It's Not as Big a Leap as You Think
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Do you have an itch to ditch your predictable job in the cubicle farm for adventurous work in other countries? The federal government offers lots of possibilities far, far beyond the Beltway, so don't let myths about government work overseas dash your aspirations.
Myth: The Foreign Service -- the nation's diplomatic corps -- is made up exclusively of State Department staff.
Fact: The biggest branch of the Foreign Service indeed consists of State Department staff, said Marianne Myles, director of the State Department's Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment. But the Foreign Service also has branches with employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the departments of Agriculture and Commerce.
Myth: You must have previous overseas experience to become a Foreign Service officer with the State Department. These workers advance U.S. interests abroad and manage embassies.
Fact: The State Department's screening process for Foreign Service officers has long included a knowledge test called the Foreign Service Officer Test and a day-long Foreign Service Oral Assessment. But a third hurdle was recently added, Myles said: an in-depth review of professional, academic and extracurricular credentials.
This process considers all aspects of applicants' backgrounds without requiring specific skills or types of experience, such as languages or overseas experience. Why? "Because someone with a totally different skill set can still make a successful diplomat," Myles said. "The world is a complicated place; State needs multifaceted individuals with a wide range of skill sets."
The process favors "generalists who are adaptable enough to go wide and deep," and who represent all walks of life -- including recent graduates and stay-at-home parents returning to work, Myles said.
Other agencies have their own processes.
Myth: All employees of intelligence agencies are spies; they are either spying on their families or have abandoned them.
Fact: The Central Intelligence Agency recruits about 100 types of non-spy professionals, ranging from Hollywood makeup artists who design disguises to Wall Street wizards who analyze financial information, said Betsy Davis, chief of the agency's Recruitment and Retention Center. Some work in the United States; some work overseas.
"If you join the CIA, your family and friends will still be part of your life," Davis said. And you won't have to spy on them.
Myth: Only the Foreign Service has non-intelligence overseas jobs.