In the military, a promotion is often met with pomp and circumstance. Not so in the Foreign Service. A cable goes out after the promotion boards meet, informing everyone whose workday is slow enough to actually read HR cables of who got promoted. Moreover, not everyone receives HR cables, so quite often a person getting promoted will only learn his or her good fortune after someone in the HR office forwards the cable with a note of congratulations.
This time, D knew to expect the cable. Unlike mid-career promotions, which are ostensibly merit-based, the process for entry-level officers follows a predetermined administrative scale and is intended to level the playing field for further advancement in the Foreign Service. Some people join the FS straight out of college; for many others, diplomatic service is a second career. One’s entry-level pay grade reflects this discrepancy in education level and prior work experience. The administrative promotions allow the more junior officers to catch up so that all FSOs are at the same rank when they come up for tenure.
D’s administrative promotion, which will go into effect at the end of the month, marks the midway point of his second year in the Foreign Service. Bantering with his supervisor about its implication (“Congratulations, you didn’t screw up!”), D couldn’t help but think how fast the time has flown. The next big step will be tenure, for which D won’t be eligible for another year and a half.