Thursday, December 16, 2010

Timing is everything.

The application process to join the foreign service is long, opaque, and a little bit torturous.  Still, every year, many thousands of hardworking and intelligent individuals begin the process, the vast majority of whom will ultimately find rejection.  For a long time, getting through the process meant that your name was placed on an oversubscribed register of eligible candidates, and in most cases no job offer was ever extended.  Unless your oral assessment score put you in the top third or so of candidates, your candidacy expired after 18 months without a job.  That was the case until Colin Powell convinced George W. Bush that the foreign service was seriously understaffed.  This led to a surge in hiring over the last several years that had cleared off the registers, and made it much more likely that getting through the process would actually lead to a job.

Well, it looks like those bad old days are coming back... right now.  The yahoo shadow registers show that the registers have grown rapidly this year, and according to Harry W. Kopp over at Career Diplomacy:
The Department of State’s hiring program, carried forward under the name Diplomacy 3.0, will likely come to a halt. The program as originally announced in 2009 planned to increase the size of the foreign service by 25 percent over fiscal year 2008 levels over five years, ending in fiscal year 2013. It now appears that the program will end, or be suspended, well short of that goal. When hiring with fiscal year 2010 appropriations ends, as it soon will, the Department will have achieved an increase of about 15 percent over the FY 2008 base, adding about 1,900 foreign service employees (1,200 officers and 700 specialist), bringing the total service in the Department of State to about 13,400 (7,500 officers and 5,900 specialists).
If new hires in FY 2011 are held to the number needed to replace retiring employees and other departures, the number of new hires will drop from a projected level of around 830 under Diplomacy 3.0 to around 400, which is projected attrition. Similar levels are likely in FY 2012 as well. That means tougher competition for candidates.
I am extremely fortunate to have received my offer when I did. I think my score on the oral assessment would have gotten me off the register even if, or when, it became oversubscribed again, but I am glad that I don't have to find out.

For a number of reasons, my older brother Steve has always called me the golden boy. Mostly it is because, as the last of six kids, he thinks I have had it easy.  Well, it looks like in this case, the golden boy had golden timing.

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