Category Archives: Bidding

Ottawa, eh?

And the winner is Ottawa, Canada!  I will be headed there for a 2-year Econ assignment.  It was #9 on my list, which is relatively low for a 2nd tour bidder from CDJ, but it fits in a lot of ways and the longer I think about it, the better it sounds.  All of the rest of the posts that were in my top 10 were in Europe, so that’s where I was headed mentally.  So, as my GPS would say, I’m “recalculating, recalculating” from what I expected, but it will be a great opportunity to do Econ work in one of our largest trading partners and the city is very nice and, more importantly, SAFE.  Also, there’s an Apple store and an IKEA in Ottawa, so what more could you want? 😉

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Filed under Bidding, Canada, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Ottawa

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July, everyone!  Well, Happy 4th of July to the three of you who actually read this. 😉  I didn’t really do anything special for the holiday today, but the Consulate did have a big 4th of July party on Friday.  Pretty much every U.S. embassy and consulate in the world has some sort of 4th of July party, though sometimes it’s actually held during another part of the year if weather conditions require it.  While everyone in the consulate or embassy is not necessarily required to attend, it’s generally expected that U.S. staff attend unless there is a compelling reason.  So, it’s work, but so far the two that I’ve been to have been mostly fun work.  The party is a chance for us to invite various contacts, like members of the host government, businesses with whom we work, and so on, to the consulate to celebrate the 4th of July and I’ve gotten to meet a few people that I would otherwise not have much contact with, since I work in the consular section and not in the political or management section.  So, it’s something different and fun.  This year’s party turned out really nicely and I think that most everyone had a good time.

Still no news on the bid list.  We were hoping that we might hear something on Friday of last week, but no luck.  Hopefully, we’ll hear something back this week.  The suspense is tough, especially since we don’t know when to expect the results.  It would be nice if they could give us a day when we could expect to hear so that we can manage our expectations, but I suspect that they don’t know for sure when everything will be ready so they can’t tell us.

Anyhoo, that’s the news from here. Happy 4th of July!

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Now, we wait

I sent it my list over the weekend and now I get to wait, and worry. and wait, and wonder if I should have put Bid #6 as Bid #4, and daydream about my top few posts.  The CDOs haven’t said when we will hear where we’re going, but based on how quickly other bidding cycles have been assigned, I expect we’ll hear within two weeks.

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Still bidding…

Bidding is kind of like riding a rollercoaster.  You get really excited when the list comes out, then you’re a little disappointed because your dream place/job/timing isn’t on there.  Then, you look at the list a little more and get really excited about certain posts only to find out that they won’t actually work like you thought they would or there’s some other negative factor about it that you didn’t know about until you really started digging into the info about the post or the job.  Prior to getting the list, I spent a lot of time looking at post info online and doing preliminary research but I started digging deeper into post information once I had the list and had real options in front of me.

So, there have been a number of versions of my list and jobs have moved up and down the list as I’ve found out more about the post and the job, and a couple have been added and removed.  I think that I have a close-to-final list now and I’ve sent it in to my assignments officer to review my timing calculations.  Hopefully she won’t bounce back too many of my bids for bad timing.  Bidding has been fun, especially the daydreaming about how life might be in Post X, Y, or Z, but I’m ready to turn the list in so I can stop thinking about which order to put things in and splitting hairs about how the job in Post A might be a little better than the job in Post B.

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The List!

The list! I haz it!  We got the list on Thursday and there’s lots of great stuff on it.  There’s a really good variety of places and jobs on the list.  There are a few places that I wish had been on the list and a few jobs that look really awesome but don’t work for timing reasons or because of lengthy quarantine requirements for the Diplocat.  However, the list looks pretty cool and I’m cautiously optimistic that everything will work out well. I think I can put together an AWESOME top ten bids and a pretty good thirty bids, which is great news.

Before you ask, no I’m not going to share my list.  I don’t want to put any carts before horses or jinx myself, and I think it’s best to keep my list to myself.  However, I will definitely share my post when I find out, which should be some time in early July. 🙂

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Bidding on the brain…and paperwork

More news about the bid list!  The bidding instructions and the list will be coming very soon and I’m both excited and a bit terrified.  I’ve thought a lot about what types of things I’d like to have in my next post, but it’s all theoretical until I get the list and can see what the options are.  There may be things on the list that don’t really match the things that I think I’d like in my next post, but would be great opportunities and end up high on my list.  So, we’ll have to see what actually turns up on the list.

The optional topic in this week’s blog roundup is paperwork.  I have a lot of it.  I have stuff from several years ago that I will probably never need and other stuff that’s more recent.  It seems like the paperwork has multiplied since I joined the Foreign Service.  There’s a lot of DOS paperwork and then there are the complications that come from living on the border and needing things like car insurance, identifications, cell phones, and a few other things for both the U.S. and Mexico.

I’ve gotten myself a scanner and got a shredder for Christmas to take care of some of it, but I have to admit that I haven’t been very diligent about taking care of it so most of it just continues to sit in boxes, where it probably continues to breed and multiply to create even more paperwork.  I want to get as much of it scanned, shredded, or filed before I move to my next post so it doesn’t have to be shipped again if it’s not really necessary, but it’s hard to get motivated to sit down and shred/scan/file.  I mean, there are other things that I’d rather do, like watch a movie, take a nap, or give the cat a bath for fun. 😉

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Is that rain?

It actually rained a little bit on Wednesday and Thursday this week. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing at first, since it had been so long since I’d seen any rain here, but it was in fact a little bit of rain.  We didn’t get enough rain to make anything very wet or even create any puddles, but it’s been about four months since we’ve had any rain here and we’ll take what we can get.  Both rain storms had a lot of wind, which generally causes dust storms here.  So, in addition to the regular grey clouds, we had a brown haze from all of the dust. I wish I had a picture to share with you about how badly the dust storm affected visibility but it didn’t seem prudent to get out of my car in the middle of the street to take one.

On Thursday, I had planned to go to El Paso to run some errands after work.  The blowing dust limited the visibility and the wind was actually rocking my car a bit while I was stopped at a stop sign.  After about a half mile, I decided that between the really bad visibility and the wind, it was probably best to just turn around and go home rather than risk an accident due to the visibility and the chance of another car running in to me due to the visibility and wind.

So, that was the excitement for this week.  No news on when I’ll have the bid list, but hopefully in the next week or two!

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Is it time to bid yet?

No, not quite, but we’re getting close!  Since the 2nd tour summer list has come out in August for the last two years, at least, most of us were not expecting it until August or so.  I had mentally prepared myself for not having it until August and was ready to wait for it.  However, it’s never that simple and the word from DC is that the first part of the list will actually be out in June some time.  That’s next month!

I’m super excited about bidding, but it will probably be stressful.  There will be a lot of decisions to make and a lot of research to do before putting together my top bids.  Does job x in country y sound better than job a in country b?  Are there any pet import restrictions?  Do I have enough training time left to learn the language in post q?  Can I leave post on time, get all the training, and still get to my new post on time?  That’s just a start and I’m sure the questions will multiply when I see the actual list and start digging in to specifics.

I’ve known that this was a two year assignment and that afterward, I would go somewhere else after those two years, but when I look toward the next assignment I just see a big, fat question mark.  It will be nice to have a clearer picture of my next destination and to start planning for it. There will be things to buy, like maybe ski gear or a snorkel.  After I get assigned to another post, there will be more decisions to be made like do I take my current car to my next post, buy a different one before leaving for post, buy a car after I get to post, or do I decide to not take a car at all and just rely on public transportation?

There will also be things to research about the post and the move.  Transfering from post to post, instead of from DC to post will be different.  Unless I end up in Canada, I will fly to my next post instead of driving.  So, I’ll need to pack and plan a little differently than when I came to CDJ.  I have also acquired the Diplocat since arriving here so I will need to do some research into how to get her safely from Mexico to Texas for home leave to DC for consultations and/or training then to my next post as well.

If you know me, you know that I like to plan.  Prior to packing out for A-100 and again before leaving DC for CDJ, I had spreadsheets about what was going in which shipment, what I needed to buy before leaving with prices and projected purchase dates to spread the purchases across pay periods and whatnot, what I needed to do before I left, and who knows what else.  So, having a new place to go and a new destination to plan for will be exciting and will help me get in touch with my inner planning nerd and bust out the Excel for spreadsheets to track all of this stuff.

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I’m sometimes asked if I know where I’m going to be posted after this, and the answer is that I don’t know yet because I haven’t bid for my next post yet.  Bidding in the State Department works differently at different points in your career, but here’s a little bit about how it works.

During A-100, the initial training that all Foreign Service Officers go through, there’s a list of available positions for your class.  There are enough positions for everyone in the class, plus maybe a couple of extra ones.  You have to rank every post as a High, Medium, or Low and the Career Development Officers (CDOs) get together and try to assign everyone according to their preferences and based on who may have necessary language skills for a particular post.  Everyone’s pretty much on equal footing at this point.

For your second tour, the CDOs still make the decisions about who is assigned where, but the process is a little different.  There are two bidding seasons, summer and winter, depending on when you got to post.  Each person generally has to rank 20-30 posts from 1-20 or 1-30 and there are more restrictions on you this time around.  You have to make sure that the timing works, which means that you have to make sure that you can leave post on time, complete all of the language and job training necessary, and arrive at post on time.  You’re allowed to have a few bids that would cause your departure or arrival date to move a month or two, but not more than that.  You also get an advantage this time around if you’re serving in a difficult or dangerous post.  Personnel at posts can receive hardship and/or danger pay that is a percentage of your salary.  So, people at posts with higher differential pay get assigned first and have a better chance of getting their top picks for where they want to go for their second tour.

In bidding for a third tour and beyond, the bidding process works quite differently.  It works much more like a job application process and you have to contact the person who is currently in that position, interview for positions you want, and the decision is not made by the CDOs, but is made by the people who are in charge of the office, consulate, or embassy where the position is located.  At the end of the day, everyone gets assigned somewhere, but the process is much more in your hands and it’s up to you to get the job you want and negotiate the training schedule and so on.

I have not yet bid for my second post.  Since I arrived here last summer, I am a summer bidder and will bid on the summer bid list, which will probably come out in August or September.  Some of my coworkers are currently bidding and I definitely have a bit of envy.  I would like to be bidding and to know where I’m going next so there would be something to look forward to and something to plan, but I’ll just have to wait until this summer.  They say that the summer list is usually better, so maybe I’ll luck out and get a super-sweet second post.

Hope this helps explain the process a bit!

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