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.