Archive for October, 2009

A few catch-up links RE: the Foreign Service

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Struggles of interns to get clearance at the State Department: a “long, difficult, and frustrating process” during which you are apparently required to disclose every non-American friend on Facebook you’ve ever had. As if this were even possible.

State’s Hometown Diplomat Program helps you receive a hero’s welcome at your high school.

Selling the Foreign Service in Canada. Again, as if this were even possible.

Make your trip to the career fair about more than the swag

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Career fairs, as a subset of networking, have never been a strong suit of mine either. They feel forced, artificial, like everyone’s going through the motions. That said, they aren’t a bad thing to go to just to get a sense of what is out there. The career services office at Tufts University gives some pointers on getting the most out of a career fair and not looking like an idiot while you’re there:

Myth: I’ll look like a buffoon if I don’t come with my resume, cover letter, portfolio and salary requirements in hand.

Fact: While it is a good idea to bring along your resume, it is certainly not necessary. Some students go into the Career Fair hoping to land a job. Others go just to ask questions and see what’s out there. Either route is fine. Employers realize that everyone is coming in with a different level of preparedness, eagerness, etc. They are happy to talk with you (and some even have cool little giveaways…just saying). At the very least, be sure to grab the business card of everyone you talk to. That way, you can research the company later on and get back in touch with them should you feel inclined to either apply for a job or request an informational interview.

Myth: There’s no point in going to the Career Fair. Getting a job right out of college is not for me. I’m Eurotripping to find myself, man.

Fact: Going to the Career Fair does not mean you’re obligated to apply for a job. As mentioned before, students come in with various intentions. Some want a job, some want to ask questions, some just want to experience what a Career Fair is like. The Fair is what you make of it. When it comes down to it, why not go? It’s a chance to hone your conversational skills, make valuable connections, and practice wearing the slightly uncomfortable business attire that will soon become your everyday look (PJ bottoms don’t usually cut it in the workplace). Just go in with an open mind…you may be surprised at what you find.

The professional networking blowhard

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I myself have ranted and railed in the past about my dislike of “networking events”, my discomfort with and general poorness at the entire of concept networking, and how if you do go out networking, try not to look like a dirtball (I even once ventured into the parallels between networking and food). So I thoroughly enjoyed this post on the prototypical DC “networking blowhard” from why.i.hate.dc:

If you’re like me, you hate the entire idea of these sorts of things. Does anyone really believe that some dude you meet at a happy hour and exchange your “program assistant” business cards with will really be able to get you a job somewhere? There are a few problems with this logic, the first being that anyone who has the power to truly influence hiring decisions won’t be going to a networking event at the Front Page. Second, if you do have any sort of influence at your organization, you aren’t going to go out on a limb for someone you barely know. Third, the economy is in the toilet and there’s 500 people applying for every job opening in this town.

As such, these events are often attended by the person I’ll describe as the professional networking blowhard. This is the guy (or girl) who absolutely has to tell you about how amazing his job is, and how much he has accomplished in the 23 years he has been alive. Did you know that he went backpacking in Asia and is so tired of seeing temples that he will be happy if he never sees one ever again? Also, when he studied at Oxford, his flatmate from Mehhh-He-Ko (Mexico) taught him about the perils of the Zapatistas? What does he do now? Well, he works on an important program at [prominent non-profit]. You’ve never even heard of where he works, but don’t worry, he’ll tell you all about it. If you work for another non-profit, or a government agency, he’ll have a story about how just the other day he ran into the executive director (or cabinet secretary) of where you work. “Yeah, I totally ran into Secretary Chu downtown and we talked about renewable energy. He’s a nice guy.”

Sherry and I have often emphasized the point why.i.hate.dc is getting at: networking events that seem more like adult versions of high school mixers are far less worthwhile than those events or occasions at which you are actually engaged with people and a subject you really care about:

You’ll find the real people to “network” with at events that have some sort of meaning, or that revolve around something you are actually interested in. Reach out to people who write things you enjoy reading. Attend a community meeting about a topic that you feel is important. Volunteer for something that’s a bit obscure and isn’t filled only with people trying to deal with liberal guilt.

Yes, I’m still here

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Long overdue apologies, Dear Reader, for my recent absence from this lively space. I blame it partly on an extended, post-Mexico City hangover but mostly on the responsibilities of my real job here at the Alliance. The launch of our new website (check it out–it’s hot), our 2009 Board and Membership Meeting, as well as all sorts of exchange-related things going down in Congress and at State have kept me fairly occupied. I take it as a good sign—that I’m enjoying the work I’m doing—when throughout all the business, I hardly miss the things I’m neglecting (except, when I run out of clothes, clean laundry).

Anyhow, catch-up posts to come. Thanks for hanging around with me.

Age discrimination in the Foreign Service?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

The Foreign Service Act of 1980 mandates retirement at 65, having raised it from 60, and the policy based on the rigors of overseas service. But it does not apply to political appointees — among them, high-profile diplomatic envoys such as Richard C. Holbrooke, 68, or George Mitchell, 76, or, for that matter Clinton, who will be 65 in October 2012.

The Federal Diary at WaPo uncovers the case of a Foreign Service officer forced to forgo a new position she was offered in Algiers because she will turn 65 before that assignment is over. She’s suing, alleging age discrimination.

“Imagine if someone told Hillary Clinton she couldn’t be secretary of state because she would turn 65 before her term is up,” said Thomas R. Bundy III, a lawyer representing Colton.

Hillary: “We’re hiring”

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

We’re hiring.  That’s right.  We are actually hiring.  We’re increasing — all things hopefully coming through in our budget — we’re increasing the numbers of foreign service and civil service personnel, because the — the need is so great.

So said Hillary in a conversation with Secretary of Defenense Robert Gates at GW on Monday to
“Discuss American Power and Persuasion.”

[Sorry for the dearth of posts. Back from Mexico and it's a slog catching up.]