Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Appointment Offer

I received an appointment offer and invitation for orientation to start on February 10, 2014! This means the waiting game has now changed to a specific countdown to training and moving. We can now fill our calendar with the various activities we need to get everything ready for the timeline ahead of us. That's much better than wondering when the next step will ever begin. The wheels are set in motion and it'll carry us to new countdowns for every next assignment. Eventually the last countdown will be to retirement from the Foreign Service unless I choose to get off the ride earlier.

One big difference between the Foreign Service and my military career is that I can choose to quit the Foreign Service at any time including in the middle of any assignment. Every military 4 or 6 year reenlistment I signed was a commitment I couldn't break. Every military assignment required a minimum amount of retainability before they'd move us.

I've heard I can quit the Foreign Service at any time but I think I'd have to pay back the government's moving expenses if they recently moved me. I think I'd at least have to move myself home if it wasn't the end of the assignment yet. I'm not really sure how it'd work to quit but it's not worth researching the specifics since I know I'll stick with this for the long haul. This is essentially the dream career and lifestyle for me to take this on and live around the world.

The adventure begins February 10th. I've heard IMS training is about 20 weeks including the 3 weeks of orientation so moving will be whenever that ends. I'll find out where we're heading at Flag Day in the third week of orientation which I'll definitely post about here. Later, we'll ramble on to our first assignment around the end of June and I can start sharing stories from another country!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Waiting Is The Hardest Part

The wait for the next step is always the hardest part when we're looking forward to the next big change. If I was locked in and guaranteed for training on a specific date then it would feel much better. I could focus on getting ready to move no matter how far in the future it would be just as long as it was guaranteed to come. However, there's this disclaimer that comes with being put on the register for hiring:
A confirmed offer of appointment is dependent on a variety of factors, to include budgetary constraints, hiring needs, and your position on the register relative to other candidates. You should be aware that your placement on the Register does not guarantee an appointment to the Foreign Service, for the number of appointments depends on the needs of the Foreign Service.
My oral assessment score with veteran bonus points places me high enough for it to be a matter of "when" and not "if" to be hired. The waiting would be worse if I was near the bottom of the register with an ever present risk of aging off the list. They drop you off the register and you have to start the hiring process all over again if you don't get selected for training within 18 months.

The next training class is supposed to be in January but that's in question because of the budget situation after the government shutdown. The continuing resolution band-aid only funds the government through 15 Jan so the full year of training and hiring can't be planned yet. I'm still waiting to hear if they can hire in January and if it'll include my specialty. If not, then March would be the next likely time I can start if they keep with their previously planned training schedule for this fiscal year.

We need to sell our house, probably sell our cars, and sort out the various categories of packing (store, ship, or carry).  The sorting depends on if housing and furniture are provided where we're going. Right now it feels like we're in limbo because this path isn't locked in.  We can't do what we know needs to be done to fully prepare for a move overseas. We're not even sure what personal travel we should take or when to do it because the training locks me out of being able to take vacation time.

It already feels like being back in the military. Patience and adaptability are some traits I developed in the military that will serve me well in the foreign service.  However, waiting is still a hard thing to do when you're already mentally prepared to go now.

Friday, October 4, 2013

On The Register!

I'm officially on the register!  This simple little exclamation means I'm on the waiting list for an orientation class to become a Foreign Service Specialist with the State Department.  More specifically, I'm waiting to become an Information Management Specialist (IMS).  If you're wondering what an IMS is then you can read the full details on the State Department's job announcement page. The vacancy for new applicants opens up one or more times a year so sign up for the email updates if you're interested.  There are a variety of specialties available to become a Foreign Service Specialist (FSS) or Foreign Service Officer (FSO). Here's the summary for my IMS specialty:
The U.S. Department of State is the lead foreign affairs agency formulating and implementing the President’s foreign policy and representing the interests of the United States throughout the world. The Department carries out this mission at over 270 embassies and consulates around the world, offices in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area and other locations in the United States.
Foreign Service Information Management Specialists (IMS) are responsible for the Department’s Information Resource Management programs and Information Technology (IT) systems world-wide. The work is diverse and challenging. At overseas posts, IMS manage both staff supporting these programs and perform hands-on duties themselves. IMS provide customer support, knowledge management, application support, and manage a world-wide telecommunications network, computer networks, telephone systems, radio networks, and the Diplomatic Pouch and Mail program. At embassies and consulates abroad, IMS are expected to perform other duties, such as supporting visits of high-level officials, including the President of the United States, in support of U.S. foreign policy.
Department of State Foreign Service IMS must have the ability to adapt to changing cultural and physical environments, work with differing levels of technology, follow developments and innovations in the IT field and successfully apply emerging technology solutions to the art of diplomacy.
This is the type of work I know I'll enjoy doing along with the opportunity to live abroad while I do it!  I'm starting this blog as a place for the personal side of my upcoming career change and travels. This is setup to share with family and friends back home as well as new foreign service friends along the way.  I won't share much about the job itself except the usual things other prospective foreign service employees want to see like the timeline for processing.

Processing Timeline

My own timeline was pretty fast compared to other timelines I've seen.  I think it helped that I'm a current federal employee with an active clearance and already live here in the DC area where the State Department is located.  We were required to go to the State Department's medical office for evaluation so it was a one-stop shop providing the clearances after they personally saw us for our physicals and tests.  Applicants outside the DC area see their own doctors and the State's medical office reviews the results so that adds some time.  Additionally, my security investigation was mostly a local area reinvestigation of my existing clearance so it may have been easier to process. They still interviewed most people I know here but that's what they do every 5 years to maintain my clearance anyway. Here's my timeline so far:
  • Vacancy Announcement Closed - Apr 10, 2013
  • Passed Qualification Evaluation Panel (QEP) - Jun 24, 2013
  • Scheduled for Oral Assessment (OA) - Jul 5, 2013
  • Passed OA (Conditional Job Offer) - Aug 9, 2013
  • Medical Clearance Complete - Sep 17, 2013
  • Security Clearance Investigation Complete - mid Sep, 2013
  • Security Clearance Adjudicated - late Sep, 2013
  • Final Review Panel - late Sep, 2013
  • Added to the IMS Register - Oct 2, 2013
  • Job Offer/Training Assigned - TBD (edit: Dec 2, 2013)
  • Orientation/Training Begins - TBD (edit: Feb 10, 2014)

Ramble On

I served 20 years in the Air Force and I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to the nomadic lifestyle and rambling on around the world.  That's why this blog is called Ramble On FSS... of course basing it on a Led Zeppelin song with lyrics referencing Lord of the Rings doesn't hurt either.  :-)

Led Zeppelin – Ramble On

Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay.
But now it's time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way.
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do...

Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm going around the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I've been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.

Got no time for spreading roots, The time has come to be gone.
And to our health we drank a thousand times, it's time to Ramble On...