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Trade in Wardrobe July 31, 2012

Posted by KG in FS Life.

So as I mentioned a month or so ago, for the past nine plus weeks I’ve been in at FSI.  Language training — which I am petrified of — begins after Labor Day.  For the summer, I’ve been in what we call “tradecraft,” our term d’art for job training.  In a year’s time I’ll be working in my first Public Diplomacy position, the functional specialty — aka “cone” — I chose before joining the service in 2005.  Many in my Foreign Service generation have been in the difficult place of having to wait a few tours before working in-cone.  In my case, I will have been in the service almost eight years when I finally get to do the work I wanted to do when I joined.  That’s decidedly non-optimal.

After years of consular and desk work, I’m not embarrassed to say I was beginning to have my doubts about my chosen cone.  I’ve now almost completed the full slate of PD training — dealing with the press, working social media, the basics of grants, cultural programs, exchanges, public speaking.  And though the functional insights have had their own value, that’s not the biggest thing I’ll be taking away.  The best part of training:  the past weeks have, with great success, made me excited again to be a PD officer.

Though really, that’s only the milestone I’m excited about in the long-term.  The short-term milestone that has me most excited right now is being able to shelve part of my wardrobe.  The dress code at FSI is decidedly relaxed, but about once a week during tradecraft I’ve had to put on a suit, for meetings with higher-ups or other important contacts.  Today was the last of those meetings, and the number of days I will need to wear a suit will decidedly dwindle when I’m in language training.  So other than very special occasions: no suits for at least nine months!



1. Liz - July 31, 2012

As a consular coned officer, I loved being a PD officer — for 2 years. I loved that I had the freedom and money to do largely what I wanted, as long as it fit the PD mission. I loved having my own American Center (an endangered species, I know), fantastic FSNs, getting to travel a lot, and the opportunity to meet all kinds of people at all levels of society on their turf as opposed to through a visa window.

But I hated the late nights and endless receptions, so now I’m looking forward to going “home” to consular work again. Enjoy FSI! I loved getting paid to learn another language and getting to wear jeans every day — for about 9 of the 11 months I was here. Now I’m ready to get back to work overseas. See you there!

2. Brian Carlson - August 1, 2012

Kind of agreeing with Liz, the best part of being in a PD job is that you are supposed to – no, required to – get out and deal with people from the host country. You will use your language skills, you will learn how the local people think, and you will likely make some fast friends that will remain with you long after you retire from the FS.

Best of all, when someone complains that you didn’t answer the email or get the report written on time, you can invoke the George Kennan excuse — “I could not reply to your telegram because I was out talking with knowledgeable (host nation) people about what is going on in this country.”

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