State Department Revisited

The impetus for this first blog, for those of you not present at the creation, was to help me hash out the search of a higher and better use of my talents. However, back in 2005, I was not fully sure what those skills were or what their better application looked like. So, I jumped feet first into the exciting and turbulent whitewater of the unknown, which eventually led to me applying myself in a sector in which I feel I can thrive: energy and climate change.

Me back in the day: Leap and the net will appear.

Having found what I was looking for – or at least a piece of it – I modified this space to focus more on the ways, large and small, we can bring more meaning and awareness to life. However, for those still interested in the career path pursuant to my leaping into the unknown eight years ago, I like to offer, from time to time, an update. This is one such post.

Recall back in 2008 I applied for an internship with the Department of State during my first semester in graduate school. My time abroad up to that point brought me into contact with a few Foreign Service Officers (FSO) and their work aligned with what I saw as a higher and better use of my talents. I applied to work at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See (a.k.a. Embassy Vatican), but the protracted background check bumped up against a deadline and led me to pursue an opportunity in Kenya instead.

Everything worked out fine, thankfully. All of the pieces along the way seemed to fall into place rather effortlessly and I found my current position doing my bit to address a complex issue in need of a global response. It is exciting, daunting at times, but above all, meaningful to me. And yet the State Department has lingered in the back of my mind, because of the internship and because of the time my father brought me a personally-signed business card of a real life Ambassador, which was big stuff to a 12-year old in rural Connecticut. So, when the opportunity to apply to the Foreign Service presented itself last year, I jumped at it, if only to starve the silent-but-dreadful beast known as, “What if?”

Do not make this Plan A.

I have noted before that the application process is arduous. Most applicants are weeded out in the second of three stages. Few applicants pass the final exam, but those that do join a register of candidates and wait to be called for a class of new recruits. However, candidacies are subject to dynamic scoring, meaning a candidate with a better overall score supersedes another regardless of how long that initial applicant has been waiting. Candidacies expire after 18 months. It is not for nothing current officers (and applicants) counsel: do not make the Foreign Service Plan A.

Still I. had to try. I determined the outcome would be one of three:

1. Be weeded out early,

2. Join the department only to discover it was not all it was cracked up to be and go back to what I was doing, or

3. Discover a new direction in which to take my career.

To my surprise, I actually passed the entire thing. My score is sufficient, though not stellar. It is likely to expire before receiving an invitation to a recruitment class. Regardless, I am excited at the prospect of public service. I have been for some time. I saw the example of my father’s 20-year Navy career. Other members of my family have served, including my grandfather in World War II. My mom is a career teacher, which is as hard a service as there is. And while I see my work in energy and climate change as service to a pressing need, I relish the chance to give back to a country that has provided me with so much.

Passed the entire thing on my first try. Turns out that's pretty rare.

But why did I wait so long to apply? Perhaps it is a fear of getting lost in a behemoth like the Department of State, a guppy in an ocean. Larina seems to think had the initial internship worked out, I would have loved the work and applied sooner. No matter. I’m going to let the process play out. These things have a way of resolving themselves. Regardless, I’ll keep the updates coming. I appreciate that those of you who were around for those first steps are still keeping tabs. I’m grateful, both for that and the opportunities that keep popping up after having made that initial leap. Stay tuned.

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#Career

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© 2020 by Mark Konold