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RQ: Reconciliation

with 2 comments

This past weekend a reader asked,

How do you reconcile your career ambitions as a Specialist with the de facto status of Specialists as “support staff.”  Specialists don’t occupy the top positions at the State Department, nor do they ever (to my knowledge) become Ambassadors.  Since the opportunities for Foreign Service Officers are so much more prestigious at the upper levels, why didn’t you switch?

Short answer: I would never want to be an ambassador.

For a more detailed response, I offer the following points.

Very few FSOs become Ambassadors.  Very, very few.  I agree that Specialists with the ambition of becoming an Ambassador should absolutely take advantage of the various options available to them in terms of switching career tracks, or leverage their overseas experience with State to score well on the FSOT and in the oral assessment.  However, when you look at the larger picture the odds are still very, very long that you’ll ever make it that high.  As a counter to this line of reasoning; if you spend your entire 25-year career as one of the best Political officers the State Department has ever had, and you get passed over for a position by a political appointee, how would you feel?  At the highest levels qualification does not play as large a role as a stellar 25-year career might assume.

I spoke to Specialists being considered “support staff” in a previous post.  If you choose to accept “support staff” as a demerit, that is a personal choice.  I’ve never met an FSO who is ungrateful when I open their safe after they forget their combination, nor have I ever had to justify the importance of what I do to an FSO.  I do my job, am good at it, and it just so happens that my success facilitates the success of others.

Finally, I question the logic of judging a line of work based on the very top levels of what those in that profession can reach.  If you join State determined to become an ambassador you might very well reach that level.  The odds are that you won’t.  Others are perfectly satisfied in their chosen specialty for a myriad of reasons- experience in the field, career options after they retire, the desire to do something relevant to their education, etc.  To answer the question directly, I don’t reconcile my career ambitions as a Specialist with the unlikelihood of me becoming an Ambassador at all.  I don’t know how far up the SEO food chain I’ll go, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get my -01 at some point… and beyond that?  Who knows.  If not, oh well- I’ll retire without leaving anything back at post.

Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.


Written by OSB

22/07/2011 at 06:24

2 Responses

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  1. Great response! I’d like to link your comment on my specialist blog if you don’t mind. I’ve heard that question often and touched on the same points.


    25/07/2011 at 09:42

    • Sure- you’re welcome to link away. It’s a compliment- thank you.


      25/07/2011 at 11:54

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