12 November 2017

Planning Years Ahead

Much of diplomatic life is about planning, and waiting, sometimes for last-minute things, sometimes you know things years in advance.

Even the entrance process is hurry-up-and-wait.  You take a test, and wait for results, then have a second step, wait for results, etc. The only quick satisfaction is the Oral Assessment - you find out same day pass or fail.  

Bidding so far has been some of the most fun we've had.  As an entry level officer (ELO) my first two tours are directed, meaning I go where they tell me.  First tour, they gave my classmates and I a list of 60ish posts, and had us rank all of them as high/medium/low.  We were ranking with less than perfect information as we weren't told when a particular post wanted people to arrive, so, for example, Paris required French, but it was unclear if there would be time to learn it before they wanted someone to start.  We also didn't know how many openings a post was looking to fill, so while it was an easy guess to think that Beijing and São Paulo, for example, would have more than one placement, we didn't know how many.  But we did our best and got our #1 non-Public Diplomacy pick in Jamaica.

Second tour was both more complicated and less complicated.  We had more information about each post which made our analysis easier, including how many positions they were looking to fill, and when they wanted someone to arrive.  

The "more complicated" bit came in with having to figure out timing.  It made me really miss Corporate America, as I knew some programmers who could write code to accomplish all of this in a day...but I digress.

I have to leave Jamaica on time (two years after arriving) and arrive on time (when the post wants me) for a bid to be "perfect."  Easily eliminated were those posts where I wouldn't have time to learn a language.  Besides language, we had to look at what training the different jobs required and what I could justify taking to fill in gaps between classes.  Thankfully The Historian made a Excel calendar for each post we considered so we could visually plan out whether each one was possible, and if it was perfect, imperfect (arriving/departing early or late) or invalid (not at all possible). 

Because of Jamaica's hardship classification, I was in the first group to bid.  We received a list of around 350 posts to sort through, and were required to "bid" on 15.  I was very lucky in that my July 2018 departure from Jamaica made my timing work for the majority of places we were interested in.   

I also wanted an in-cone tour.  I'm Public Diplomacy coned, so wanted a PD job now that I've fulfilled my Consular obligation. Other criteria included how easy it is to get the kitties into the country, quality of life, language, size of the post, and of course, the country itself.  Also important to me are the job (responsibility, position, portfolio) and who I might work for.  Other considerations are cost of living, air quality, and availability of reliable internet.  

Ultimately we submitted 19 ranked bids in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe and then...waited.  The people who decide are our Career Development Officers (CDOs) who negotiate between themselves on who goes where, so it helps to have a good relationship with yours.  Assignments were made based on a person's equity (total hardship and/or danger differential from current post), the needs of the service, personal concerns (educational opportunities, health problems, etc.) and probably what way the wind was blowing that particular day.  

We received the notice of assignment in May, and a few weeks ago I was notified that the assignment had passed a review panel.  I'm now registered for my 2018 classes, and have received an initial "welcome cable" from Cyprus.  

With these firm dates we now know where we'll be through 2021, and can plan home leave, redo The Historian's lease in DC to include me, get my orders in place to cover each step until our arrival in Cyprus, and look forward to being back in the same place again.  

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