The Summer 2019 bid cycle officially ends tomorrow! That means that bidders are finalizing and submitting their bid lists, and hoping that all their lobbying and interviewing pays off with a great onward diplomatic tour assignment. In less than two weeks, handshakes start, and no one wants to be left without a job when the music stops.
I registered my first bids four weeks ago when the list officially opened. Since then, I have tweaked my draft list a few times as I re-evaluated my competitiveness and options. I have interviewed, I have lobbied, I have consulted with Consular Affairs, I have researched, I have asked colleagues for advice. I have considered jobs in surprising and unexpected places. I have watched jobs I wanted slip away. I have seen new possibilities emerge. I have tried to be realistic, adventurous, cooperative, and true to myself.
So? As of tonight, with 24 hours to go, I have entered bids on 10 jobs in eight countries. I like all the jobs. Will any of them “like me back?” I honestly have to say… that I don’t have a clue.
Aspects of bidding remind me of my 1999 sorority rush experience at San Diego State. You try to put your best foot forward. You worry about what everyone thinks. You can hardly sleep from excitement and nerves. People around you who aren’t rushing are like, “What?” You don’t know what will happen, but you’re desperate to peek behind the curtain and be a part of it.
You may like a few houses, but the feeling has to be mutual; at least one sorority has to like you back and offer you a bid! Of the nine houses I rushed, after days of trying to figure out where I fit in and where I stood (if anywhere), I was lucky enough to receive three invitations.
For me, the decision was down to two. I actually drove over and stood on the sidewalk looking back and forth between my two choices. With the deadline looming in less than an hour, I felt the answer in my head and heart.
I knocked at the door of the Kappa Delta house, gripping my white card. When the door opened, I told three smiling girls that I’d come to accept a bid. One called over her shoulder, “It’s [my name]! She came back!” I suddenly felt so relieved not to be anyone’s second choice.
But in third tour bidding, I don’t care if I’m third-string. A handshake is a handshake! LOL. In all seriousness, I do like all my bids and I think I am qualified for all of them. I am pleased to be considered, and I am ready to bring my best. And if you are open to it, even a job that you did not initially consider could end up changing your career trajectory in positive and unforeseen ways. Maybe I’m feeling magnanimous. Or maybe I’m just scared of Not Getting a Handshake and entering unknown territory.
At this point, we’re a month into the bidding season and nerves are more than a little frayed. I can see the stress on the faces of my colleagues and hear it in their voices as they juggle bidding alongside the demands of busy overseas jobs. They have lobbied, they have strategized, they have asked colleagues and superiors to fill out evaluations and put in a good word. And now they are ready for it to end. I mean, really ready! I shudder to think how much productivity is suffering.
I have been talking to a lot of people about their experiences, and what I’ve heard runs the whole gamut.
Some officers are dealing with the glut of officers vis-a-vis jobs at the FS-03 and FS-02 levels, and may be forced to bid out of cone to find a job. Some officers are bidding in-cone for the first time and are nervous they won’t be competitive. Some officers (or their family members) have restrictive medical clearances and must fish in a small, highly-competitive first-world post pond. Some officers are hinging their chances on a job that has 40+ other bidders. Some officers who were hoping to stay overseas are now contemplating an unwanted Washington, DC tour that could have them on the hook for $60K or more in two years’ unplanned rent (vs. staying overseas in USG housing). Some officers’ spouses are unhappy with where they suspect they’ll end up. And still other officers are pretty sure they have a good bid list and are the leading candidate to get their top choice.
And although in general, FSOs deal with ambiguity better than your average bear, the unknowns right now are a little tough. Will any of my posts love me back?? Or will handshake day come and go with no job for me?