Many people have been asking me exactly what I'll be doing in the Foreign Service. That's a hard question to answer, since job functions can change with every post, and every day seems like it brings new and different challenges, depending on what is going on in the country in which you are serving. Additionally, every FS officer is required to be a "generalist," meaning that you can serve in any position. There are five job tracks in the FS, and you are required to select one during the hiring process. The tracks are known as consular, economic, management, polical, and public diplomacy (PD). It is almost impossible to change tracks after you are hired, but you can serve in positions outside your job track. So, although I'm a PD officer, I can serve as an economic officer or a consular officer, etc. for a tour or a part of a tour.
Here is the State Department's brief explanation of each job track, or "cone" as they are frequently known as:
Consular: Consular Officers protect Americans abroad and strengthen U.S. border security.
Economic: Economic Officers work on economic partnerships and development, support U.S. businesses abroad, and cover environmental, science, technology, and health issues.
Management: Management Officers run our embassies and make American diplomacy work.
Political: Political Officers analyze political events.
Public Diplomacy: Public Diplomacy Officers explain American values and policies.
People seem a bit perplexed when I tell them I have no idea where I'll be serving first. But, that's the way it works. I've committed to being "worldwide available," as they put it. During our first week of training, I'll get what is known as the "bid list." It is a listing of all of the positions that are available for the people in my training class. I expect there will be about 100 posts, based on what I know has happened with training classes in the recent past. I will have to rate my interest in the posts high, medium, or low. They do try to put us each someplace that we want to be, although there are obviously no guarantees. I'll then learn during my fifth week of training exactly where I am going. I could literally be assigned anywhere. I am somewhere beyond excited about it, and although I probably should be a bit worried about being sent somewhere that I won't like, I'm not. Experiences over the last few years have taught me that I can do anything for a couple of years, and I'll survive. I may not necessarily like it, but I can deal with it.
One of the great benefits to FS life is the ability to travel. The other side of that coin is obviously the need for frequent moves, which necessitates paring down one's possessions to a manageable level. This was a task that I was not relishing, as I tend to be a bit of packrat. Hey, you never know when you might need. . .all of the items cluttering my basement and garage. Since getting my invitation to A-100 training, I've been dreading the big cleanout. However, I started in earnest yesterday, and it was surprisingly easy to declutter. My "keep" pile is tiny compared to my "trash" and "yard sale" piles. One of the best finds of the day was a notepad with some notes on it regarding a job search that I did during the summer of 1996 (yes, 1996). The list had a few notations regarding specific positions I was applying for, and then 3-4 general ideas of things that I wanted to pursue. It was a thrill to see "Foreign Service" as a possibility I was looking into even back then. For the last 4-5 years, I have been sure that this was what I wanted to do when I finished with my current career, but I had forgotten that I had been considering it for quite that long. And here I am, 14 years later, about to embark on this new life.