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Council on Foreign Relations Reviews

Updated September 22, 2017
76 reviews

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4.1
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Council on Foreign Relations President and Director Richard N. Haass
Richard N. Haass
38 Ratings

76 Employee Reviews

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Pros
Cons
  • Some negative sentiment toward interns, all internships are unpaid (in 8 reviews)

  • Drama in upper management, junior staff sometimes seems forgotten (in 9 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. "Lovely plac3"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Council on Foreign Relations full-time

    Pros

    Work on interesting projects and around very smart people, good benefits, good work/life balance

    Cons

    Can't really think of any


  2. "Director"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Council on Foreign Relations full-time

    Pros

    Great work-life balance and wellness programs.

    Cons

    Seems below market for compensation.

  3. "Great starting point but don't stay too long..."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Council on Foreign Relations full-time

    Pros

    The Council has the following:
    - very intelligent individuals who are dedicated to all aspects of foreign policy
    - friendly atmosphere with junior staffers
    - a name that resonates through the higher echelon of the foreign policy sector and/or global businesses
    - a good starting point for young collegiate scholars looking to enter the field
    - great benefits such as health care, PTO, work flexibility, family leave, and education reimbursement

    Cons

    Some things that can be frustrating and/or need adjustments:
    - lack of advancement-- primarily for junior staffers. It's not about how long you've been there. Instead, you only receive an increase that's a set amount per year.
    - lack of growth opportunities and/or mentorship from leadership
    - lack of cross-collaboration with various departments
    - lack of awareness of impact of the magazine and other departments that are not as in-line with CFR style of operating
    - a high amount of women employees which is great but a severe lack of diversity in thought, ethnicity and academic institutions. At times can feel like the "ivy" club
    - very low pay...even in comparison to other NPO/NGO competitors
    - upper management does not know how to manage or communicate realistic expectations when confronted with solutions to a problem
    - very slow moving when it comes to executing ideas --- stuck in archaic thought processes

    Advice to Management

    Train the higher-ups
    Bring forth cross collaboration to cut back on the redundancy of work
    Really assess salary requirements to stay competitive in this harsh job market
    Allow for creative thinking and autonomy from your very intelligent junior staffers


  4. "Excellent place to grow"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Great people, wonderful organization, excellent work-life balance.

    Cons

    Little mobility, little salary growth


  5. "Great place to work in foreign affairs"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook

    I have been working at Council on Foreign Relations full-time

    Pros

    CFR offers an amazing opportunity to work in foreign affairs. It has great perks, including getting to listen in to meetings with foreign policy leaders and academic scholars, educational stipends, and generous leave time.

    Cons

    Advancement is often tied to how long you've worked at the Council, not to performance. Salaries are not high, but it is a non-profit.


  6. Helpful (1)

    "It is what you make of it"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in New York, NY
    Recommends
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Council on Foreign Relations full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Before I actually review, I want to clarify that CFR is not just a think tank. It is (1) a membership organization (about 5k members, who have access to events--which are referred to as "meetings" in CFR lingo--among other benefits); (2) a publisher (CFR is the publisher of Foreign Affairs magazine, although the magazine is editorially independent from CFR--and that is very true. The magazine's editorial staff is slightly cloistered and doesn't interact much with other departments at CFR.); and (3) a think tank (Many people are familiar with the think thank, and for good reasons, because it is very influential. The think tank produces a lot of peer-reviewed content, most of which go through extreme vetting that can take up to a year or more.)
    So your experience depends on which aspect of CFR you are involved with. Among the junior staff in general, the camaraderie is wonderful, because most people are genuinely good. The research associates' subject-matter expertise isn't top-notch, but they certainly know a great deal. Also because they work in separate areas, there is no competition among the RAs to outdo one another. Other junior staff includes assistants and associates in non-think tank stuff (events, membership, facilities, HR, outreach, etc.), most of whom are polite and nice to work with. Most mid-level staff members don't pull rank; nice and easy to work with, plus they have the authority to make certain decisions that junior staff can't. Experience with the management depends on the department one's working in. Some junior staff have unfettered and frequent access to VP and higher levels, not just the ones in your vertical chain but across departments.
    Health benefits are decent (I have no comparison because this is my first full-time job); there is an education assistance of ~$3K per year, available to all staff, which most people use to learn a foreign language and travel abroad to take language classes; I have never used the gym, which is decently sized; there are summer Fridays (about ten weeks); food/booze at staff parties is good (although the parties are not as frequent); and you get a decent number of days off (including a 12-week paid parental leave).

    Cons

    The cons that other reviewers point out are all true, but some are not as accurate. (1) Low pay: That is true, but that is also the industry standard. The pay is industry standard through the director levels. It is at the fellow- and VP levels that they get crazy high. Most interns don't get paid (two interns per semester get a stipend).
    (2) High turnover: True. As an RA, you are expected to be out in about three years. That's because there isn't room to move up. There is no middle level between and RA and a fellow. Some areas have management positions, and the management folks in those areas seem to stay on for a while. Most RAs leave to go get PhDs or JDs from Ivy League or move on to federal or corporate jobs. Other departments don't have crazy turnover (there are several people who have worked for decades across all departments) .
    (3) Politics: True, it is a highly politicized work environment and you have to know who to trust. For some, this means simply putting all their exchanges in an email so people can't backtrack on commitments. For others, it means not talking to a senior person in their department about other departments. It is pretty much the DC way: make sure that either everything can be traced back to you or nothing can be traced back to you.
    (4) Long hours: Depends. Some departments work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an expected one-hour lunch. If you are staffing an event, you will work longer hours. But if you make under $40K, you are eligible for overtime pay. And because workweeks are 35 hours, straight overtime pay kicks in at 35 hour and time-and-half kicks in at 40. Most fellows can dispense 100 hours of OT in a year.

    Advice to Management

    Management outreach is stiff, not inadequate. Work on that.


  7. "Associate"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Council on Foreign Relations full-time (More than 10 years)

    Pros

    You get to work with some of the smartest people in international relations on important topics that really do matter.

    Cons

    I can't really think of any downsides.

    Advice to Management

    Keep up the great work!

  8. "Intern"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Council on Foreign Relations part-time

    Pros

    I had a great research experience at the CFR Washington office. Other interns were highly motivated, smart, and easy-going. The fellow I worked for was one of the best researchers I worked for. Both the research associate (whom I worked directly with) and the fellow were understanding of my situation as a university student and also deeply cared about my career path. If you're thinking about working as a RA at a think tank related to foreign policy after school, CFR is the right place to do internship while you study/right after graduation.

    Cons

    Limited interaction with fellows and RAs from other departments/chairs.


  9. "Anonymous"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Intern in New York, NY
    Former Employee - Intern in New York, NY
    Recommends
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Council on Foreign Relations (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Great work environment, access to CFR meetings and events, very nice employees, awesome HR department, lots of independent projects, and I never had to stay late. CFR is a great place to intern! Would definitely recommend.

    Cons

    The only real con of this internship is that it was unpaid. While at CFR, I worked independently a lot of the time - which I do not mind at all! However, if you do not like to work on your own then I am not sure I would recommend this internship.


  10. "valuable internship experience"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Intern in New York, NY
    Current Employee - Intern in New York, NY
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Council on Foreign Relations (Less than a year)

    Pros

    lots of responsibilities, great intern events

    Cons

    There are no cons for this experience


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