift-giving area can make or break a company's chance of
succeeding," says Anne Reynolds. She is a protocol officer for a provincial
government in Canada.
"Gifts of a pocket knife, letter opener or anything that cuts could be
interpreted in some countries as a wish by the giver to sever the ties or
relations with the recipient," says Reynolds.
Jacqueline Whitmore was a protocol officer for several years. Now she runs
a company in Florida that teaches etiquette and international protocol.
"The duties and functions of a protocol officer can vary depending on the
type of industry you're working for," Whitmore says.
"For instance, I was a protocol officer for a hotel in Palm Beach. My responsibilities
were planning for a VIP visit. That could include planning an itinerary for
him and making sure he has all the necessary information about the city he's
about to tour or any meeting he might be having at the hotel."
Various companies and most governments have protocol officers working for
them. The U.S. military also has protocol advisors. Other protocol officers
are self-employed and take only contract work.
Most industries dealing outside the country hire protocol officers. In
fact, Johnson says, we will be seeing and hearing a lot more about this career
in the near future. "This will be a hot career permanently, not just for a
while. The demand is quite strong in the U.S."
That was not the case five years ago, when international relations were
not as widespread, according to Johnson.
Reynolds says the career will boom in the corporate world especially. "With
the advent of the global economy, the private sector has become sensitive
to the need to understand etiquette. Having someone on staff who has an understanding
of the do's and taboos of international business etiquette will certainly
ensure a more successful entry into new markets."
Having more protocol officers on the job helps corporations secure international
contracts. More contracts equal more money.
Employing more protocol officers in government has advantages too. It allows
governments to create strong ties with other countries.
For these reasons, protocol officers are in high demand.
Ishbel Halliday works for the Government of Ontario in the office
of international relations and protocol. She thinks Canadians interested in
protocol will have many opportunities pursuing the event-coordinating aspect
of the field. International VIPs, like Queen Elizabeth, often visit Canada.
"Coordinators are hired to plan everything from private social events to
major corporate events," explains Halliday.
So what can you do to cash in on this hot career? Just about anything,
say the experts.
Reynolds and Johnson suggest a university degree in a field like political
science. Employers also look for someone who enjoys etiquette and world affairs
and who has good communication skills.
A few universities offer protocol classes. Companies like Whitmore's and
Johnson's also offer courses for people interested in the career.
"As time goes on and there is more buzz about the popularity of this new
position, we'll definitely see an increase in schools teaching this type of
information," says Whitmore.
But employers do not usually have specific educational requirements. In
fact, Halliday says most skills are learned on the job.
"I think anyone wanting to pursue a career as a protocol officer should
think about getting involved with community organizations," advises Halliday.
"Volunteer for a cancer society or for your local hospital. Help out with
fund-raising events, and pay attention to how it's done."
Having an open mind is also important.
"Don't go into it with any specific ideas," Whitmore cautions, "because
it changes on a daily basis. It can be very exciting. It can also be very
time-consuming. Be adaptable and very patient, and you'll do great!"
Protocol experts are constantly doing different things, and meeting new
people from around the globe.
"I think this opportunity will definitely expand as time goes on," adds
Whitmore. "Of course, the more attention is given to the position of protocol
officer, the more people will want to assume those responsibilities."
The Protocol School of Washington
This company provides professional training and certification
in etiquette and protocol
The Protocol School of Palm Beach
Ask an expert about any etiquette taboos
Protocol Consultants International
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