Archives for September 2013

Foreign Service Exam: First Conference Call; Here’s the Link

Thirty-five callers joined the first conference call last night, Thursday, September 26.  The call lasted about nearly two hours minutes, and the questions were excellent, ranging from how will the sequester affect hiring in FY2014 to how is the culture inside the Foreign Service.

You can find the recording here —

I am sending the MP3 file out for transcription, and I’ll try to provide a Table of Contents or Index to make it easy to search.

Thanks again for the participation.  I’m planning to do another conference call or Webinar in the near future.  Sign up for my  monthly newsletter to stay abreast of conference calls and podcasts.

Cheers, Bill









Free Conference Call with 24-Year Veteran of the Foreign Service

Hi Folks–

I’m back again and am curious to know how many people are interested in joining me on a conference call to talk about the Foreign Service as a career.  I’m willing to field all questions, including those from anyone with questions about the October FSOT.

I have some free time later in the week, and I’d be willing to host the call for about an hour, maybe a little longer if people have a lot of questions.

Someone contacted me yesterday to ask if offered tutoring.  I begged off, but I would like to lend a hand to everyone.  If you have questions about life in the Foreign Service, how bad bosses State Department bosses really are, how do you decide on your career track before you have any idea what the different cones do…

This would be completely free with no obligation on your part.

Please let me know by posting a comment.  If there is sufficient interest, I may do some Webinars in the future.  For now, let’s see how a conference call goes.

Best regards,

Bill Fitzgerald









Changes to


Thanks very much for being patient while I — a determined, yet clumsy WordPresser — make some overdue changes to my blog.

I will be adding more photos, start a monthly newsletter and publishing more content.

Let me know what you think of the website’s new look.






Department of State: Internship Applications for Summer 2014


The State Department has opened its application season for internships — domestic and foreign — for Summer 2014.  As I’ve said before, an internship at an embassy abroad is the best way to see if you really do want to work as an FSO.  You will have 10 weeks serving in a various capacities in a foreign mission, frequently in a developing country.

When I was DCM in Uganda, we had excellent interns during my three years there, including some who went on to join the Foreign Service, the Civil Service working in the State Department as well as overseas development NGOs.

In Kampala, we treated the interns as if they were officers, well, because they were officers.  No joke.  We were typically shorthanded over the summer — transfer season and R&R trips — so we relied the interns to fill the vacant positions.  Most served in the political and economic sections, but we did have some in the consular, public diplomacy and management sections.  

We also put the interns up in embassy housing which was open awaiting new officers or those gone for the summer.  This helped to defray the costs for the interns.

Why defray the costs? Because these are unpaid internships for undergraduate and graduate students.  These days, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding unpaid internships, likening them to slavery, but if you’re serious about the Foreign Service or Civil Service you reall should take part in this program, which the Department correctly points out is the only way for an undergraduate or graduate student to work in a U.S. Mission abroad.

About half of those accepted serve in Washington, DC or other cities around the country and the other 50% serve at embassies or consulates overseas.

All travel expenses, e.g., airfare, visa, passport, etc., are borne by the intern.

There are a bunch of requirements — at least a 2.5 GPA, for instance — and you can find instructions here.

You must complete the online application on the USAJOBS website and in addition to your biographical and education data complete the following:

• Select up to two (2) bureaus or posts abroad
• Specify a country or countries
• Include a well-written Statement of Interest
• Provide all required documents

NOTE: A couple of words of advice

— if you want to go overseas as an intern, pick a larger post abroad so you can be sure they’ll have empty slots to fill (Not all missions host interns every year).  In Africa, for instance, I’d recommend picking Ghana or Senegal over Togo, Kenya or Uganda over Burundi.

— if you speak or are studying a foreign language, put it on your application.  If you have an interest in a country or region, put it on your application and weave it into your statement of interest.  (On writing, remember no boring, stuffy academic writing in your statement, go for active voice, power verbs, clarity and succinctness.)

FINALLY AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, file for your security clearance ASAP.  too many students get tripped up here.  You need a security clearance and that process takes months.  You need to be able to handle documents and information classified at the SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL levels.

Good luck, and as always let me know if you have any questions in the comment box.
















Foreign Service Exam: Don’t Try to Game the System, Just Take the Test

The Foreign Service Exam is a difficult test to pass.  Don’t make it any harder.  It’s difficult, even a waste of time, to try to game this test.

During the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen arguments put forward on forums that the State Department wants to build up the ranks of the Consular Corps or the Political Cone or the PD Career Track.  So, as the advice goes, it’s a good time to make Consular, Political, Public Diplomacy your choice of career track.

 The problem is the system doesn’t work that way.

Yes, the Department does make an attempt to estimate Foreign Service personnel needs, but it’s a snapshot at that moment.  I’m not convinced that because State HR believes there will be a shortage in Pol officers, for instance, they will increase the hiring numbers of political officers in one year’s time; that is, when you pass the written and oral tests.  Remember too that all career tracks are in a constant state of change — attrition at all levels, out-of-cone assignments (e.g., DCM jobs, Cons to Pol, staff assistants and so forth).  If the Department needs more political officers, are they really going to increase hiring for the Political career track in when you reach the register. I think not.  What they will do is take more poloffs who have already passed the exam and are on the registers right now.

In the end, stop overanalyzing the process, gaming the system and believing you have an edge. Ultimately, it comes down to you and the Exam so crack the books, work on your writing (you should be writing for 30 minutes every day) and get ready to take the FSOT.