Friday, September 21, 2012

Dream Jobs

Last spring, as my graduation from SAIS approached and the fearsome specter of unemployment loomed, I spent a good amount of time applying to jobs and trying to sell both my skills and my new graduate level education. I've lucked out by being offered two opportunities which seem to be exactly what I want to be doing and exactly what I'm now qualified to do with my new degree.

The first opportunity is through a program called Fundación Consejo España-EEUU, which sponsors Spaniards to work at American Companies and Americans to work at Spanish companies. After two interviews (one of which was in Spanish over the phone), I was offered a position through this program to work at Banco Santander, a Spanish Bank. I'll be moving to Madrid (I'm actually writing this in the airport, on my way) and working in a department that does economic analysis.

Obviously, you'll hear more about Spain in this blog soon.

The second opportunity, which only fully materialized yesterday, is with the US Foreign Service. The Foreign Service is the diplomatic corps of the Department of State. They staff our embassies around the world, carry out US foreign policy and represent our country. I began this process back in February, but it's such a long and in some ways arbitrary process that I had never considered it a part of my job search.

DC pre-sunrise on my way the the exam
The procedure for getting hired into the Foreign Service is composed of three different hurdles that gradually cull more applicants until only a small percentage of the thousands who apply each round are hired. It begins with a written test, which is offered, like the GRE, at test sites all over the country. It has questions on everything from history to geography to constitutional knowledge and is notoriously hard to study for. The second step, if you pass the written test, is the submission of a personal narrative answering questions about different qualities you may have that are valued by the Foreign Service. If that stage is passed, you are invited to the final and most imposing step: an oral examination in Washington, DC. I spent a good amount of time this summer studying for the oral: meeting with others online and in San Diego to prepare for the group exercise that is a part of the process, waking up early to practice the high-pressure 90-minute case management writing exercise, and sitting and chatting one-on-one with friends about stories in my past in which I've displayed leadership, composure and other qualities in preparation for the structured interview.

I flew into DC this week to take the exam before leaving for Spain and I had the incredible luck to pass the oral assessment! It was a long day (I was at the State Department from 6:30am until 6:00pm) but very rewarding. Now that I have a provisional offer of employment I'll be going through a background check, a health screening, and spend some time sitting on a registry before I get called up. If the timing works out and everything goes right, I'll just be finishing up my contract with Banco Santander in June when I'm asked to return to DC to begin a new career as a diplomat!