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Leif.
Mar 27, 2005

Son of the Defender
Formerly Diplomaticus/SWATJester


RIP D&D mod Vilerat, killed in action, while TDY to Consulate Benghazi on 9/11/2012.

Disclaimer: The posts in this thread are purely the individual opinions and thoughts of the various forum members here, and should not be taken in any way as official Department policy, or as having any approval or connection to the U.S. Department of State. This is just chatter from a bunch of goons on an internet comedy forum.

Also check the general US Federal Government Jobs thread.


What is a Foreign Service Officer?
Generally, they are diplomats and consuls. It is the career track that goes all the way up to Ambassador (or Deputy Secretary of State). This post will deal with State Department FSOs; check the third post in this thread for USAID FSOs, which have a different deal. There are also FSOs from Foreign Commercial Service, and Foreign Agricultural Service -- check the bottom of the third post for those two (tl;dr, its really hard to get in).

Foreign Service Officers, also referred to as Foreign Service Generalists, enter in one of five career tracks - Consular, Economic, Management, Political, or Public Diplomacy. There is no specific requirement for education or experience. More information is available at: http://careers.state.gov/officer.

quote:

Business of Ferrets posted:

All of my organs probably have too much heavy metals in them for anyone to make use of them. And I probably don't have to say that you wouldn't ever want to be the recipient of a diplomat's liver. . . .


TCD posted:

Party tonight, birthday party tomorrow night.

It's like freshmen year college.

DasNeonLicht posted:

Okay, I was having some doubts, but this is the job for me. Thanks.

What is a Foreign Service Specialist?
Foreign Service Specialists provide important technical, support or administrative services in 19 career categories, including Doctors and Physician Assistants, Office Management Specialists, Information Management Specialists, Diplomatic Security Agents, Human Resource Specialists. Each category has specific requirements regarding education and experience. Details are available at: http://careers.state.gov/specialist.

Where do I go to register for the test/apply for the job?

You should start your application process here: http://careers.state.gov/officer/index.html
Read the guide to the application process here: http://careers.state.gov/docs/3.0_FSO_RegGuide.pdf

There are five steps:
1. Choose a Career Track
2. Register for the Test: Application
3. Take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT)
4. Submit Personal Narrative for Qualifications Evaluation Panel Review
5. Take the Oral Assessment

You can register for the test at: http://www.act.org/fsot/ Be advised that the site is slow and can take some time.

Do I have to come from Georgetown/Harvard/Yale/Whatever to get in?

Business of Ferrets posted:

My classmates and colleagues come from a full range of colleges and universities -- some I've heard of, and some I haven't. Graduates of good international studies grad programs tend to be well represented, but by no means a majority.

In my class, we have a wide range of schools. I'd say American University (disclosure: my law school alma mater) is as well represented as Harvard, as are other strong international studies schools. The IU/OSU/NotreDame crowd that seems to be in every group everywhere is here as well. We're a little more skewed East Coast than West Coast, but that's primarily due to proximity to Washington for the Oral Assessment I think.

What kind of background will I need? What kind of education will I need? Will a J.D. overqualify me?

Business of Ferrets posted:

I know folks who, in prior lives, were oceanographers, archeologists, botanists, NGO workers, Peace Corps volunteers, military (both enlisted and commissioned), law enforcement, teachers, comedy writers, lawyers, etc. When they say no specific major or field of study is required, they really mean it.

There are plenty of JDs around State (we sometimes refer to them as "recovering attorneys"), so you will be in good company.


My class is probably 1/3 or more attorneys. About half of those worked biglaw, about half didn't. Military is very represented, primarily officers, usually around Maj. but we have a full bird in my class, and we have a buck sergeant in my class. It goes both ways. We have a bunch of teachers, archeologists, statisticians, computer programmers, NGO types, etc. Educationally, we have a couple people who graduated college in the past year, up to multiple Ph.D.'s. Generally speaking, I'd say having a bachelors is almost essential (though you can apply in your senior year, or even earlier if you want to get an idea of the process) and having either a graduate degree, or a year or two of doing something international affairs or foreign-culture related is a majority. Experience will count just as much as education here -- you do NOT need to get the degree. If you know that this is what you want to do with your life, but you simply can't afford grad school, the Peace Corps or the military (I know, polar opposites right?) are very very good options and are heavily represented here.

How does the Foreign Service assignment system work?

For generalists (Foreign Service Officers)

There are three systems for generalists, depending on what tour you are on: First tour, second tour, and third tour (mid-level) through the end. All three are completely different from each other.

An FSOs first two tours are directed, which means that, though the officer gives input, the assignments office has the final say of who goes where. The initial two tours each normally last two years. For an FSO's first tour, a "bid list" is distributed during the first day or two of initial training (called A-100 in State parlance). The number of jobs on the list will roughly match the number of officers in the orientation class. Often, some posts will have several jobs open, such as if Moscow, Russia had two open consular positions. The current practice is to have new FSOs rank every job on the list either "high," "medium" or "low." Officers are also given the opportunity to turn in a "bid preference sheet," which allows them to explain their bidding strategy and interests. Officers will discuss their choices -- and their rational -- with a career development officer (CDO). At the entry level, the CDOs get together and assign the new officers to positions. They usually try to get everyone one of their "high" bids, but that is not always possible, and the CDOs' first responsibility is to fill vacant positions. At about the fifth week of A-100 (the course was previously seven weeks, but my class is only 6 weeks) there will be a "Flag Day" ceremony, where the whole class receives their assignments (and a small matching national flag, hence the name). Flag Day is also when the new officers find out how much and what kind of training they will receive before departing for post. From what I have understood, last class everyone got a high or medium, and for the past couple of classes, there have only been a few lows for the cases of people who did not do a great job on their bid sheets (i.e. maybe they only marked 4 highs, 10 mediums, and everything else low, and those first 14 high/mid posts were decided for others). You can probably expect the number of posts on your bid list to be equal to or maybe slightly higher than the number of people in your class -- although my class is significantly larger than normal so maybe that's not the case generally. I'm not 100% sure on how it works, but tandem couples (where both spouses are in the FS, either generalist or specialist) do not work off the bid list, because their destination will be determined in part by their spouse. So before you freak out about the bid lists, remember that there is a very very good chance that the posts you think are poo poo and don't want to go to, will likely be someone else's dream post. It all works out.

When bidding for one's second tour, there are more jobs to choose from (I believe in previous classes there have been a couple hundred), but also more constraints on bidding. It is HR policy that all entry-level officers (ELOs) perform at least one year of consular work (the norm is more 2-4 years these days). What that means is that an FSO whose first tour is straight management work will only be able to bid on jobs with a consular component for the second tour. Also, ELOs may only receive one "full course" of language training during their first two tours. A full course is up to one year of training, but could mean the full six-month course of Spanish. So, if an ELO gets eight months of Korean in preparation for a first tour in Seoul, unless that officer has other preexisting language proficiency, he or she will only be able to bid on positions without a language requirement for the second tour.

Another governing principle of second-tour bidding is the idea of "equity." Equity is calculated by adding the hardship differential and danger pay (if any) from the first tour, then giving officers with higher levels of equity priority for assignments. I'm told that the way that this works is every second-tour officer bidding will be put on a list, ranked by equity. So someone with the max of 50 equity (roughly, may be 55 or 60, but you get the point) will be at the top of the list, and will be considered for their post choices first. Officers with little to no equity will be at the bottom of the list. So people serving in Pakistan, for example, will have many more jobs to choose from than those in London. Going back to our hypothetical ELO in Seoul, keep in mind that Seoul is a "zero hardship" post, so you can imagine that this officer's choices would be limited. Two things to remember about equity: First, it ONLY applies in your second tour. After that, it does not matter. Second, needs of the service still rule. So even if you have crazy equity but due to you not having met your consular requirement, you will be going to a consular post. Or, if the service decides that you are absolutely needed in Tashkent, despite having just been in Ciudad Juarez and having nice equity and wanting to go to Rome, guess what: you're going to Tashkent.

But there are other constraints, too. There are also language issues if an officer earned extra points for critical-needs language proficiency during the hiring process. I didn't do it, but as I understand if you got bump up points, you're probably going to be using that language. If it was a CNL, you're obligated to serve there at least once before tenure; if it was a SCNL you're obligated to serve there once before tenure and once again after tenure. Another factor is timing, which means that, even if you are fluent in French and otherwise qualified, if your first tour ends in April but that Paris job you want begins in October (to allow for six months of French study), you won't have a shot at it. The gap is just too large. Although there are many, many more jobs on the second-tour bid list than there are bidders, the extensive constraints mean that each bidder has only a small group of realistic bids. Fortunately, it's supposedly much less stressful, and much easier to get a job that you like.

In mid-level bidding, which is everything after your first two tours and before you get into the Senior Foreign Service around the 20-year mark or so, the core of the process is lobbying for jobs. There is still a bid list (this is how you find out what jobs are available) and you still have a CDO, but getting jobs is all about your reputation and whom you know. There are some rules about bidding in your cone and at your grade, but these are not onerous and are mostly a formality. You basically identify jobs in which you are interested, then put in a formal bid, then do everything in your power to convince the decision maker (usually a director on a country desk or in a functional bureau) that you are the best fit for the job. You will also ask colleagues and supervisors to put in a good word for you with the decision maker. If the job is popular, lots of other people will be doing the same. If you go after jobs far outside your reach, you run the risk of getting none of your bids and having to re-bid after most of the best jobs are already gone. The upside to this process is that officers have enormous control over where they won't go, even if they don't necessarily get assigned to their dream job.

I'm not familiar with the assignments process for specialists, so I will leave that explanation to one of my esteemed specialist colleagues.

IMPORTANT NOTE from Vilerat: Places are unimportant, people make the place in this work. The best post could be a living hell if your Ambassador/DCM/MGMT suck but the worst hellhole on the planet could be the place you always remember as your favorite post if the community is awesome.

Comment from Diplomaticus: You will be able to research an extensive amount of information about your posts. Trust me, I did not think that the majority of my "top bids" were going to be in Africa. The process can seem scary, but embassy life is MAJORLY different than local life, and even a post that sounds awful or scary can end up being one of your most memorable and favorite posts.


What are the kinds of things you'll be forced to deal with in the Foreign Service?

Vilerat posted:


"Make this useful"



"Dear Diplomaticus, Senator X is in town. Please take his wife shopping and find her something to do if she gets bored."



Tell me about the Economic Track

I'm not an Econ-coned officer, but I'm serving out-of-cone right now as Economic/Commercial officer. Econ is basically split into two categories -- the Econ side and the Commercial side. The Econ side is a lot of reporting on macroeconomic trends, high-level stuff. Working with the Finance Ministry of your host country to get them to move towards whatever it is you're asking them to do. You'll participate in bilateral and multilateral economic talks. You might help get the host nation to accede to the WTO. You might work on various trade agreements along with USTR. That sort of thing. The Commercial side is basically Business Development for those of you in the private sector. It's USG-run biz dev. US companies looking to invest in the host nation will come to you for market intelligence, assistance with navigating the local investment/regulatory environment, mediation during trade or customs disputes, introductions to local partners etc. There is a lot of overlap with USAID and the Commerce department, specifically the Foreign Commercial Service.

Now, read everything in the Political officer section. All of that applies to you as well. Political and Econ officers do the exact same thing, just on slightly different subject matter, and there is a lot of overlap (things like counter-terrorism financing, narcotics controls, aviation security are all "political-like" jobs that typically are handled by the Econ officer. In many posts there is a Pol/Econ combined section rather than two different sections for political and economics, and Pol/Econ combined jobs are not uncommon.

Tell me about the Public Diplomacy Track

Zoots posted:

After reading the handy and oh-so-charming summaries from Business of Ferrets and Diplomaticus, I thought I'd finally throw my hat in the ring as well. I'm a PD-coned officer currently doing ACS work. Just had my three-year anniversary in the FS this year, too. I'm also on medevac right now, so I'll try to answer questions relating to that.

But first, to contribute to the OP: a little about Public Affairs/Public Diplomacy...

  • PD work is press. Press work comprises everything from drumming up talking points and guidance to being the mouthpiece of the post for local media outlets. They set up interviews with journalists, push the face of the ambo and the front office out there, and tailor Post's reaction to local events according to policy. Your public affairs section will also clear on anything to be published. If there's a CODEL in town, you bet the press officer is along for the ride to ensure that the Honorable Representative from So-and-So gets some time in front of the local teevee cameras.

  • PD work is cultural, too. When the Secretary talked about exercising "smart power," and when Dubya was going on about hearts and minds, they were referring to the long-fuse, sometimes-mercurial work of the cultural affairs section. Using the yearly programming budget, the public affairs section manages a myriad of programs and grants to promote the image of the United States abroad and facilitate professional and educational exchanges. ART in Embassies? Cultural. The Fulbright Program? A cultural beast. Jazz Ambassadors? Another fine product of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

  • It's a job that will have you managing money and staff right away - but take that control with a grain of salt. Without the expertise of local staff, we would not be able to implement any bilateral programs or plan events. They maintain the relationships with local decision-makers as officers rotate in and out. Their knowledge of local politics and culture lets them say, "You know, I don't think Sayid Ahmad Q. Public would react well to this op-ed. Perhaps you should word it differently." In other words, if you've got a good staff, ignore them at your peril.

  • There's a lot of opportunity to cross-agency cooperation. I had the opportunity to plan a major economic forum for small business owners at my first post, thanks to our commercial officer. Another time, I worked with our ICE attaché to plan an educational exchange for law enforcement, with the cooperation from a local police academy. If you have AID at your posting, see how their work plugs into your program and if there's an opportunity to partner up.

  • You won't be taken seriously if you don't toot your horn: Let's face it: if you're not in the spotlight at a major post, most policy makers probably won't be as attentive to your big accomplishments. The onus is on you to demonstrate the importance of your work and to show that to DC. I have a wonderful mentor who said the question you should always ask yourself is "So what?" The literacy of the Shiboogamoo in Greater Bumblebug went up 10% thanks to your program. So what? That said, if you're in it to actually help people, it's all worth it. It's like that story about the guy throwing starfish back in the ocean after a storm. You may not be able to solve everyone's problems, but you can still use your resources to make a difference in the lives of people. And if you plan it right, the programs you create can live on long after move to another posting.

What's the day-to-day like? Generally, if you're in the office all the time and not out meeting people, you're doing it wrong. But seriously, it can be one of the most fun jobs overseas - not unlike being a federal party planner at times. To provide a very very general summary of the work:
  • At the entry level, an officer at a large post might be responsible for managing and maintaining a couple programs (much like a political officer would have specific issues to follow). That includes planning/executing events, facilitating the travel of featured guests, getting budget approval, working with the press side on media coverage, and reporting on the aftermath. During training, they emphasize this over and over - if you don't tell Washington, it may as well as not have happened. You may supervise a few local staff who help run those specific programs on the host-country side as well. If you're at a smaller mission, you may be responsible for much more, as oftentimes there may only be one or two PD jobs in an entire post.

  • At the mid level, one can expect to manage the bigger programs, or perhaps even an entire section as the press or cultural attaché. This is where you're managing the direction of your section over the course of the year, working with the public affairs officer to ensure it all fits in the Big Picture of US policy. Your staff will have you out and cultivating relationships with a lot of your country's heavy-hitters to ensure they give you the access you need to do your job and reach your intended audience. And if the program you want to do doesn't exist? Then your grants officer (it may even be you) can simply build one from the ground up with your contacts. You have a lot of autonomy to accomplish your goals and address the needs of local people.

  • Senior level officers guide an entire mission's image and outreach. They dictate how the section's budget is to be divvied out to support regular programs and to create one-off grants. They also -- in the capacity of the public affairs counselor -- are the go-to advisor to the front office on what to say and what to do. They answer the mail, so to speak, as they are responsible for annual taskings and demonstrating how Post's actions fit into policy directives. Back in Washington, they also act as the spokespersons for bureaus, run ECA's programs, and provide guidance to the Secretary on how our resources are being implemented.


Basically, think spokesperson/press secretary. But there's more to it, because every FSO has to learn how to be a spokesperson when needed. A lot of what you'll do is personal outreach to organizations like museums, schools, community groups, etc. and present information about the US. For example, lets say you are in Embassy Ouagadougou -- you might be representing the Fulbright program there, or working with the Burkina Faso national art museum to set up an exhibition featuring Burkinabé-American painters living in the U.S. Also traditionally this was one of the harder tracks to get into. It's also one of the tracks that get a fair amount of language use, though not as much as management and consular.

Tell me about the Management Track Don't have one of these yet either. According to State: Management Officers run our embassies and make American diplomacy work.

A lot of what you will do is managing Foreign Service Nationals, help supervise the specialists running the housing pool, deal with construction poo poo, internal management stuff, etc. You may be the General Services Officer, and be in charge of the building materials and supply of the embassy, you may be in charge of a training course somewhere.....there are a LOT of things that Management officers get to do. You also will be supervising more foreign service nationals than any other job, meaning your language skills will be exercised WAY more than any other track (Consular is a close second).

A lot of things in Washington fall under the Under Secretary for Management as well, including some things you might not immediately think of.

Tell me about the Consular Track

Business of Ferrets posted:

I'm one FSO who really, really did not enjoy consular work. I am definitely not alone in this. A few reasons why some folks dislike consular work:

  • It is not what they signed up for. State does a pretty good job letting applicants know that they are likely to spend one to four years doing consular work during their first two (two-year) tours. I believe the average these days is something like two to three years, though some only do one year, and others spend their entire first two tours in consular. (Some lucky few actually dodge the bullet altogether -- the "consular requirement" is actually an HR policy, not a regulation -- but these are very few and far between.) Assuming some time in language and other training, if you are not a consular track officer you could very well spend your first five years in the Foreign Service without even working in your chosen career track. And that sucks.

  • Visa work is pretty monotonous. Though workloads vary by post, real visa mills -- Manila, Lagos, Mexico City (and some Mexico consulates), some China posts, India, etc. (list is not comprehensive) -- will have enough work to keep visa officers doing nothing but visas, eight hours a day, every work day. Some posts allow officers to work overtime on weekends due to the high number of applications. After you have done 5,000 or so interviews, it really doesn't take too much mental effort to correctly adjudicate 99% of applications you see. The other one percent might be interesting, but those are bad odds any way you cut it.

  • Visa work is often adversarial. I have had colleagues remark, "The interview doesn't really begin until after you say 'no'." It is no fun refusing a visa, and even if your country/post has a reasonably low refusal rate, high numbers of applicants mean that you're saying "no" a lot. Many applicants choose to argue, assuming the officer didn't understand their situation (this is almost never the case). Also, in some cultures it is common to falsify documents or statements even when completely unnecessary, so officers spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is true and what isn't. It is no fun to be lied to for eight hours a day.

  • ACS work gets mixed reviews. American Citizen Services (ACS) is cited by many officers as their favorite part of consular work. ACS is the place you go when you have lost your passport, or need new pages put in, or need a notarization, etc. It is also the office that deals with arrests and deaths of U.S. citizens abroad. Lots of officers really enjoy ACS work. I found it more like being a social worker with no training and no budget. Also, though there are times when truly down-on-their-luck folks come in after being mugged, etc., most ACS cases tend to be from a very self-selecting demographic. "Wow, so who do you think might have put that heroin into your bag before you left Thailand? Really? No idea???"
That said, there are plenty of officers who spend their whole career working in the consular field, and they love it. Some reasons why:
  • The hours are good. With the exception of ACS (which by definition deals with emergencies), consular is almost always an eight-to-five job. Also, the visa process is very IT heavy, so you're not taking work home from the office. (This helps to avoid malfeasance issues, too.) There are generally fewer representational requirements for consular officers than for traditional reporting officers, thus leaving one's evenings free.

  • People quickly move into management. Once you move into the mid-levels (after your first two tours, usually), consular positions become much more about managing and supervising people, money and programs. Whereas an economic officer might supervise one or two ELOs and an office manager, a consular peer might very well be managing ten or more ELOs and dozens of local foreign nationals. The other plus side is that consular managers rarely spend time on the visa line, which is generally disliked by all (even career consular managers).

  • Better opportunities for a career with true geographic diversity. At State, the geographic bureaus (East Asia & Pacific, Africa, Western Hemisphere, Europe, South and Central Asia, Near East) each "own" most of the overseas jobs in their respective regions. So, if you are an economic officer looking for a job in Cairo, you will need to get the Near East bureau to sign off on giving you the job. After the initial two tours, getting jobs is basically a function of your reputation and whom you know. Therefore, FSOs need to spend significant time in one or two bureaus in order to make the connections necessary to get good jobs. This is especially true as one advances through the mid-levels.

    Consular jobs, however, are all "owned" by the Bureau of Consular Affairs (abbreviated CA). This means that, instead of focusing on a specific geographic area, consular officers need only cultivate contacts within a single bureau. A consular officer could do tours (in good, career-enhancing jobs) in every bureau, something exceedingly difficult for non-consular colleagues.
So there is good and bad to consular work. My career consular colleagues almost universally love the work and the lifestyle. It wasn't for me, but don't let me dissuade people from considering a consular career; it could be the perfect fit.

Consular officers get a lot of use out of their language skills as they are dealing with visa applicants during the day, and supervising FSNs who will be native speakers. If you can work it so you get a consular position at a language designated post, you will get a LOT more proficient with your language than some random Econ officer will from just language school because you will be using it daily.

Tell me about the Political Track

Business of Ferrets posted:

In the spirit of my comments on consular work, here is some of the bad/good of political work for the OP.

So, what is bad about political work?

  • The hours can be long and unpredictable. I'm fortunate to be at a post where my work day is pretty regular. Friends of mine at a large embassy, however, regularly get home at nine or ten at night, even when they don't have evening events. I'm not completely sure why this is the case, though time differences from Washington could necessitate later hours. Regardless of where one is, during VIP visits or crises you'll be to the office (or out on the road) early and back home (or to the hotel) very late. Naturally, lots of people like this kind of lifestyle just fine, but if you are not into irregular or long work hours, political work is probably not for you.

  • There is a lot of writing. If you can't write, or do not enjoy writing, political is not the career track for you. If you are uncomfortable having others edit, change, or "correct" your writing, this work will make you miserable. You've been warned.

  • There is a lot of carrying bags. When U.S. government officials come to visit a country, there is a good chance a political officer will serve as the visit's "control officer," responsible for all aspects of the visit, or as "site officer," in charge of a particular event part of a larger visit. Cool! you say. Yeah, it is pretty cool. The first time or two. When the visitors are nice and professional. And when they don't cancel the meetings you spent weeks arranging just so they can go shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. At least I've never been asked to arrange "adult" entertainment for a visiting delegation. . . .

  • You are the Pinstriped Cookie-Pusher. You know all those disparaging stereotypes about diplomats? Those are all about political officers. Yes, we spend time seriously discussing grave issues over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Some of us wear French cuffs. We ride with our bosses in cars with little American flags fluttering. Overseas, we clear customs and immigration swiftly through the "diplomatic channel." We often know more about host country current events than those in the USA. We have diplomatic immunity. (Lots of USG officials overseas could fit this description, but the stereotype tends to be aimed at political, methinks.)

Ok, I admit it. That is a pretty weak list. The problem is, I really, really enjoy political work. Here is why:

  • This is the prototypical foreign affairs career. You get to travel the world, getting paid to meet with interesting people and report their views back to your government. You study and use foreign languages as a tool to promote the USA to foreign nationals. You deal with issues like human rights, religious freedom, rule of law, military cooperation, and local and national political leadership trends.

  • There are real opportunities to influence policy. Even at lower levels, political officers inform policymakers through normal reporting or through the preparation of annual reports for Congress, such as the Human Rights Report. At the mid-levels, officers provide extensive input to briefing papers and other official recommendations for leaders. At the senior levels, many of the day-to-day decisions about how to implement policy will be made by career FSOs, many of whom at that level come from the political track.

  • Lots of once-in-a-lifetime experiences (sometimes more than once). Some of the things I've done are far beyond anything I imagined before taking this job: being one of the first Americans to see the inside of (and ride in) a foreign military's new amphibious assault vehicle; helping a political dissident by bringing the USG's interest in his case to the attention of his captors; being the only official American on the scene of a brutal suicide bombing, and having to navigate through the dazed crowds and rattled security services to provide the embassy and the State Department with an on-the-ground assessment.

There is a saying that the foreign service exists for Political officers, and everyone else supports them. There's a lot of truth to that statement, though not 100%.

Tell me about Language Training

Department of State posted:

Effective with the October 2011 FSOT, all language testing will be administered only for candidates who pass the Oral Assessment. There will be no language testing prior to the QEP for any candidate. All other policies and procedures applying to post-FSOA testing remain in place.

If State has one real strength from a training perspective, language instruction is it. My comments pertain to generalists, since I am not up-to-speed on opportunities for specialists.

All training, language or otherwise, is tied to one's current or onward assignment. So, if you want to learn, say, Arabic, the key is to find a job that requires Arabic proficiency with enough time to complete language training before the job begins (this timing is usually worked into the position start date, so it is normally pretty straightforward).

State has three broad categories of languages: (This may be a little out of date)

"World" languages generally take six months of full-time instruction to go from no knowledge to a "3" level on the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale (http://www.govtilr.org/). World languages basically include the Romance and Germanic language families. German gets a few extra weeks of training for some reason. This family category is a bit larger than you might think and generally has nothing to do with the amount of countries that speak the language.

"Hard" languages are allotted 44 weeks (one academic year) of instruction to reach the 3 level. With a few exceptions (see below), any language not a World language falls in this category.

The "Super-Hard" languages, which are Arabic (including several dialects), Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese and Korean, have courses up to 88 weeks (two academic years) to get students to the 3 level. The second year is usually done overseas at a field school or contract program. There are U.S. Government field schools in Tunis, Taipei, Yokohama and Seoul, and I know of contract programs in Cairo and Beijing, at least.

While in language training you have no other work responsibilities. Most of the training for programs up to one year occur at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center/Foreign Service Institute (FSI) located in Arlington, Virginia. Classes tend to be small (usually one to four students) all all teachers are native speakers of their language. The FSI website says that more than 70 languages are taught there. Naturally, some programs are big, while others accomodate only a few students. If you are in between overseas assignments while in language training, you will receive per diem (with some exceptions that aren't worth going into here).

There are regulations limiting the number of times an FSO can receive a full course of Hard or Super-Hard languages (twice, with the possibility of a third), and entry-level officers (ELOs; these are officers on their first or second tour) often don't receive full courses longer than six months because training eats into the clock for achieving tenure (a career requirement). Overall, though, most officers do two or three foreign languages, with many focusing on one or two during their career. There are also pay incentives to serve repeat tours using certain languages which encourage officers to to focus on one or two languages. Language requirements are part of the separate set of requirements for joining the Senior Foreign Service.

There are also opportunities for self-study and language maintenance and improvement. These are handled on a case-by-case basis, but are usually pretty easy to get if needed or wanted. There is also language training for spouses available.

Major changes to language testing, read below

quote:

Beginning with the June 2012 FSOT cohort, generalist candidates will receive .17 bonus points for all languages listed here (pdf) if they pass the telephone language test at a speaking level 3 after passing the Oral Assessment. Candidates testing in the eight languages eligible for higher bonus points need only a level 2 speaking ability to obtain a .17. The following eight languages are eligible for higher bonus points: Arabic; Chinese (Mandarin); Hindi; Persian (Dari); Persian (Farsi); Pashto; Urdu; and Korean.

To receive the higher bonus points candidates who pass the telephone test will need to take an in-person, two hour speaking and reading test with the Foreign Service Institute. Those who achieve a minimum score of 3 speaking and 2 reading (S3/R2) will receive .38 bonus points. Candidates who receive a rating of 2 speaking and 1 reading (S2/R1) will receive .25 bonus points. Language bonus points will be granted for one language only. Candidates who choose to take the in-person test and do not meet the minimum S2/R1 score will forfeit ALL language bonus points – in other words they will not receive any language bonus points at all.

We expect candidates will need a country-specific security clearance in order to be eligible for the higher language bonus.

Candidates who receive the higher language bonus points must agree to serve in a country where that language is spoken once during their first two assignments and once after reaching mid-level grades of the Foreign Service.

Candidates whose candidacies began prior to the June 2012 FSOT, that is prior to June 2 2012, will be grandfathered under the previous policy (outlined below).
Effective January 1, 2012, the Foreign Service Institute will only offer phone tests in the languages listed here (pdf). Testing is limited to languages in which the Department has language designated entry-level positions abroad.
All passing scores in languages listed garner an additional .17 points. Those candidates with the following recruitment languages - Azerbaijani, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Hindi, Kazakh, Korean, Kyrgyz, Nepali, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Singhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Turkish, Turkmen, Urdu, and Uzbek – and who opt-in and agree to serve in an assignment where the language is spoken in one of their first two tours, earn a total of .40 points, while those with a passing score in Arabic earn a total of .50 points. To garner these additional points you are obligated to serve in a country where that language is spoken at least twice in your career: once during your first two tours and again after being promoted to the mid-levels of the Foreign Service.
You may take the phone test after you pass the Oral Assessment. The test results are valid for 18 months or for the life of your candidacy, whichever is longer. In addition, you may claim points in only one language but may test in a second language if that language garners more points.
For the phone test, an S-3 proficiency level is required for the following languages: Danish, Dutch, French, German, Haitian Creole, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish. All other languages listed require an S-2 proficiency.
For information to help you assess your own speaking level, visit http://www.govtilr.org and click on "Speaking" under the skill level descriptions for a general description of the expected proficiency. The speaking self-assessment tool, available on the same site, will also help you estimate your language proficiency.
Is there a fight for good locations?

BOF posted:

For generalists, this is very much the case, particularly after leaving the entry level. Nice places with few constraints for language proficiency or medical issues tend to be very heavily bid. From recent lists, I recall a single position in Sydney with 48 bidders and one in London with 29 bidders. These days, just about the only way to get to Paris, London, Brussels, Rome, (insert desireable European capital here) is to first go to Afghanistan or Iraq.

For ELO generalists, without going into too much detail, I can say that there were a number of first-world capitals on my bid list. In many cases they were under-bid due to equity reasons (they will give you none). Cost of Living is another. But roughly speaking, it is much much much easier to get into these posts at entry level (even if it is something of a crap shoot) than it is later on.

Note, since I'm not sure it's explained elsewhere -- equity means that the post you are in on your first tour is considered either a hardship, or hard to staff, or dangerous, or some combination there-of. You receive a certain "equity" for going there. Those with higher equity will get first crack at bidding on assignments on their second tour. Equity ceases to exist after your second tour, it's an entry-level thing only (though that being said, there are some similarities in mid-level bidding strategy involving Iraq, and Afghanistan.



Can LGBT apply?
Yes. See Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's remarks on benefits for same-sex domestic partners of foreign service employees.

There are very few government organizations more progressive than State in this regard. At this point the only things holding them back, for the most part, require congressional legislation to change. Also there is an organization, GLIFAA (http://www.glifaa.org/) that will be available to advocate on your behalf as well as hosting events and meetings. You'll get the opportunity to sign up on your first day that you go to the main state dept. building, though you can obviously do so at any time. I joined and have found it to be very open, friendly, and worthwhile.


***********************************************
Goons in the Foreign Service: (Possibly incomplete, locations probably out of date)

FSO's - Generalists and Specialists
*Business of Ferrets - almost a decade as an FSO (POL). In Japan (Yokohama and then Tokyo).
* Vilerat: IMS/IMTS-R dual coded in The Hague. Killed in action, on TDY in Benghazi, Libya, 9/11/2012.
* TCD- IMS specialist, central africa. Brasil.
* AKA pseudonym - IMS specialist, Kiev, Geneva
* ATI Jesus: new-hire IMS in Kosovo, thanks to Vile Rat in Feb '09 Now IMS in Sao Paolo
* Leif./Diplomaticus/SWATJester - (POL) Ethiopia. Switzerland in 2014. Departed the FS in 2013.
*pamchenko - USAID FSO.
* Natural Ice - (CON) - Bangkok
* 1of7 - IMS specialist - Chengdu
* HOORAY - OMS Specialist.
* Skandiaavity - IMS specialist.
* the_chavi - (POL) - NEA/ELA, previously Tripoli, Istanbul, and Riyadh
* Zoots - (PD?) in Rome.
* Teleku - IMS Specialist
* jayk - ??? Specialist - Bangkok.
* Saho - IMS Specialist - Kathmandu
* mtreecorner - OMS Sana'a, Yemen.
* Homie_S - DS agent.
* haggan - IMS Specialist
* photoguy: SEO
* mute: IMS
* Bruxism: DS
* Teleku: IMS, Warsaw
* deemickgee
* SCRwM
* Miscreant Fromage - OMS
*problematique
* Nutrimentia - CON - Abuja
* d1rtbag - (CON) - July 2013 A-100.
* Chinoosha - MGMT, January 2014 A-100.
* Tyro - DS
*HiroProtagonist - forever still awaiting clearances.

Other (Seabees, etc.)
*shadowninja: MSG, Tanzania
*Giodo!: Civil service, dc
*psydude - works at FSI.

What other resources are there?

For the FSOT (written test): http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fswe/

For the FSOA (oral assesment): http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fsoa/ (Note: Specialists have their own group)

There is a group for passers of the FSOA only, but if you're that far you should be knowledgeable, holler in the thread and someone will hook you up.

Bruxism posted:

HR has developed, and barely advertised, this great smart-phone app for people interested in careers at DOS:
DOSCareers app for Android
DOSCareers app for Iphone

not only does it condense our careers site down to a handy app, but it also contains practice test questions for the various disciplines. Seems handy for people just looking into applying as well as those at various stages of testing.

State also has a general app, with things like the daily press briefing, travel warnings, etc. It's actually worth getting, as you can get some pretty decent news and info there far more quickly than putzing around on the intranet.

Leif. fucked around with this message at Nov 28, 2013 around 12:19

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Belasarius
Feb 27, 2002


I'm in the same boat, we just missed the June test unfortunately and the next one is in Nov. If this type of job seems interesting to you why not take it? Don't tell me the odds. There is a sample booklet study guide type thing as well. Do you know any foreign languages?

Leif.
Mar 27, 2005

Son of the Defender
Formerly Diplomaticus/SWATJester


Tell me about being a USAID Foreign Service Officer! (See bottom of post for Foreign Commercial Service/Foreign Agriculture Service)

pamchenko posted:

I absolutely have friends who do DG work (Democracy and Governance, which is our shorthand for that otherwise heinously long job title). Actually, that was my first choice, too, but I didn't hear back from them until after I'd already accepted the Program Officer position. Most people I know who are DG officers (or any kind of technical officer) really love their work. I think the major complaint about DG work would be that sometimes you're doing it in a hostile political environment (my go-to example is always Russia), and that can make your job, and sometimes your life, very challenging. Also, it's probably the hardest backstop to feel like you're making an actual difference in: it's much easier to measure something like # of TB cases per year than positive perception of civil society. But in general, people really seem to enjoy it. I just did a DG rotation, and I really enjoyed it, too.

As for clearance, you have to have a Top Secret clearance for AID just like you do for State, although your exposure to classified information is far, far less.

I went ahead and put together some info following the OP. I apologize in advance for the length, if it gets edited into the OP, I'll cut it out of here.

What is a USAID Foreign Service Officer?

USAID Foreign Service Officers enjoy diplomatic status just like State FSOs. They serve in career tracks in three broad categories: Technical Officer (of which there are many stripes), Program Officer, and “Management” Officers (again, of which there are multiple kinds). General information can be found here: http://www.usaid.gov/careers/fs.html

Where do I go to register for the test/apply for the job?

There is no formal written exam for AID FSO positions. I say “formal” because if/when you get an invite to proceed farther in the process, there will be a reference to your score on the written exam, which is slightly confusing. But really it’s a written application like an application for any other federal job. It’s possible to enter as either a Junior Officer or a “Mid-Level”. You can start the process here: Junior Officers: http://www.usaid.gov/careers/nepanno2.html
Mid-Level Officers: http://www.usaid.gov/careers/fmidlvls.html
Foreign Service Limited Appointments: http://www.usaid.gov/careers/fsls.html (non-permanent hires; I don’t really know very much about this process)

Please note that as of this writing (18 Apr 2011), USAID is NOT HIRING Junior Officers.

There are 3 steps:
1. Choose a career track
2. Submit your application via the AVUE system
3. Take the Oral Assessment

Do I have to come from Georgetown/Harvard/Yale/Whatever to get in?
No. Absolutely not. There is a wide range of schools represented, from Ivy Leagues to small state schools I’ve never heard of. The DC-area schools are prominent, but not because you get a leg up, probably just because the knowledge about AID Foreign Service is much greater in DC than it is anywhere else.

What kind of background will I need? What kind of education will I need?
AID FSOs have a very broad range of educational backgrounds. I would say that attorneys are well represented, but not so well represented as they are among State FSOs. Because many of our career tracks require specific technical knowledge, we have a number of MBAs, MPHs, engineers, teachers, agricultural specialists, etc. Unlike State, having at least a Masters degree is a virtual requirement for getting into Foreign Service at AID. I’m sure there are more, but personally speaking I know exactly one AID FSO who does not have any kind of higher degree. It is not uncommon at all to have two or more.

How does the Foreign Service assignment system work?

For first tour Junior Officers:
An AID FSO’s first tour is directed, which means that though the officer may provide input, the assignments office decides who goes where. The first tour is two years, and during your initial training (currently called DLI training—AID goes through different types of hiring programs), you will meet with advisors (and fill out some very brief paperwork) to give very general information about where you would and would not like to go. For example, you can tell them if there are regions of the world you are particularly interested or not interested in, if there are countries where you have prior experience, if you have a strength in a particular language, if there’s weather you love or hate (basically, this is to determine whether or not you’ll be miserable at one of AID’s few posts where there is winter), what kind of activities you generally like to do (if you like outdoor activities, sending you somewhere where the pollution is so bad you can’t do them isn’t a hot idea), what kinds of family needs you have (if any), etc. You will not see a list of available posts. On Flag Day, you will receive your assignment/flag of your country of destination.

First tour assignments are a real crap shoot. Some people lucked out and got what they wanted (I got very lucky), some people got sent places they had specifically asked not to go to.

For first tour Mid-Level Officers:
An AID mid-level officer’s first tour is also directed, but as these are people with vast prior job experience (usually prior development experience, many times as an AID contractor), they are much more likely to serve their first tour in a CPC (Critical Priority Country, right now Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan). With the exception of Sudan (2 years), these are all 1 year tours. Some mid-level officers are RLAs (Regional Legal Advisors), and these positions are all regional positions, meaning that RLAs only serve in AID Regional missions (currently, off the top of my head: Lima, Budapest, Kyiv, Almaty, Bangkok, Cairo, Pretoria, Nairobi, and Accra; could be wrong about some of those, though).

For second tour and beyond:
When bidding on one’s second tour, one bids off of the general bid list, without restriction other than the level of the position (you may bid no higher than 2 levels above your current level, so if you’re an FS-4—which you generally are when bidding on your second tour—you may bid on FS-4, FS-3, and FS-2 jobs. It is permissible, although not encouraged before you achieve tenure, to bid outside your “backstop”. You must include two CPC bids and one “priority” bid (right now the only two priority countries I can think of are Yemen and Haiti… maybe Ethiopia?) within your eight choices. The current trend is that it’s possible, although not probable, for junior officers to go to CPCs on their second tour. (This vacillates a lot; I’m bidding for my second tour this summer, I’ll let you know how it goes.) You will only receive additional language training if your onward post is “language designated”, which not all posts are. My understanding is that needing language training can, although usually does not, work against you, except maybe in the case of Spanish. The agency has enough Spanish speakers as it is that if you don’t already speak it, they’re probably not going to spend the time and money to have you at FSI for 6 months so you can learn it.

There is an idea that certain posts are “good” for your career and certain posts are “bad”. The “good” is pretty obvious: CPCs and priority countries, as well as countries where the living standard is just not that high (most of sub-Saharan Africa, places like East Timor, etc.); it’s considered “bad” for your career to spend your time swanning around the remaining posts in Eastern Europe (Tirana is upscale for AID posts), the Caribbean, and some of Latin America (Jamaica, Peru, etc.). There’s not a formal concept of “equity” as there is on the State side (except as regards CPCs and priority countries), but the idea is there.

Without “equity”, though, or any requirements to serve in a particular backstop for a certain amount of time (see, e.g., State Consular posts), the lobbying for jobs becomes important sooner at AID than it does at State.

The same IMPORTANT NOTE applies to foreign service at AID that applies to State: the people are the most important thing. You might hate Lima or Bangkok if the people are horrible, and maybe Dili or Kinshasa is the best place you’ve ever been.

Tell me about being a Technical Officer:
USAID has 8 different technical tracks:
• Population/Health/Nutrition Officers
• Economists
• Agriculture Officers
• Education Officers
• Environment Officers
• Private Enterprise Officers
• Crisis, Stabilization and Governance Officers
• Engineering Officers

Technical officers work in the technical offices in their Missions to, largely, design and evaluate programs in their area of specialization. Although most programs at AID are contracted out to third-party implementers, there is some AID direct implementation. Not all technical offices exist in all Missions, I’d say the most common ones are probably Crisis, Stabilization and Governance, Population/Health/Nutrition, and Private Enterprise. The vast, vast majority of technical officers have higher degrees in their area of specialization, and most have prior work experience in the same. Since I’m not a technical officer, it’s hard for me to speak as to pluses/minuses, but in my opinion there aren’t a whole lot of minuses. You get to design and help evaluate programs in your area of interest which—just coming off a technical rotation—I can say is very satisfying work. Maybe a minus is that some yokel in the Program Office is always asking you questions that you think they should already know the answer to. Another minus, of course, is that your technical specialty can preclude you from serving at posts where your technical office just doesn’t work.

Tell me about being a Program/Project Development Officer:
Program Officers work on a range of issues, including formulating country strategy, policy formulation, performance reporting, budgeting, donor coordination, and communications and outreach (similar to PAS at State). Program Officers also guide the technical offices’ program designs through Mission-wide approval and are responsible for ensuring that designs comply with Agency- and Mission-wide guidance.

I’m a Program Officer, so I can be a little more specific about this. In my opinion, the big pluses to working in the Program Office are that you get to see a little bit of everything as program designs work their way through approval, and you get to work on country strategy. If there’s a required assessment (gender, environment) that needs to be done for your mission, that will originate in the Program Office, and those things can be quite interesting. Also, every mission has a Program Office, so your selection of posts is restricted only by who’s hiring when you’re bidding. The downsides, to me, are that if you have a strong interest in one technical area, you won’t get much of a chance to indulge it (other than maybe being the Health or Education or whatever point person in the Program Office). Too, you’re always the bad guy. When a technical office is trying to get a program approved (sometimes on a tight funding deadline), and you keep sending their design back for clarification, revision, and rewrites, people grumble at you and about you a lot. Also, I personally am not a huge fan of the budgeting side of it. But hey, maybe that’s your thing.

Tell me about being a “Management” Officer:
(Note: “Management” officer is not official AID-speak, it’s just the best way I can come up with to categorize these things.)

Management officers come in four different stripes:
• Executive Officer
• Contracting Officer
• Financial Management Officer
• Regional Legal Advisor

Executive Officers are most akin to State GSO officers. They help Missions run facilities management, IT, security, occupational safety/health, construction management and (in some places) housing (although this is more and more being combined with State’s ICASS system). If you wanted to work for State GSO, and thought, hey, I need another option… EXO positions are for you.

Contracting Officers are the key business advisors in Missions. They are directly responsible for negotiating and awarding contracts and the like for the implementation of AID projects. Nota bene: If something goes wrong in this process, Contracting Officers can be criminally prosecuted. So, uh, be careful.

Financial Management Officers are responsible for accounting and budgeting for Mission operations and financial analyses of Agency programs and their local implementing partners. They work closely with the greater USAID Controller team.

Regional Legal Advisors work in AID Regional Missions to ensure that AID remains legally compliant with any number of legal frameworks. International law (in general, although largely contractual), local employment and contract law, US employment law, ethical compliance… the RLA is in charge of monitoring all of this. RLAs always seem to be mid-level officers. I’ve never heard of a Junior Officer serving as an RLA.

It’s hard for me to come up with pluses and minuses for these because I never even considered taking any of these positions, so I haven’t thought about it enough. You can find more information on all these backstops (except RLA, for some reason) here: http://www.usaid.gov/careers/fso.html

Tell Me About Language Training:
AID FSO language training is largely akin to language training for State FSOs, except our tenure standards are lower. World languages require a 3/3, but nothing else does that I know of. If you come in with prior language knowledge, you may tenure in any language—even one that you will never, in a thousand years, use at AID (I had a friend who tenured in German, and another who tenured in Polish). If you do this, and your first post is not language-designated, you will not receive language training before you go unless you can talk your post into letting you take an FSI Fast Course. Also, your language training may have absolutely nothing to do with your first post, if you do need training to make tenure. I have a friend who was posted to Cairo and got trained in Spanish. You know, obviously.

As far as I know, you can nearly always receive additional language training at post, but I know that the conditions in which that training takes place varies. Sometimes it’s one-on-one tutoring up to 8 hours a week, sometimes it’s a class twice a week.

Is there a fight for good locations?
Of course. And keep in mind that the “good” locations at AID are not Sydney, Paris, London, Brussels, and Rome. After your first two tours, where the Agency mostly wants you to be able to learn your job in relative peace, you’ll have a hard time getting a “good” location without spending some time in a CPC first.

Can LGBT apply?
Yes, of course. Same as State. Of course, the vast majority of AID posts are in places we don’t typically think of as being progressive regarding LGBT’s, but I have a close friend who’s a gay AID FSO, and he claims never to have had any problems.

Tell me about family life:
Pretty much the same as State, with the caveat that many, many AID posts are difficult for single women, for a multitude of reasons ranging from it being socially suspicious for a woman to be out alone to (much more commonly) Western guys loving to date the locals, while local guys are not so interested in Western women. Also, I suspect (though I don't really know) that families with kids above elementary-school age may have a hard time finding posts with adequate schooling. Most people I know with high school kids have them in boarding school or living with relatives in the States.

Please let me know if there’s anything I should add!

What do Foreign Commercial Service officers do?
If we can get something from Foreign Commercial Service, that'd be great, as they're FSOs too! However, you can ask Diplomaticus about it, as he is a Commercial Attache at a FCS Partner Post (basically, since the Commercial Service is not at every mission, some embassies are designated "partner posts", and have one of there Economic Officers double as Commercial Attache: the official Commerce Dept. presence in that country, but they are State employees. All partner posts are tied to a main FCS post -- for instance Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, Tanzania, Rwanda, and notionally Somalia are partner posts with FCS Nairobi in Kenya.

Basically, FCS officers overseas are business development types. They try to promote US exports to that country, and import sourcing from the US. They do due diligence for US firms, set up meetings for them, pre-screen contacts in various commercial fields, and recruit delegations for reverse trade missions and International Buyer Programs.

[b[ What do Foreign Agriculture Service officers do?[/b]
They do similar stuff to a State dept. Economic officer, with a bit of the commercial portfolio from the FCS as well. They monitor the agriculture portfolio, which is both business oriented (commercial farms), food security oriented (in drought/famine countries, though USAID is the main organization for that) and commercial oriented (get US firms to sell agriculture products in that country, usually really hard to do with tariffs in non WTO countries). They also are the primary people involved in monitoring GMO crops, bio-availabilty, and other genetically modified stuff for agriculture. They're really small, even smaller than Commerce is at most posts, but I believe that they may be at more posts than Commerce is.




Tell me About Family Life

TCD posted:

DasNeonLicht posted:

poo poo, what are your possible options if you are going into the Foreign Service but want to keep your significant other?

Break-up?

Long distance relationship?

Marry him/her and take them with you?

Could goon FSOs with experience explain the pros and cons of each how realistic the last two options are?

Myself, and 2 other junior FSOs went the marry route who are at my current assignment. There were other marriages in my specialist class that took place during training. Marriage, get them on orders, get them the dip passport etc. 2 of us did the Justice of the Peace. (It's painfully easy in Virginia). I purposed right before I left for training, she came down 2 months later... we talked about it and then went to the Court House after our joint Specialist/A100 ceremony thing at Main State.

Otherwise it's the first 2. For heterosexual couples, last I heard, they won't grant the same-sex benefit issue for non-married couples. Meaning, you have to get visas for your boyfriend/girlfriend, you have to pay for their travel, you'll have to pay for their insurance/medevac (holy poo poo expensive) and of course, they won't be eligible during authorized or ordered departure (when poo poo hits the fan).


With that said, long distance relationship stuff is pretty common. For example, during ordered departure if you're considered critical, spouse goes, you stay. Training, or rotation periods can have couples spending a few months apart. There's also AIP and other unaccompanied posts which mean, 1 year apart, although you get several R&Rs. Also, you can get to Post and find out your spouse hates it, and thus, you stay (for example, as a new hire, it's pretty difficult to curtail out of Posts) and spouse goes. If you become a tandem couple, I think it would pretty lucky if you both received the same assignments for an entire career.

You'll also have to consider on the long distance stuff, you might be directed to a Post on really odd timezone issues to stay in contact. Internet and phone service maybe essentially non-existent at some places aside from the Embassy. These posts are becoming fewer and fewer, but the ones that are still left, well they do have Entry Level positions

Basically, my advice is get married or breakup.

Flash forward, you break up (or are just single) and now you go to a post, meet a person outside the Mission, when you leave in a year or two, you have to have the same conversation. Even if that person is a FSO, you'll need to have the same talk. I heard of a current tandem that met, when they both already had onward assignments. They still got married, spent 2 years apart, and then re-linked up.

Leif. fucked around with this message at Mar 9, 2013 around 14:12

suboptimal
Oct 27, 2008

Ba-dam ba-DUMMMMMM


I took the June FSOT and passed. It's broken up into 4 sections, one being a general knowledge smorgasbord of questions that I'd assume a graduating law student would do well on (questions on US governance, boilerplate IR questions- for context, I've got an MA in IR and didn't think anything on there was beyond college level poli-sci/history), an English grammar section that's honestly a lot less painful than the GRE, a series of management-style questions, and an essay. I'd heard the 85% fail statistic before, and I can't imagine why that is.

However, even if you pass, they can decide to not process your application further. A friend of mine, who I would have thought was the personification of budding FSO, passed, and in the same letter, was told he wouldn't be invited to the next round. He could, however, start the entire process over again.

Leif.
Mar 27, 2005

Son of the Defender
Formerly Diplomaticus/SWATJester


What happened after the test? As I understand it the hiring process is different than it was before with an oral exam. What was your next step, where are you now in the process? Also how long did you have to wait on stuff?

pragan4
Aug 17, 2003

El gallo Pinto no pinta,
el que pinta es el pintor.


SWATJester posted:

What happened after the test? As I understand it the hiring process is different than it was before with an oral exam. What was your next step, where are you now in the process? Also how long did you have to wait on stuff?

About 3 weeks after the June test I got my results and the next step is the personal narrative--apparently they use the answers to those questions and the test scores to determine if you're invited to take the oral exam.

I've heard that there is a lot of waiting. Even if you pass both tests you could end up waiting up to 18 months. If you aren't high enough on the list to get a job by then you have to start the entire process over again. There are lots of horror stories about people taking the oral exam 10 times, but the process works pretty well because every foreign service officer I have met is pretty smart and qualified.

suboptimal
Oct 27, 2008

Ba-dam ba-DUMMMMMM


SWATJester posted:

What happened after the test? As I understand it the hiring process is different than it was before with an oral exam. What was your next step, where are you now in the process? Also how long did you have to wait on stuff?

I have to do 5 short essay questions of >200 words in length, that basically ask some more questions regarding management, ability to communicate across cultures, etc. Then, according to my letter, I get to wait until October to find out if I'm going to be invited for oral interviews.

In all honesty, I get the purpose of the oral interviews and whatnot, but I think they grade the test the same way they pick the pope or something: toss each one on a fire, and if it smokes white, you pass, if it's black smoke, FAIL.

TCD
Nov 13, 2002

Every step, a fucking adventure.


SWATJester posted:

So I'm graduating law school this year, and there's no jobs. My family has always wanted me to join the Foreign Service, and after reviewing the State department's website, it sounds interesting.

I'm a bit concerned about the FSOT. According to what I've read only about 25% pass the exam, and out of those, only about 10% get hired. But are those applicants mouthbreathers looking for a federal job, or are they actual intelligent people? What are the odds that an graduate of a top-tier law school would get in?

Expect a long, very slow process even if you pass. And once you get past the written exam, I doubt you are going to find many mouth breathers.

Even for FS Specialists, the time from submit application to passing the "review" passing the oral, passing med and security, can take around 2 years.

I'd imagine for the Officer and Specialist positions are being flooded with solid applicants.

Good luck.

Also, I remember on another message board some ivy league law grad getting denied multiple times in the QEP process. Always passed the written, never invited for an oral.

Edit: SWAT, I'd consider taking the bar, and other avenues of employment. Nothing is for sure, and the statistics that you hear about are ones that I've heard too... If the next written test is in Nov, you're still looking around what, next Spring for the next round of orals?

TCD fucked around with this message at Jul 8, 2009 around 21:51

Leif.
Mar 27, 2005

Son of the Defender
Formerly Diplomaticus/SWATJester


Would having a law degree overqualify me for the position or will it be right smack dab in the middle of competitive?

Also, I had a secret clearance when I was in the military, will that work to speed up the security clearance?

And finally, IIRC this is an exempted service position right? Will I still receive veterans preference (I qualify for 5 points).

I kind of wish there were like...recruiters or something, some sort of career counselor like the military has for these kinds of questions.

TCD
Nov 13, 2002

Every step, a fucking adventure.


SWATJester posted:

Would having a law degree overqualify me for the position or will it be right smack dab in the middle of competitive?

Also, I had a secret clearance when I was in the military, will that work to speed up the security clearance?

And finally, IIRC this is an exempted service position right? Will I still receive veterans preference (I qualify for 5 points).

I kind of wish there were like...recruiters or something, some sort of career counselor like the military has for these kinds of questions.

When I talked to an incoming A100 class, they were all over the place in experience and age, but there were quite a few who had Masters, PhDs, or JDs. Most had experience using those degrees however. Your military experience should help on your essays in the sense of you have an understanding of rigors of overseas life, and the ability to live in hardship areas (and the chance of doing unaccompanied tours). In other words, your law degree doesn't over qualify you or make you a shoe in. edit: Your law degree can help how you present yourself both on paper (via the writings, and of course during the orals). Or so I've been told...

Security clearance, I don't think so. I know a person who came from Navy with a TS and it took longer to get his DoS TS compared to others who never held a clearance. I think they still shoot for 3-6 months and most new people I've talked have been in that range, with a few taking close to a year, and some taking around a month.

I think your veteran preference counts ONCE you make it past the orals. I think that's when they add your vet preference to your score which then puts you in position on the register. Again, not entirely sure, but I thought that's the way it worked.

:edited a few things

Dept of State website posted:

# Can you give me an idea of the average time frame for completing the security and medical clearances?

It all depends on whether issues arise in either the medical or security clearance processes. It can take as little as 60 days (sometimes even less), but it can also take much longer if there are issues that are complex. Such cases, fortunately, are rather rare, and we generally know within 120 days or so whether the clearances will be forthcoming.

# I have top security clearance now. If I pass the Foreign Service Officer Test and oral assessment, would I be eligible for a job immediately?

If your TS clearance was granted by the Department of State, then you won't need a new one. However, if it's from another agency, we'll need to verify the duration and level of clearance to determine if we need to update the background investigation and issue our own clearance. In either case, your entire file will be reviewed to determine your suitability for appointment to the Foreign Service before you are offered a job.
via here
http://careers.state.gov/officer/faqs.html

TCD fucked around with this message at Jul 9, 2009 around 00:27

Puddins
May 12, 2008


Does anyone know anything about the telephone language tests?

I've taken the written exam before and passed but I've never gone forward with the rest of the process due to a family member with a serious illness. I took the exam again in June now that family life is a little more stable and I passed. I'm not totally excited about the personal narrative (they never asked me to do one before), but whatever. The thing that concerns me is the language test. I've actually taken 3 of their "most wanted languages" but it's been years since I've really spoken them. Does anyone have any advice besides going out and getting Rosetta Stone to brush up? I'm really hoping my language skills can give me a few extra points.

HeroOfTheRevolution
Apr 26, 2008



SWATJester posted:

And finally, IIRC this is an exempted service position right? Will I still receive veterans preference (I qualify for 5 points).

Yeah, if you make it to the oral assessment, you have to reach a certain points threshold to be given a job offer (and if you reach that points threshold I believe the offer is automatic). Veterans are given a slight boost in points from the get-go. If you speak a need language you are also given a slight boost in points (Arabic is the highest, then things like Russian, Farsi, Urdu, Serbo-Croatian, etc.) Plus it helps in the QEP stage because it adds to your resume and makes it more likely you'll be invited to the oral assessment in the first place.

A law degree isn't going to overqualify you. Most people applying will have advanced degrees (most commonly Masters in International Relations or the such).

The written exam is easy as pie if you're relatively intelligent and someone who's graduated law school isn't going to have a tough time with it at all. I passed it but did not get invited to the oral assessment (I assumed I wouldn't, my resume isn't super-impressive and my essays were pretty weak).

Leif.
Mar 27, 2005

Son of the Defender
Formerly Diplomaticus/SWATJester


Awesome.

Also, I read that State is creating 2100 more jobs, about 1200 of which are expected to be Specialist or A100 positions...anyone know about this?

Business of Ferrets
Mar 2, 2008

Good to see that everything is back to normal.

SWATJester,

First of all: Do go, Awesome jobs, Die well traveled.

I have spent almost a decade as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) with the State Department, and it is one of the very best jobs out there. Travel the world. Work issues those International Law Pandas can only dream about. Get paid to learn languages. Make good money (along with a great retirement plan!)

There are plenty of JDs around State (we sometimes refer to them as "recovering attorneys"), so you will be in good company. As others have said, having had a previous clearance won't help with the process, but your veteran's status will.

In addition to State's career page, there are a couple of other really good resources out there:

For the FSOT (written test): http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fswe/

For the FSOA (oral assesment): http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fsoa/

I don't want to go into too much personal detail here, but do PM me with any questions you might have -- I'll fill in the gory details (background, places I've worked, etc.) there. I'm happy to answer any general questions in this thread, too.

Omits-Bagels
Feb 12, 2001


Business of Ferrets posted:

SWATJester,

First of all: Do go, Awesome jobs, Die well traveled.

I have spent almost a decade as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) with the State Department, and it is one of the very best jobs out there. Travel the world. Work issues those International Law Pandas can only dream about. Get paid to learn languages. Make good money (along with a great retirement plan!)

There are plenty of JDs around State (we sometimes refer to them as "recovering attorneys"), so you will be in good company. As others have said, having had a previous clearance won't help with the process, but your veteran's status will.

In addition to State's career page, there are a couple of other really good resources out there:

For the FSOT (written test): http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fswe/

For the FSOA (oral assesment): http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fsoa/

I don't want to go into too much personal detail here, but do PM me with any questions you might have -- I'll fill in the gory details (background, places I've worked, etc.) there. I'm happy to answer any general questions in this thread, too.

There are a lot of people here who would be interested in learning more from you.

What is your background?
What is the background of other people you worked with?
Do most people come from certain schools/academic backgrounds?
What is the average age of a new hire?

Can people transition from a FSO position to an CIA type position?

I've always thought being an FSO sounded like a great career. If I ever get accepted into the Peace Corps I've thought about giving it a shot.

Kase Im Licht
Jan 26, 2001


gently caress these personal narratives. I hate them.

Business of Ferrets
Mar 2, 2008

Good to see that everything is back to normal.

quote:

What is your background?

I joined the Foreign Service directly after graduating with my undergraduate degree. Prior to that, I had quite a bit of volunteer work but no full-time employment.

quote:

What is the background of other people you worked with?
Do most people come from certain schools/academic backgrounds?

It's all across the board. I know folks who, in prior lives, were oceanographers, archeologists, botanists, NGO workers, Peace Corps volunteers, military (both enlisted and commissioned), law enforcement, teachers, comedy writers, lawyers, etc.

When they say no specific major or field of study is required, they really mean it.

My classmates and colleagues come from a full range of colleges and universities -- some I've heard of, and some I haven't. Graduates of good international studies grad programs tend to be well represented, but by no means a majority.

quote:

What is the average age of a new hire?

Most are late 20s to 30s, but oldest dude in my class was 56. Youngest was 21. You have to join before you turn 60 (to allow a minimal pension to vest).

quote:

Can people transition from a FSO position to an CIA type position?

One could always make a formal job application, but there is no mechanism within the Service to do so; they are two separate organizations. If you're talking about analysis, the State Department has its own intelligence bureau in Washington where FSOs can work for periods of time as analysts.

quote:

I've always thought being an FSO sounded like a great career. If I ever get accepted into the Peace Corps I've thought about giving it a shot.

Why not just skip the Peace Corps and go straight for State? The diplomatic lifestyle is much more comfortable.

Omits-Bagels
Feb 12, 2001


Business of Ferrets:
Do they like to see foreign language skills prior to joining?

I would think about skipping the peace corps but I have nothing about me that stands out. I have a marketing degree from no name state school and the only work experience I have is that I'm currently an AmeriCorps volunteer.

From what I hear, some solid experience and a grad degree from a good IR university is the best shot at getting hired. But maybe I'm mistaken.

Business of Ferrets
Mar 2, 2008

Good to see that everything is back to normal.

Knowing a language reasonably well will improve your chances of getting hired, but is not necessary. That said, it seemed like most of my classmates knew at least one foreign language, and lots of folks knew more than one. If your language is a "critical need" (see State's recruitment website for more info) like Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, or the like, you will get a bigger bump than, say, proficiency in French or Dutch.

PCV experience always looks good on the resume, so that is a good way to hedge your bets (though I don't know how competitive Peace Corps is these days). At the same time you should apply (and keep applying each year) to the Foreign Service; the initial test is free and you are not penalized for repeated attempts (lots of FSOs took the tests more than once).

Funkameleon
Jan 27, 2009


Regarding the foreign language aspect, you receive a 0.4 bonus for Critical Needs languages and a 0.17 bonus for other foreign languages. (can only apply once)


So even if you managed to completely fail at playing up your language ability in other parts of the assessment, the score bump surely helps

Omits-Bagels
Feb 12, 2001


Funkameleon posted:

Regarding the foreign language aspect, you receive a 0.4 bonus for Critical Needs languages and a 0.17 bonus for other foreign languages. (can only apply once)


So even if you managed to completely fail at playing up your language ability in other parts of the assessment, the score bump surely helps


How many points do you need to be considered for acceptance?

Happydayz
Jan 6, 2001



5.25 out of 7 to pass. However then you get put on an order of merit list and racked and stacked with everyone else who passed.

What you need to stand a realistic chance of getting hired varies depending on what cone you want and how competitive the selection is. I think they've gone down to a 5.4 for the political cone, whereas previously you wanted a 5.6 or higher to stand a good shot.

TCD
Nov 13, 2002

Every step, a fucking adventure.


Just wanted to comment that there is presently a program in place that can help FS Specialists transition to the Officer side. You still have to do the Oral Exam on your own dime, but if you get a passing score on the oral, you pretty much transition right into the next A100 class. You bypass the order list ranking. There's also a few ways where you can not take the FSOT as a way to get invited to the Orals.

Liface
Jun 17, 2001

by T. Finn


I'm very interested in foreign cultures, but I've heard that the foreign service encourages its members to keep their distance to prevent them from becoming too attached. This discourages me, because I'm a fan of living in foreign cultures just as the people in those same cultures do.

Can anyone say anything about this?

psydude
Mar 31, 2008

Perry'd.


Have any of you FSOs worked with US military Foreign Area Officers before? If so, what exactly was your relationship with them like?

Business of Ferrets
Mar 2, 2008

Good to see that everything is back to normal.

Liface posted:

I'm very interested in foreign cultures, but I've heard that the foreign service encourages its members to keep their distance to prevent them from becoming too attached. This discourages me, because I'm a fan of living in foreign cultures just as the people in those same cultures do.

Can anyone say anything about this?

Not at all the case. You're basically able to integrate as much as you please into your host country's culture. Now, in many places you will be wealthier and live in nicer housing than many of the locals, so that could get in the way of living "just" like the locals. Or maybe you would be living just like the local elite.

psydude posted:

Have any of you FSOs worked with US military Foreign Area Officers before? If so, what exactly was your relationship with them like?

I have worked extensively with FAOs from the Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force. They have almost all been sharp, impressive folks. As far as the relationship goes, when our work brings us together, we work together and, in the places I've served, at least, we have consulted frequently with one another. I really like the mil folks, personally.

DustingDuvet
Dec 12, 2004

I think we are flying in the wrong direction

Business of Ferrets posted:

Not at all the case.

I would disagree with that statement. It seems like they are able to place restrictions on what you can do if they see fit.

"U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia are permitted to travel to major cities in the country, but normally only by air. They may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night."

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_941.html

xanthig
Apr 23, 2005



Puddins posted:

Does anyone know anything about the telephone language tests?


I took my Chinese (Mandarin) language test last week. The conversation started out easily enough and then tester kept pushing until she hit the edge of my ability to express myself.

Coming away from the test, I wish I was more aggressive about directing the conversation, I would have done a lot better discussing international trade than comparative construction methods between China and the US.

From what I have been able to read online, the test itself is pass/fail based on whether or not you hit S2, but you don't get your ILR speaking score. Thankfully, super critical needs language speakers get another opportunity to test after passing the oral assessment, and then every six months after that for as long as they are on the register.

Apparently, speaking a super critical needs language is worth more towards your spot on the register than a 10 pt veterans preference, so you definitely want to take the test if you can.

xanthig fucked around with this message at Jul 20, 2009 around 19:58

TCD
Nov 13, 2002

Every step, a fucking adventure.


DustingDuvet posted:

I would disagree with that statement. It seems like they are able to place restrictions on what you can do if they see fit.

"U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia are permitted to travel to major cities in the country, but normally only by air. They may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night."

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_941.html

Re-read the question and the response and your quote.

This does not appear to be the case of the FS preventing families from becoming too attached to the area.


Edit: Now if you read your quoted travel response there are other reasons on how certain liberties in countries might be restricted for various reasons compared to that of an expat coming into the country on their own.

TCD fucked around with this message at Jul 20, 2009 around 19:47

AKA Pseudonym
May 16, 2004

A dashing and sophisticated young man

DustingDuvet posted:

I would disagree with that statement. It seems like they are able to place restrictions on what you can do if they see fit.

"U.S. government officials and their families in Colombia are permitted to travel to major cities in the country, but normally only by air. They may not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night."

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_941.html

Those are fairly rare and mostly common sense anyways. There are a handful of places where fraternization with the locals is restricted due to concerns about espionage, Cuba springs to mind. But tons of people are married to people they met while posted abroad, sometimes it seems like it's the norm.

xanthig
Apr 23, 2005



A more relevant question than what is a DoS employee allowed to do is what is DoS corporate culture like with regards to getting your hand dirty?

US embassies seem to try real hard to be small enclaves of the USA, shutting themselves off from the countries they are in behind fortress walls. So how engaged are foreign service officers with the host countries?

Do they get to go out into the field much, or culturally is that avoided as much as possible?

How adventurous is you average embassy employee? For instance, how many of them would eat a tarantula when invited to by a host?

What defines hardship for a posting?

Zoo
Oct 24, 2004

I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system. The universe is indifferent.


It sounds like a lot/most of applicants have advanced degrees. How important is your academic background?

Further, does employment at a national level intelligence agency have a bearing on your application chances? Note that I am not a member of such an organization, but I do know someone who is, who has an advanced degree, and who is interested in applying. For me, I have no advanced degree, hence my first question. :P

TCD
Nov 13, 2002

Every step, a fucking adventure.


Zoo posted:

It sounds like a lot/most of applicants have advanced degrees. How important is your academic background?

Further, does employment at a national level intelligence agency have a bearing on your application chances? Note that I am not a member of such an organization, but I do know someone who is, who has an advanced degree, and who is interested in applying. For me, I have no advanced degree, hence my first question. :P


As best as I know for Officers, you just need to have your resume and application packet make it past FSOT the QEP process. Once you get past that point, it's all about you at the Orals, not your resume and that's where it gets hard.


So, apply. You can apply multiple times and take the FSOT and Orals multiple times.

Ganguro King
Jul 26, 2007


Does anyone know which cones are the most/least difficult to get in to?

AKA Pseudonym
May 16, 2004

A dashing and sophisticated young man

xanthig posted:

A more relevant question than what is a DoS employee allowed to do is what is DoS corporate culture like with regards to getting your hand dirty?

US embassies seem to try real hard to be small enclaves of the USA, shutting themselves off from the countries they are in behind fortress walls. So how engaged are foreign service officers with the host countries?

Do they get to go out into the field much, or culturally is that avoided as much as possible?

How adventurous is you average embassy employee? For instance, how many of them would eat a tarantula when invited to by a host?

What defines hardship for a posting?

Most people are pretty adventurous and the culture is really geared towards getting out and experiencing things. They ask you right up front if your willing to live anywhere in the world so that immediately filters for people who are at least comfortable with that. And you live on the economy so your shopping, eating, and living next to the locals. They might be some of the wealthier locals but they're locals.

I don't know about a tarnatula specificly but one of the things I like about the Foreign Service is that it's pretty easy to round people up to go eat something weird.

Kase Im Licht
Jan 26, 2001


Ganguro King posted:

Does anyone know which cones are the most/least difficult to get in to?
From hardest to easiest its something like:

Political, economic, Public Diplomacy, Management, Consular.

Vilerat
May 11, 2002


Kase Im Licht posted:

From hardest to easiest its something like:

Political, economic, Public Diplomacy, Management, Consular.

Close but PD is in higher demand than Econ. I can chime in from a IMS/IMTS background or more recently Management if anybody has any questions. I really didn't realize we had so many State types on here these days.

Business of Ferrets
Mar 2, 2008

Good to see that everything is back to normal.

TCD posted:

As best as I know for Officers, you just need to have your resume and application packet make it past FSOT the QEP process. Once you get past that point, it's all about you at the Orals, not your resume and that's where it gets hard.

Though the process has changed since I went through it, I think there is a "structured interview" section of the FSOA where a resume plays a role. The idea, though, that strong performance at the FSOA is key can't be ignored; you have to pass the FSOA before things like language or veterans preference can bump you up.

pragan4
Aug 17, 2003

El gallo Pinto no pinta,
el que pinta es el pintor.


Happydayz posted:

5.25 out of 7 to pass. However then you get put on an order of merit list and racked and stacked with everyone else who passed.

What you need to stand a realistic chance of getting hired varies depending on what cone you want and how competitive the selection is. I think they've gone down to a 5.4 for the political cone, whereas previously you wanted a 5.6 or higher to stand a good shot.

How do you go about computing a hypothetical score? The written exam score is rolled into that possible 7, right?

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TCD
Nov 13, 2002

Every step, a fucking adventure.


pragan4 posted:

How do you go about computing a hypothetical score? The written exam score is rolled into that possible 7, right?

I don't believe the written exam is considered in that score. I thought it was just your overall score for the oral exam part (the out of 7 points).

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