I’ve been bad at blogging lately, but mostly because there hasn’t been a ton to blog about. Work has been busy, but nothing that stands out as “OMG, I must tell the world about this!” though the Italian National Day party was pretty neat. 🙂 I’ve just been trying to keep on top of all of my files, learn more about what I’m doing, get info for Washington, etc.
I’ve also been doing some worrying about bidding in my free time. If you actually know me in person, you also probably know that I am a professional worrier. So, naturally, I need something to worry about. If I don’t have something to worry about, it’s worrying because clearly I must be missing something that is worry-worthy.
My current focus of worry is bidding for my third tour. The list won’t come out until August, but that does not stop a champion worrier such as myself from worrying about it. State recently introduced a new projected vacancy tool that you can use to search for projected assignment vacancies. So, you can see what will be open for a particular rank in a particular bid cycle, what will be open that requires a certain language, or by post, etc. So, I’ve been able to see which jobs in which places are projected to be on the bid list this summer and I’ve been doing some research in the evenings to find out more about life at different posts, pet import issues, cost of living, etc. However, the projected vacancy info does not include much info about the actual job, so it’s hard to tell what would really be interesting job-wise. It’s also subject to change and anything on the projected list may or may not be on the actual list when it comes out in August.
Bidding this time around will be a lot different than it was the first two times I bid. Your first two assignments are “directed assignments,” meaning you put in your preferences, but the State Department directs you to go to a certain post. The first time, my A-100 class got a list with roughly as many posts as there were people in the class and you had to rank each post high, medium, or low. Then, in the last week of training, we got our assignments. The second time, we had to rank 30 posts off of a list of about 250 jobs and then received our next assignments about two weeks later.
Starting with your third tour though, the process is much more like a job interview process. You will usually talk with the person who currently holds that job and then interview with supervisors at post and in the DC office responsible for a post for an overseas assignment and with people in DC for domestic assignments. Then, the decision makers at post (if it’s an overseas assignment) and in DC get decide who they want to offer the assignment to and start offering “handshakes” to people after a certain date. This process is also tricky because it’s sort of a rolling process. Not every office is ready to make offers when that date rolls around or you might not be a post’s first choice, but might be their second or third choice. So, you might get a handshake offer from your #5 choice, but not yet know whether you’d get an offer for a higher choice when they make a decision or if their first choice turns them down. Sometimes they can wait a bit for you to decide whether or not you want to accept the offer, but not always and you may find yourself deciding whether to take the bird in the hand with your #5 choice or hold out for the chance you might get a better bird in the bush with one of your higher choices.
It’s sort of a bizarre game of musical chairs where everyone will get a chair in the end, but it’s a nerve wracking process to find out which chair you’ll get. Of course, people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and now Libya and Yemen can link to their chairs ahead of time or get offered a chair earlier than the rest of the bidders coming from other posts.
A few people, who must have nerves of steel, sort of sit out the first process and then just swoop in on what’s left over or not otherwise assigned. Some of those posts are places that no one really wants to go, but some are gems. In watching what got left over in other bid cycles, I’ve seen some pretty swanky European posts make it through the first round of musical chairs, probably because of a first choice turning them down for another excellent post and the other bidders figuring that they ought to take the birds they have in their hands because no way will they offer a handshake for Swankovia if you’re not their first choice. However, I do not have nerves of steel and I think the fear of a tour in Ickyville will keep me from employing this tactic.
So, I’ve been doing research and imagining my life in places like Tokyo, Podgorica, Tirana, Brussels, Santiago, San Jose, Jakarta, Bogota, Taipei, Manila, Chisinau, or even back in DC. Of course, this is all with very, very limited information about the actual job I’d be doing, which will play a big part in my decision of which jobs to go after and also with no idea what I’ll actually be competitive for which will also affect my bidding.
In other goings on, Ottawa continues to be a really nice place to live. It’s been great to wander around at lunch time, see lots more people out and about, and enjoy the mostly lovely weather we’ve been having. The U.S. embassy is in the Byward Market area and is close to Parliament Hill and downtown, so it’s easy to pop out for lunch or after work. Canada Day preparations also seem to be in full swing, with Canadian flags going up all over the place, shops promoting Canada apparel and party supplies, etc. I’m looking forward to Canada Day here in Ottawa, since it sounds like it’s a great celebration.
The embassy’s 4th of July party is also coming up. I’m looking forward to it a lot since it’s a big party and I’ll know a number of the guests. I helped with a couple of them in Juarez, but since I was adjudicating visas and not out meeting contacts or anything, I didn’t know any of the guests. So, this one promises to be more interesting due to the scale and actually knowing more of the people who will attend.
So, that’s what’s been going on here.