The Foreign Service Journal - October 2014 - page 36

cone, the employee is typically ring on all cylinders, doing some
of his or her best work across a range of issues and utilizing greater
depth of skill/knowledge.
• Survey the 17 Financial Management Officer specialists cur-
rently serving out of cone to nd out why they are serving out of
cone. Ask themwhy many FMOs leave their specialty and do not
return. As someone who served out of cone, I confess it was an
exceptional experience; but I was told that I should either return
to my specialty or try to convert, because promotion opportunities
would be nonexistent from there.
• Develop a specialist designation cone, which allows FMOs
(and other specialists) to serve out of cone without being disad-
vantaged for promotion purposes. Consider something similar to
classwide promotions on the generalist side.
• Increase opportunities for specialists to convert to generalist
if they so desire.
• Develop a senior leadership seminar for specialists during
years of service between FS-1 and, potentially, FS-OC. While
many do not cross the threshold or perhaps choose not to open
their window at all, serving at the 01 level can be a long stretch in
a career. Once you have taken the current 01 leadership course,
it could be years before you return to FSI for training, if at all.
Consider developing an experiential seminar focusing on real-life
events that participants can dissect and share among peers.
• Provide mandatory (fast) language training for all special-
ists! FSI language training is humbling (to put it nicely); but in the
end the challenge of learning a language always serves us well.
A basic foundation of everyday survival words and phrases from
FSI would be useful. All department personnel must be able to
function in the countries they serve. Lan-
guage has grudgingly been authorized
for specialists (less grudgingly than when
I started), but it is still unnecessarily dif-
cult to obtain.
After so many years in the depart-
ment, I realize that gaps can and are
managed at post, and there are very
few world-ending situations that arise
if the employee shows up in October as
opposed to August. Language ability will
make the years of service more positive
and productive.
Fortunately I served under several
top leaders and was always treated as a
respected partner and contributor to the
team. However the “Us” (specialists) vs.
“ em” (generalists) divide still remains, with disdain owing
from generalists more so than the other way around. It seems to
notch up or down depending on the front o ce attitude and how
post leadership develops the entire team.
As I prepared this note, several colleagues revealed long-
standing resentment about treatment received at the hands of
generalist colleagues who acted as if they were superior—as if, in
the middle of incoming re, a bullet would know to swerve and hit
the specialist instead of the generalist.
We’re a team, each providing valuable contributions.
Despite Challenges
and Change, We
Make a Di€erence
By Henry Mendelsohn
Regional Information Resource Ocer, Public A‡airs Section
Embassy Nairobi
I’ve been a Foreign Service Specialist and Regional Informa-
tion Resource O cer for 20 years. I started with the United States
Information Agency in 1994 and have been overseas since 1995
serving in mostly hardship and greater hardship postings.
One of the best pieces of advice I received during my rst
assignment is that I could easily do the job of a generalist, but a
generalist could never do my job. I’ve found this to be consistently
e specialized information science skills I’ve brought to my
work complement and support the work of the State Department
AFSA/Jeff Lau
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