As you may recall, two weeks ago we received a list of about 100 available jobs at embassies and consulates around the globe — the “bid list,” in Foreign Service speak. (Amazingly, there’s no acronym for this one.)
After much research and discussion and even some lobbying (I convinced Andy that India’s not the worst place in the world; he convinced me that danger isn’t necessarily exciting), we ranked 9 positions as “high” preference, 28 as “medium” preference and the rest as “low” preference.
There are as many different strategies for assigning preferences as there are new FSOs. Some of my classmates bid highest on positions that will let them go abroad as soon as possible, while others prefer to stay for a while in D.C. Some want to work in a large Embassy. Some want to be close to the U.S. Some want to be as far from the U.S. as possible. Parents assess the quality of available schools. Pet-owners review quarantine regulations. Some classmates want to avoid danger, while others are seeking it out. And, of course, the jobs themselves are all different, which some people consider more than others.
As for us, we bid mainly based on our language interests, but there was also the occasional, “This doesn’t really align with career goals, but what a cool place to live” bid. Of course, as you may also remember, our preferences aren’t the only factor that comes into play. I’m worldwide available, which means I’ll go wherever the Department most needs me.
What happens now that our part is done? My classmates and I wait for our Career Development Officers to compare all our rankings and somewhow decide our fates. I don’t envy our CDOs. Last week we broke into small groups to complete an exercise that involved assigning 10 FSOs to 10 jobs, taking into consideration each of their preferences and skill sets. It wasn’t easy, and, like I said, we were only dealing with 10 people; our CDOs will be assigning all 93 of us. They’ll begin working on that later this week, when we’ll be spending two days at a team-building course in the woods of West Virginia. And then next Friday, in an exciting ceremony called Flag Day, we find out where we’re headed.
Remember: I’m the same person who decided to study abroad in Niger because it was the second poorest country in the world at the time, and there was no study abroad program in the poorest. So, if I were you, I wouldn’t put your money on Wellington, New Zealand or Vienna, Austria. Then again, you never know…