Friday, August 14, 2009


So I thought I would give you a break from my usual fare and take this moment to complain about bidding. I can even pretend you are a captive audience, at least until I look at my sitemeter to see that you stayed on the page just long enough to get to the word complain.

For those of you still here, bidding is awful. I know when you think about it from outside the Foreign Service, it probably sounds cool. Wow, you get a list of all of these cool places to choose from. The world is your oyster. It is true that you get a list. It is also true there are *some* cool places on there. There are far more "oh hell no" places on there.

This is my fourth time bidding in the past four years. It is my own fault really, since I have been doing one year tours. So I am bidding now less than a month into my new job. That is also the nature of one year tours.

Bidding is ALWAYS hard. You don't get the list of all the cool places and go to the one you choose. You have to select six places for which you are at grade and in cone. For me, that means I have to pick a public diplomacy or interfunctional (they count as any cone) job. But really it has to be public diplomacy, because I am currently doing my fourth tour and only my first PD assignment (the joys of directed assignments for your first two tours include being somewhat unlikely to do a tour in your cone). I need to use this tour to make the connections to get an overseas PD tour now or I will have a hard time EVER getting one. And I want to do PD is why I chose this cone. Those six jobs also have to be at my rank, though I can also bid on jobs one grade above my rank (this is called a "stretch," and not because you are unlikely to get it, though in the age of linked assignments, that too is true). Most of the PD jobs overseas would be a stretch for me, which means that even if post loves me and wants me, someone who is at grade and in cone can come in at the last moment and take the job. Even if post doesn't want them.

An additional pain in bidding is the whole concept of lobbying. It is not what you know but who you know. I got my current job because someone knew me and only because of that. Luckily for them, I am also good at my job (IMHO). But really, I didn't want it to be that way. I wanted to send my resume and have them say, "she look's interesting. Let's interview her." And then let me sell myself.

But no. I have to find people who know me and know who I am applying to. to make calls for me. And hope my big dog is bigger than someone else's big dog.

This year, we have an added twist. My partner and I are, for the first time, an official tandem. So I am having to learn to work that system. Jerusalem was easy. It was directed. and I now see why so many tandem couples spend much of their careers in DC. It is just easier to find jobs here.

So now, since was asked to take a one-year job instead of the two year job I had been assigned to (the one year job is more prestigious and I hope gets me a big enough dog in my corner), my partner and I are off cycle. She is in her job a year longer than I am in mine. So I am trying to find jobs where the timing will work out given language training, her rank, my rank, and our cones. So far, in the bureaus where we have connections, I have come up with four places. But I have no idea what will happen or whether any of it will happen. My one ace is that I can extend in this job if we can't find something that works, but that means doing this whole exercise all over again next year.

And I really hate bidding.

Lest you think I am just whining, I offer you the following fellow suffers:

Diplopundit: Bidding Sucks, No, Really...

Email from the Embassy: Apples vs. elephants: The Bidding Process

Diplodocus: So Where Have I Been?

Girl In The Rain: The Bid List Is Out


Anonymous said...

Great post, and an important perspective on the bidding process. Most stories I hear are from PD officers who are pretty established in their careers, so thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Donna said...

Hey thanks for the link - I linked right back to you. I'm feeling your pain. Times like these, I'm glad I'm not part of a tandem. I truly don't understand how that works so both partners get a decent job. But it can, and it does, and I wish you much luck.

Shannon said...

Oh the pain of bidding! The only thing worse than the research is the waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting...) that comes after you submit your bids. Of course I am a trailing spouse not a tandem so my hubs gets to do all the lobbying.

Would you mind if I link to this post on my blog? You describe the process so well and I am tired of trying to explain it to friends and family not in the FS.