Spring 2014 Internships Available at State; Apply Before July 1

As I’ve mentioned previously, a State Department internship is a great way to see if the Foreign Service or Civil Service is right for you.

These internships are targeted at undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in Foreign Service or Civil Service positions with the State Department.  Those interested in Foreign Service jobs can work at an embassy overseas and learn from U.S. diplomats on the job.  You will likely be asked to contribute or write cables and reports.  You could also participate in meetings with host country officials and foreign diplomats.

For those interested in work in the State Department, there are positions open in many Bureaus.  This internship will give you a firsthand look at how the State Department operates in Washington, working with our embassies overseas, handling multilateral and bilateral issues and understanding the work of the dedicated Civil Service experts. 

If you’re interested, you can find the notice at State.USAjobs.gov.  Follow the instructions there.  You should also visit State’s website for careers for additional information on the Spring 2014 Student Internship Program (unpaid).

Of course, there is no guarantee of future employment, but especially for civil servants the key to finding a job at State or anywhere in the Federal Government is to get your foot in the door.  From there, through networking and building contacts, you could end up with a full-time position.

An important tip is that if you’re interested, apply as quickly as possible. Although there are more than six months before the internships become available, the vetting process takes a long time, especially background checks for your security clearance.  In my experience, it is the security clearance process that is the biggest hurdle, not because it’s complicated but because there are too few investigators making the checks.

Your application is due July 1, 2013.

Good luck!




Student Internship Applications Accepted Now

Big news, undergrads, the best internship program for the Foreign Service has opened with a a deadline of 11/2.  Don’t miss it.  These are non-paying positions overseas and in Washington.  Language skills would help, but are not required. Big news, undergrads, the best internship program for the Foreign Service has opened with a a deadline of 11/2.  Don’t miss it.  These are non-paying positions overseas and in Washington.  Language skills would help, but are not required.

Okay, the best internships are the ones that pay, but for now this is an ideal way to see what Foreign Service Officers do on the job.  Even more important, you will have the opportunities that entry-level officers experience.   

Follow the link below or go to http://careers.state.gov/students/programs#nogo


Announcing the U.S. Department of State Student Experience Program (formerly known as the U.S. Department of State Internship Program).
This program offers U.S. citizen undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to participate in 10-week, unpaid internships that provide intensive educational and professional experience within the environment of America’s principle foreign affairs agency.

The unpaid internships are available at many of the over 265 U.S. embassies, consulates and missions to international organizations around the world, as well as at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. and other locations throughout the U.S. Participants gain first-hand, hands-on experience, and learn the realities of working in – and with – Foreign and Civil Service professionals who are at the forefront of America’s diplomatic efforts.

As a Student Experience intern, you may have the opportunity to:
— Participate in meetings with senior level U.S. government or foreign government officials;
— Draft, edit, or contribute to cables, reports, communications, talking points, or other materials used by policy makers in furthering U.S. foreign policy objectives;
— Help organize and support events, including international and/or multi-lateral meetings and conferences on critical global issues;
— Contribute to the management and administration of the Department of State and America’s foreign policy; and
— Engage directly with U.S. or foreign audiences to promote U.S. foreign policy and improve understanding of U.S. culture and society.
— So consider spending your summer 2013 with the U.S. Department of State, witnessing and participating in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy, working closely with the U.S. diplomats and civil servants who carry out America’s foreign policy initiatives. You’ll not only have an experience of a lifetime, you may even earn educational credit.*

* Applicants who are selected for a U.S. Department of State Student Experience can contact the selecting bureau, or the central Student Programs office, if they require further details about the program to support their request for academic credit.

Please visit http://careers.state.gov/students/programs for more information about the Student Experience Program, and to start the online application process via USAJobs. Please note that the deadline to submit completed applications is November 2, 2012.

We appreciate your interest in a career with the U.S. Department of State.
Visit our forums if you have any questions, or to search for topics of interest. The forums can be found under Engage on the careers.state.gov website. You can also search our FAQs for more information.

U.S. citizenship is required. An equal opportunity employer.

Questions? Contact Us

Communication Failures in the Foreign Service

I harp on a number of points in this blog, especially how important it is to improve your writing.  The goal is to communicate ideas and thoughts clearly and succinctly in your Personal Narrative  and during the oral assessment.  Don’t blather.  Say it, mean it and shut up.

Good, open communication is key to any large organization, be it the State Department or IBM or the European Union.  I found in my career at State that communication breakdowns within a U.S. Embassy overseas cripple not only our efforts to persuade foreign governments but also to run effective, high-morale Embassies.

Scott Gration is the “worst ambassador” at State

Scott Gration, former Ambassador to Kenya

Take the case of Ambassador Scott Gration who recently resigned his post in Nairobi.  The State Inspector General released its assessment August 10 of Gration’s performance in Kenya.  Over and over, the IG highlighted his failings in very un-diplomatic prose:

—  The IG called Gration’s leadership to be “divisive and ineffective.”

— “The Ambassador has lost the respect and confidence of the staff to lead the mission.”

— “The Ambassador’s greatest weakness is his reluctance to accept clear-cut U.S. Government decisions.”

Press reports that followed simplified the findings, branding Gration the “worst ambassador in the State Department.”

An ally of President Obama and a darling of the higher-ups at the National Security Council, Gration ended up scorned and pilloried for many reasons, chief among them was bad communication.  He lied to Washington, he dissed his staff and he refused to meet with important Kenyan officials.  Ironically, Gration grew up on the continent and speaks fluent Swahili.  But just because you know the language doesn’t mean you’re a skilled communicator.

For what it’s worth, Gration never understood or tried to understand the State Department culture.  For two years as Sudan envoy, he was a sole proprietor in a sea of LLCs.  Besides contradicting State policy on Sudan, he botched completely one of State’s most important outreach and communication efforts.   He failed – really, refused – to speak with Congress.  Big mistake.

Finally, Gration has hurt the reputation of political appointee ambassadors in the Foreign Service.  Sure, some of them have been duds, but there have also been many career officers who have failed.   There will always be fools in Front Offices.  Political appointees who follow the lead of Mike Mansfield and Walter Mondale, past ambassadors to Japan, will do far better than those who fight the system and denigrate their officers.  Also, political ambassadors bring much-needed fresh blood into the Department.  So while Gration was destroying the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, two other political appointees on the continent – Alfonso Lenhardt in Tanzania and Don Gips in South Africa – were showing their excellent skills at communication and leadership as well as boosting morale and empowering their staffs.


A life lived without passion is no life at all.

Passion is what sets apart the mediocre and excellent Foreign Service Officers.  This is true also in business, schooling, and indeed life.  How you do things has an impact on what you do and how well you do it.

I once had a boss in the Foreign Service who played favorites, picked on staff members he didn’t like and had serious anger issues.  It was a horrible time for me and for the Mission team.  But I did learn something from him.  First, obviously, that a good manager – open, trusting and honest — will get a better performance from his staff than a nasty, self-serving screamer.  And this boss was a screamer.

But he once said, “I’d rather have an officer with weak drafting and language skills but who was eager and passionate for his work than the brilliant officer who had little interest and excitement about his job.

“I can teach the former how to write better, how to speak the language with more fluency, how to develop networks of contacts, how to analyze the political situation, etc.  But managing the former is so much more difficult, even if he is the best Officer in the Foreign Service, because I can’t teach someone to be passionate and excited.”

Remember this as you take the Foreign Service Officer Exam, especially in your Personal Narrative.  Equally important, the FSOs administering the Oral Exam, especially the group exercise, are looking for professionalism, teamwork and smarts.  But they are also looking for the spark of passion.  This will set you apart.