Registration for Next Foreign Service Exam Opens January 2

 

Yes, that’s right, you can register online starting January 2 for the Foreign Service Exam which will be held during the week of February 2-9. PearsonVue administers the test under contract with the State Department.

The Career Tracks

As I described in an earlier post, when you register for the Foreign Service Exam you must select your career track (cone). There are five cones: Consular, Economic, Management, Political, and Public Diplomacy. The decision is tough and unfair. How are applicants who’ve never worked in an embassy supposed to decide their Cone? It’s a decision that will guide your entire career of 20+ years.

Don’t Try to Game the System

Check out my recent post — Difficult Choice — What’s Your Career Track? — which provides  books and online resources to help make your Career Track decision. I also recommend that you not try to game the system. For example, an applicant believing the Management Track is underrepresented so if you pick the Management Cone you’ll have a better chance. First, I’m not sure where applicants can find out which Cones are underrepresented. Second, if you do succeed in joining the Foreign Service as a Management Cone officer, but realize one year in that you hate management work, then you’re stuck. The Department rarely allows you to change Tracks after you join the Foreign Service. Do yourself a favor, review the Career Track materials, and make an honest decision.

Register as Early as Possible

The Career Track decision requires thought and honesty with yourself. The earlier you decide will help because the sooner you register the better chance you have of scoring a seat close to where you live. I have known one poky applicant who ended up with a test center three hours away. The registration opens January 2 and closes January 30.

Government Shutdown: I don’t know what to tell you. The State Department has furloughed a lot of civil servants and Foreign Service officers, including those folks who staff the Bureau of Human Resources. I’d like to think the budget will be sorted out quickly, but the craziness in Washington, DC could last weeks (or longer!?).  Still, since PearsonVUE is under contract, it’s possible they are still gearing up to offer the February Exam. Please let me know if you have trouble registering or PearsonVue tells you the February FSOT date will slip.

 

 

 

 

 

Difficult Choice — What’s Your Career Track?

 

 

One of the first hurdles to joining the Foreign Service happens even before you take the FSOT.

The State Department makes you pick your Career Track, aka Cone, when you register for the Exam. That’s right, even before you’ve worked in an Embassy, you must select your Career Track.

Worse still, remember that your will guide your cone for your 20+ year career and it’s impossible to change it once you’re in the Foreign Service. Daunting, no?

Don’t worry. I have organized the information from Careers.State.Gov. I’ve also identified two books that will help in your search.

Five Career Tracks

There are five Career Tracks in the Foreign Service: Consular, Economic, Management, Political, and Public Diplomacy.

All of the Career Tracks offer varied and interesting work, and it’s no longer true that only Economic and Political officers become Senior Foreign Service officers, DCMs, and Ambassadors.

Many applicants choose to become Political or Economic officers because that’s the job that’s depicted in books or films. You know, pencil-necked, introspective quislings who invariably ends up relying on the hero of the story to survive. Seriously, that’s a myth and FSOs are usually courageous (at least most of the time!)

How to Decide?

You need to take a closer look at the Career Tracks to make your decision. Do the following:

— Read the information at Careers.State.Gov, take the Career Track Quiz and listen to the Diplomats@work (yes, a bit cheesy, but they can help)

Call a Diplomat-in-Residence (however with the current government shutdown, which has affected the State Department, the DIRs may not be working). Also check out nearby if there are nearby recruiting events. (Be warned, the search engine is not great);

— The following books are excellent ways to help you pick your Career Track:
1) Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America, published by the American Foreign Service Association, available on Amazon. ISBN-13: 978-0964948846

2) America’s Other Army: The U.S. Foreign Service and 21st-Century Diplomacy (Second Updated Edition), author Nicholas Kralev, ISBN-13: 978-1517254513

I also have a few videos on YouTube that focus on these specific topics. Search for FSOT Prep.

 

 

Download the DOSCareers Mobile App (Apple, Android)

Make sure you get the right one. The DOSCareers app is free, gratis, $0.00. Developed by the State Department and MetroStar Systems, the FSOT app is excellent and mirrors what’s on the State Department Career website — Careers.State.Gov.

Be warned there are a bunch of apps that offer to teach and test and prep you for the Foreign Service Exam. All of these apps cost money. Make sure you get the DOSCareers app first. You cmight want to buy them; I leave that up to you.