In 2022, I received a promotion as a mid-level officer. It makes my head spin a little trying to figure out how to explain the Foreign Service promotion process to someone outside the FS, particularly to private sector folks who would likely expect diplomats’ promotions to be based on a complex set of 360 reviews, impressive projects, and reputational factors. (Pro tip: They’re not.) I’d like to share 10 things I’ve learned since I joined the Department in 2014 as a Foreign Service generalist about getting promoted (or not!)… I’m going for lay terms, but you be the judge.
Tag: Becoming an FSO
Federal Service: 17 Years and Counting
Earlier this month marked 17 years of federal service to my country. 🇺🇸
Three agencies, five countries, two states, two embassies, one consulate, and countless duty stations and TDYs. It has been a wild ride. Hopefully I have at least a few years left in me before the bureaucracy drives me nuts and I have to retire and do something else!
A Decade After the Oral Assessment
Ten years ago today I passed the Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA). The achievement was the last performance-based phase of my candidacy, and paved the way for me to enter our diplomatic corps two years later, once I passed medical and security clearances and once the Department’s hiring was robust enough.
Retreat: Home Leave 2022
This period of home leave between my third and fourth diplomatic tours has been a time to rest, recuperate, and set up life in the United States again after spending most of the last seven years abroad. At 35 business days, it has intentionally been my longest home leave since joining the Foreign Service. Counting from the day after our PCS travel to Virginia ended, to the day before my next assignment starts (holidays and weekends don’t count), I have taken exactly seven weeks. Uniquely, for the first time, I’ve spent it all on the east coast.
Your Questions Answered, Volume VI
It has been six months since the last edition of Your Questions Answered, so in this post, I will share some questions recently asked and answered by the blog’s email box – as always, anonymously and without attribution. In this edition, we discuss the rewards of consular work, being single in the Foreign Service, what I know now that I wish I knew when I’d joined the Foreign Service, financial matters like savings and what expenses Foreign Service Officers should plan to budget for overseas, and the typical Foreign Service “car.” Enjoy!
Your Questions Answered, Volume V
It has been almost five months since the last edition of Your Questions Answered, so I thought I’d share some recent Q&A from the blog’s inbox, edited for length and clarity. In this edition, I’ll address how embassies decide which officers get language training (and how much), length of service vs. number of tours, whether officers serving on the U.S.-Mexico border can live on the U.S. side, and what consular officers do as they advance in their careers.
And as always, please remember these are my unofficial answers derived from my own experiences. Your mileage may vary.
Your Questions Answered, Volume IV
It has been about a year and a half since my last YQA post, so I decided to share a selection of repeat questions the blog has received since then for wider distribution, along with my answers. I have edited both questions and answers for clarity and privacy wherever necessary. In this edition, I tackle questions about candidate experience and qualifications, travel, dual-citizenship, and mail.
These are unofficial opinions and my personal advice, which are worth roughly what you pay for them. (Wink!) These posts remain popular through the years, so I will try to do them more often if the questions keep rolling in.
Go ahead, ask a diplomat! You can email the blog a question at email@example.com.
Six Years Later, the Answer is Still Yes
After waiting on the register for almost a year and five months, it was on this day in 2014 that I received “the call” to join the U.S. Foreign Service. In other words, I was invited to become a diplomat. It was my favorite Cinco de Mayo ever, and one of the most exciting days of my life. Accepting the offer marked the end of my three-year quest for the professional opportunity of a lifetime – my chance to be a part of the 178th Generalist A-100 Class at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington – and the beginning of a whole new career and lifestyle. Finally, my candidacy had been successful and I was in! The last six years haven’t been perfect, but given the chance, I’d do it all again.
Career-Related News From the Field
In my prior post, I was recapping a February trip with my family to Melbourne and Tasmania. I’ll pick up where I left off on that very soon, but first wanted to share a little career-related news from down under.
Foreign Service Day
In 1996, the United States Senate designated the first Friday in May as “American Foreign Service Day.” It is on this day that members of the Foreign Service around the world come together to recognize the work that our nation’s diplomats do. It is also a day to pay tribute to those we’ve lost; today at high noon, we at U.S. Embassy Canberra gathered at the chancery flagpole for a few moments of reflection and remembrance.
Four Years in Blogging
It was on this day in 2014 that I published my first post on the Collecting Postcards blog. I started the blog because I wanted to talk about my journey to the Foreign Service; little could I have known that only 22 days later I would receive the invitation to my dream job for which I’d tried so hard and waited so long. Collecting Postcards has been there through it all, and with 25,000 visitors from 165 different countries and 76,000+ unique page views to date, the blog is just getting started.
Year in Review: 2015 Blog Stats
With each new year comes a period, however brief, of looking back and seeing where we’ve been.
I established the Collecting Postcards blog on WordPress in April 2014, and one year later I discussed blog stats in One Year in Blogging. Now that 2015 has ended, I have my first full calendar year to analyze. I’m always curious to know how readers find the blog, which posts get the most views, and from which countries do readers visit?
One Year On
One year ago today, the members of the 178th Generalist Class made their way to Main State in northwest Washington, DC for the first day of A-100. Arrival time requested: 07:45. That morning kind of felt like holding onto an electric fence with both hands, for so many reasons.
Goodbye, Virginia (Part I)
If someone would have told me back in the fall of 2006 when I moved to Washington, DC that I would stay there for almost nine years, I would have laughed in their face. Yet it happened just that way. Three years ago today I passed the FSOA, and yesterday I moved away.
Congratulations to the 180th A-100 Class
Yesterday morning, before the clock had even struck 7:00 a.m., I drove to the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington to help welcome a new group of diplomats from the 180th Generalist Class to their first day at FSI. In the Foreign Service, each class sponsors social and informational events for the group two classes behind…