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oh, the places we might go

This week marks the midpoint of our Moldova tour, a fact underscored by the release a few days ago of the long-awaited bid list — the catalogue of next summer’s open Foreign Service positions.


In theory, this is an exciting time. Never mind that one of the top selling points of the Foreign Service sounds like a title from the Dr. Seuss collection. There are over 400 positions on the current bid list — on the face of it, our future is bursting with possibilities. Of course, once one introduces a few basic requirements, the potential options narrow down considerably. For example, we had a fierce debate about whether to remain abroad or try for a domestic assignment, and decided that serving in DC with a very young child was not a scenario that suited us.

Deciding to focus solely on overseas assignments excluded a quarter of the positions on the bid list. By the time we culled out positions that did not fit our timeframe, jobs that required learning a weird language, and those that were not in D’s specialty, we were left with only a couple dozen viable options. And once we started researching quality of life, spousal employment opportunities, and position descriptions, a few more posts fell off our list.

The thing is — and here is the rub — finding good options for our onward assignment is not even half the battle. Not even close. Although lack of spousal employment opportunities, seemingly endless red tape, and the tension of annual evaluations routinely round out the list of common FSO complaints, nothing comes even close to bidding in terms of causing stress and frustration.

Whereas our first two tours were directed — an assignment process into which we had only the most tangential of inputs — to secure an onward position for our third and all subsequent tours, D will have to lobby prospective hiring managers. The bidding process is similar to the medical school matching system in that officers submit a list of the places they would like to serve, each post develops a short list of their top candidates, and the bureaus in Washington try to fill the available positions with the best interested applicants. In practice, this means that every couple of years D will have to apply for his own job — updating resumes, writing cover letters, interviewing, networking. 

With any luck, we’ll know our onward assignment sometime late fall, though it is entirely possible that we won’t know where we’ll land until spring of next year.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. AKB #

    Best of luck with mid-level bidding. I actually think it might be more frustrating/stressful than HR just telling me where to go. I found that many of the large posts that offer the best options for spousal employment (or in my case, a tandem assignment), were very heavily bid. (Well actually– everything was very heavily bid!) I recommend getting a sense of whether you are competitive early on (which means holding off on any serious lobbying until offices have a better sense of who is interested). Last year I ended up unleashing all of my big lobbying guns on two positions at the same post– and both fell off the bid list due to the incumbents deciding to extend just two weeks before bids were due. I ended up getting a handshake for a job I didn’t even consider until the week I submitted final bids!

    August 5, 2014
    • Thank you, that’s good advice. We’re trying to keep our hopes realistically low – there are a handful of jobs that look really interesting and about a dozen places we’d be happy to end up so we’ll see how it all shakes out in the coming months.

      Incidentally, it seems our USG careers have taken us to some of the same places. We were in Kenya before coming to Moldova, so naturally the Sheldrick orphanage about which you recently blogged is near and dear to our hearts. And we also have a special fondness for Ecuador, where we met while D was in the Peace Corps.

      August 6, 2014
  2. Kara Freedman #

    That sounds more than a bit stressful. Good luck!

    August 6, 2014

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