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Page Background

Realistic Expectations

The Foreign Agricultural

Service can be proud of the

steps taken to recognize

and fix the hiring process to

bring in the right number of

qualified new Foreign Service

trainees. But we still have a


New employees are con-

fused and uncertain about

what to expect from their

new career, especially when

it concerns the frequency

of overseas deployment.

Miscommunication is a

potentially dangerous drag

on morale; both sides need

to listen more carefully to

each other.

We need to ensure that

FAS provides the leadership,

ongoing education and expe-

riences to make the most of

our new group of employees.

One way I suggest that we

do that is to manage career

expectations as part of the

renewed and reinvigorated

culture within FAS. Effective

communication by manage-

ment to help new employees

create realistic expectations

is paramount in minimizing


Unrealistic views of the

FAS career path are prob-

lematic because qualified

employees have many other

options and opportunities

and may not be willing to

wait around if their expec-

tations go unfulfilled. For

example, new officers should

not expect three or more

consecutive overseas assign-

ments, although that is not

uncommon amongst officers

in our currently depleted top


New employees’ concerns

about the timing and quality

of first and second post-

ings are most pressing and

immediate, but their overall

expectations also don’t

reflect reality. The reality is

that Washington tours will be

and should be a more inte-

gral part of a full FAS career.

Management is trying

to communicate on these

issues, but the message isn’t

resonating because it is too

vague. Management must

be able to better articulate

its vision of a modern FAS

Foreign Service corps, espe-

cially what common career

paths will look like and the

career choices employees

will encounter.

The new employees need

to hear and understand that

their future career paths will

likely be different than those

of the current senior officers.

However, “different” does not

mean “less rewarding.” The

story about the FAS Foreign

Service must be accurate

Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FAS VP.


or (202) 720-2502




and make for a compelling

career of service; but it must

also be realistic.

Management needs to be

more specific about what a

career starting from today’s

junior level looks like, while

new employees need to take

off their rose-colored glasses

and be willing to really listen.

If management and new

employees continue to talk

past each other, employees

happy to have just joined are

bound to be alienated. Attri-

tion is a part of any work-

place, but it shouldn’t be the

result of miscommunication

or divergent expectations.







AFSA is pleased to announce that the association has secured 10 years of funding for a number of annual perfor-

mance and dissent awards.

Two agreements cover the M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Officer

and the Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy.

We thank our partners and funders: Clements Worldwide, Dr. Sushma Palmer and the Palmer family, respec-

tively. We greatly appreciate their support for AFSA and these awards.

The awards are presented at AFSA’s annual awards ceremony, which takes place in June of each year. For more

information on AFSA’s awards program, and how to nominate deserving colleagues, please visit




New employees are confused and

uncertain about what to expect from their

new career, especially when it concerns

the frequency of overseas deployment.