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career corner

On Monday, the State Department issued handshakes for summer 2015 jobs, which means we now know where we’re headed after our tour in Moldova ends next year. Our onward assignment, with which we are quite happy, was the last in a string of good career news over the last several months.


We received the first bit of good news around the time we were wrapping up our Slovenia travels. Peculiarly, the Foreign Service announces career advancement decisions via cable telegrams that are disseminated to all employees. This means that quite frequently, FSOs learn of their promotions through congratulatory messages from other colleagues. In this case, we were on R&R and the announcement reached us through a post on D’s Facebook wall.

Like all FSO generalists, D entered the Foreign Service on a 5-year entry-level contract. After serving for three years, FSOs become eligible for tenure, and one must receive tenure within five years or be forced into “administrative separation.” Tenure decisions are made in cycles, and one can only be considered for tenure once a year. Historically, around 95% of officers receive tenure, which has meant that a little less than half of a given class of officers is tenured on first review, most of the rest receive tenure the second time around, and a handful require a third review to make it into the mid-career ranks of the State Department. Essentially, D learned during orientation, one has to either break the law or exhibit serious problems getting along with others to be denied tenure.

We were thrilled that D was tenured on first review, though the news was somewhat bittersweet. D came into the Foreign Service at the tail end of the Diplomacy 3.0 initiative, which sought to address the dearth of entry-level and mid-career officers through expanded recruitment. A few years down the line, the results of this expansion are being felt in the form of decelerated promotions and stiff competition for overseas jobs. Only about 20% of D’s training class received tenure, and D can think of many brilliant friends and colleagues who were not tenured.

The second bit of good news came about a month later. D was at the interviewing window when his boss walked by and on her way out of the section made an off-hand comment about needing to crack another bottle of champagne. The promotions cable had come out, and D’s name was again on the list. And though we did crack a bottle, we held off on major celebrations until now. Unfortunately, career advancement does not always go hand-in-hand with favorable assignments, and we wanted to be sure we landed somewhere we wanted to be. Now that we have a good onward assignment, it’s time to really celebrate.

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