Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ready, Set, Go

Not long ago it was correctly said that, despite the explosion of electronic communications (email, cell phones), 70% of business communication was still face to face.  Madam has not seen any recent statistics, but whatever is going on out there in the rest of the world, in the Foreign Service that is doubtless not so any more, if it ever was at all.

For all ELOs who thought you had a job when you got here, it's time to go job hunting.

And here, from the collected wisdom and experience of many mid- and senior-level FSOs, are a few ideas for a successful hunt.

First and most important, research, research, research.

Make sure you understand what the job you are considering really entails, not just the job title, which can be very misleading.  Ask your CDO, ask your classmates, lunch friends, your boss, the DCM.  Someone will know someone who had that job before, and can describe it to you.

Try to find out who you will be working for.  Note, please, that working FOR someone can be very different than working WITH someone.  If you can, find someone who knows that person and can tell you what it's like to work FOR him or her.  The notion of Kiss Up Kick Down is alive and well in the Service.

Find out who will decide.  You're sure you don't know anybody who knows the person who will have the say on who gets the job you covet?  You would be surprised.  Hit the list above, and ask.  They might not know that person directly, but will certainly know someone else who does.  Then email the decision maker.

Three very short paragraphs is all you get, no more than three sentences per paragraph - and no run-ons, or cheating with semicolons.  Introduction, description, closing.  Like a good resume, it should leave the recipient with a desire to know more.  It should take no more than 20 seconds to read, should include lots of white space, and it should consist of:

- Introduction:  Where you are and what you're doing, what job you are interested in, why (you get only half a sentence for the 'why' part).

- Description:  What you bring to the job you want.  This is the place to put your education, your previous experience in and out of the Service, and no more than two or three of your proudest accomplishments and how they relate to the job you want.  And they do relate, if for no other reason than that they demonstrate your decisiveness, your grasp of complex regulations and how to apply them correctly, or your appreciation for how good customer service affects relations with the host country.  Note:  do not exaggerate, and for heaven's sake do not make things up.  Everybody knows almost everybody, and not only is this extremely easy to check, but a fib will give you a hallway reputation you might never shake.  For ideas, Google "elevator pitch" or "elevator speech."

- Closing:  Obliquely ask for the job, without asking directly or presuming that the recipient will respond to you.

Do not write the email and send it.  Doing so will almost guarantee that you will wake suddenly in the middle of the night in a white-hot panic of regret.  Write it, save it as a draft, review it tomorrow, run it past someone who knows the system and will tell you the truth.   Adjust as necessary.  Then send it, cross your fingers, and good luck to you!


Anonymous said...

Any tips on writing 360 reviews for former supervisors and colleagues? Thanks!

Madam le Consul said...

Oh, those can be tricky. On the other hand, they are good for practicing the EER-writing skills you'll need later. Use simple grammar and precise language; don't use slang, idioms, or modifiers like 'very' or the like; don't use adjectives or adverbs when you could use exact nouns and verbs. Use one or two clear, factual examples as the bone structure of each segment, followed with a very brief analysis or comment, such as: there was this problem and George fixed it this way. The result was more contented customers. If you can't say something nice, say something very precise: there was this incident and George responded this way. That was not successful because...

Good luck!