Life on the Mekong and Other Rivers

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog, including strong statements in support of weinerdog-riding monkeys, are our own, and not those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

And they're back

Katherine and Jack arrived at 9:00 this morning after what, I'm told, was a great two-week vacation.

It seems the weekend in Detroit was lovely, hanging out with family.

Lake Michigan was, I'm told, very nice.

The walk from the cabin, I heard, took them over the grass dunes and down to the beach.

Where, I've been informed, they spent much of their leisure time.

Huh, so, a two week vacation with great weather, great food, great times with relatives. Sounds nice. Would have liked to be there. But I'm not bitter; not in the least. I'll let Katherine tell you all about it.

And I think we'll need to get Jack a dog at our next post.

Speaking of our next post, we are currently in the early stages of the bidding process. Some interesting jobs in interesting places. Some would require about a year in DC learning yet another immensely difficult Asian language. Others would not.

The bidding process is quite different this time around. For our (and everyone's) first two posts, we are basically given a directed assignment. Sure, we are asked to put our top 20 or 25 choices down and explain why we would like to go to our top choices. But, ultimately, we could be sent to any of our choices, or, in rare circumstances, pretty much told to go anywhere in the world.

The game has changed now that I am no longer a 'Junior Officer'. Because I received tenure last year I am now a 'Mid-level Officer'. That's right, I'm moving up in the world. Anyway, from this point on, I basically have to apply for a new job every time we change posts. The bid list comes out, we look at what we want to do and where we want to do it, and hopefully find a few jobs in a few countries that fit the bill.

And then I start lobbying. For each job that I'm interested in, I need to contact the decision maker at the Post and the decision makers back in the home bureau (a few different people have input into the decision) and express interest in the job and basically get them to think I'm the best person for it. I submit a resume, and get other, more senior (thus, more influential) people to lobby on my behalf. Even better if one or more of my references knows the decision maker; not an inconsequential, or uncommon, occurrence in an organization the size of the Foreign Service (about 5,000 FS Generalists).

As you express interest in and lobby for jobs, you also submit an official bid list. Then you have to play the game. You have to try to gauge your relative odds of being offered a job vs. how you rank your bids. The decision makers want to know where among MY list of jobs I rank THEIR job. I want to know where I am on THEIR list among people angling for THEIR job. It's a delicate dance.

Do we want to go to Kreplakistan more than Grand Fenwick? What if it seems that I am more competitive for the job in Grand Fenwick? Do I tell the Grand Fenwick people that that is my first choice, even though in our hearts we would rather go to Kreplakistan, or do I hold out for Kreplakistan and tell Grand Fenwick that they are my #2? I mean, this is what everyone is doing, so Kreplakistan's first choice could be gunning for something else, meaning that I could get it. But if I go for it and tell Grand Fenwick they are #2, maybe they turn around and offer the job to someone who has said GF is their #1 pick, and Kreplakistan's #1 pick decides to take that job. Now I don't have either job, and down my list I go.

So we have the bid list, and I've expressed interest in a few jobs (one way back in May when I heard it was going to be open even before the bid list came out).

And so the dance begins.

Updates as warranted, but we probably won't have any concrete plans until early October.


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