Page 26 - Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b

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A USAID ofcer says the
Foreign Service has been
“a lifelong dream,” and that
she has always wanted to
serve in the developing
world. USAID ofcers point
to the desire to work in
development as a primary
motivation for joining the
Foreign Service. Several mention “the mission” and public
service, as well as “job security.” Given that permanent jobs in
the development feld, as opposed to contract jobs, are difcult
to come by, job security is probably more of a factor for those
joining USAID than State.
Talking about My Generation
We asked new hires to describe their demographic, defning
it not in terms of age but in terms of when they joined the For-
eign Service. (Each orientation class comprises people whose
ages range from 22 to 59.) Te current average age for entry to
the Foreign Service is about 32, which is a year or two higher
than a decade ago.
Most new hires are coming in with prior work experience;
many join the FS as a second, or even third, career. Te most
common attribute of those joining today is that they have had
prior overseas experience of one kind or another. A majority
come in with some foreign language skills.
Te new Foreign Service
generation is patriotic and
highly motivated, says an
Information Resources
Management ofcer, adding
“I’m sure previous genera-
tions have the same traits.”
“Tis generation ‘gets
it,’” says Ambassador Tom
Armbruster, who met thousands of Foreign Service candidates
while serving as the New York region’s diplomat-in-residence
from 2010 through 2012. “Tey understand that we do tough
work in tough places.” Te comments from new hires bear this
out: Tey tend to know what they are getting into in terms of
hardship and unaccompanied postings. Not many are entering
blind to the realities of the career and lifestyle. Tis is probably
due to the expansion of easily accessible information about the
career that can be found online. Te impact of technology and
interconnectedness cannot be overstated when it comes to the
new generation.
In terms of age, a majority of those coming in under Diplo-
macy 3.0 and USAID’s DLI are part of Generation Y (born in
the mid-1980s through the early 1990s), but many are from
Generation X (born in the mid-1960s to early 1980s). A growing
number of former military personnel have joined in recent
years, especially into management and specialist tracks. Tey
tend to be older new hires.
Today’s new hires seem to be more egalitarian, seeing fewer
arbitrary lines between career tracks, among agencies and
between Foreign Service and local staf. Only time will tell if
this is a lasting trait.
“I think our generation is less bound by agency culture,”
ofers Political Ofcer Erin Williams. “And since we come from
a diferent generation, we have diferent professional styles and
expectations, to our beneft and detriment. I don’t think we’re
overly naïve in thinking we can change the world, but we have
a perspective that is more, why not try?
“Another diference is that this generation entered the
Foreign Service during the fnancial crisis,” she says. “So there
are people who are starting second careers because their frst
was no longer an option. Tey bring an outside perspective,
but they are also from a diferent professional generation. So,
in this respect, I think it’s difcult to generalize across the spec-
trum of FSOs who entered as part of Diplomacy 3.0.”
“Our generation seems to mesh well with those who entered
within the last 10 years, but there tends to be some friction with
“We are a team,
but one with many highly
individualistic people who get
paid to think for themselves.”
–FSO Mark Palermo
My Generation
ith many of us in high school or college when 9/11
took place, we see the world as a more chaotic
and dangerous place. I think we are skeptical of any
notion that the U.S. has unassailable moral authority.
With planes and Internet connections, “remote” posts
need not be so remote anymore. Today in almost all
countries, the U.S. government is but one means of U.S.
infuence overseas. Others include U.S.-based diaspora
communities, NGOs, media and entertainment outlets,
American-educated elites and U.S. businesses. I think
many of us new folks see a need to engage with other
U.S. actors overseas (i.e., in a kind of “force-multiplying”
capacity) rather than keep our work stovepiped and
—A public diplomacy ofcer in Europe