Page 38 - Foreign Service Journal - October, 2012b

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ere is a selection of illustrative comments from new
hires about what they wish they had known before
joining the Foreign Service, including advice for
those considering the career.
I feel like I had fairly good information coming into the
Foreign Service, but I would tell candidates to stay relaxed;
don’t feel like this is the end-all, be-all. Don’t give up if you
really want to join. It’s a great career, and there are amazing
people you will work with.
—State Consular Ofcer Salman Khalil, Embassy Amman
The Foreign Service is not for everyone. It is a “lifestyle”
career, defnitely not a typical 9-to-5 job in any way. And
while people try to recreate their U.S. lifestyle overseas,
that is not the reason to join the FS. You work in a giant
bureaucracy, so there are many things that feel stifing.
But there are also many outlets and opportunities to make
change and be creative (of course, this depends somewhat
on your post and managers).
Flexibility and the ability to adapt to change are probably
the most important qualities you can bring to the Foreign
Service. I think experience in another career is also really
Colleagues in their frst jobs have had some difculty
adjusting. But then again, colleagues who came from
careers where they were the bosses have also had difculty
adjusting to working in an environment that requires buy-in
from lots of diferent stakeholders.
—Second-career ofcer serving at a post in India
I would advise FS candidates to consider their willingness
to be part of an extreme hierarchy. Many of us are strongly
independent types, so having a military-like chain of com-
mand is hard.
—Consular Ofcer Tressa Weyer, Embassy Moscow
I underestimated the“political”realities of working for State.
I thought the success of my career would depend on how
efectively I relate with foreigners. But it’s possible the most
critical work requirement, from a career standpoint, isn’t
managing relationships with foreigners, but with our own
co-workers—particularly those serving at higher ranks.
—Consular Ofcer Jason Spellberg, Embassy Islamabad
I wish I had known how impersonal the system is. I thought
it would get better after getting my ofer, but the bureau-
cracy only gets worse having to deal with assignments,
training and relocating. My advice? Be aware that nobody is
looking out for you or your best interests. You need to edu-
cate yourself on the rules and regulations and have a Plan B,
Plan C and Plan D in place in case your Plan A doesn’t work
—Management Ofcer Jennifer Rizzoli,
Embassy Cape
I wish I’d known that I might be required to spend nearly half
of my career inWashington. I thought this was the
—Security Engineering Ofcer Daniel Carlson,
on assignment in Florida
I wish I had known my frst two-year tour would be state-
side, and been better prepared to deal with the resulting
fnancial burden.
Expect to go through every administrative process as if
you were the frst-ever to go through it; the guinea pig, if you
will. That’s how disorganized these processes can feel like
most of the time.
—An information resources management specialist
Working for USAID
I think USAID does its employees a disservice when they
imply that we will be hands-on managing projects overseas
and doing technical work. A lot of what we do is manage
outside organizations that are managing projects and,
once you are a chief or deputy of an ofce, you’re less likely
to be involved technically. Making that clear at the outset
would help attract and keep the right sort of people.
—A USAID ofcer in southern Africa
I Wish I Had Known …