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  • Emily 9:20 pm on April 27, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , , Foreign Service Officer Test, , State Department   

    On The Outside Looking In 

    Turning in my badge was difficult.  For the past three months, it has been my key to a door I’ve been itching to open for years.  Unlike “unsecured” workplaces, I can’t just walk in and say hi whenever I want.  I need to be invited, approved, and escorted.  Now that my internship is over, I’m an outsider.

    I know that sounds incredibly dramatic, but I was sad to leave my office.  The people are incredible, both in my office, and the foreign service officers passing through for training.  I made some great connections.  Being at the Foreign Service Institute, I learned a lot about myself and about how I proceed from here.  Although I am excited to catch up on sleep and go back to being a student for a few weeks.

    I plan to take the Foreign Service Officer Test this summer.  If I pass, my training would start shortly after graduation next year.  In the mean time, I plan to intern in the private sector and on the Hill so that I can have something to compare my first internship to.  This was an incredible experience, and I loved every minute!

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  • Emily 11:51 pm on April 25, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Frustration, , State Department,   

    Long Hours, Not For Pay, Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way… 

    …as the old intern saying goes.

    I wanted to take a minute to talk about internships in general.  In my Internship-For-Credit class, we read an article about the dangerous trend of internships in our society.  I think it brings up some very interesting points, and I was particularly surprised to learn of the regulations in place by the U.S. Department of Labor.  I wonder how many places that offer internship know of those rules… I checked, and my supervisor does, although I’m not really surprised because it’s the government who wrote them after all.

     

    The skills that I have gained are invaluable.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself at my internship.  The only time I felt any resentment at the unpaid part was in the first couple of week when I was invited to sit in on one of the classes with the new class of Foreign Service Officers.  Some of the Officers were rude to the instructors (my co-workers) because they were bored in the class.  I almost turned around and said “Look, you’re getting paid to be set up for my dream job.  I’m paying 6 credits of tuition just to be here for 12 weeks.”

     

    One of the best aspects of my internship is my incredible supervisor.  Before joining the State Department, she was an advisor at a prestigious university.  She makes sure I have opportunities to learn as much as I can, and network as much as possible.  My office even arranged for the interns to take a morning off and go on the Diplomatic Reception Room Tour at Main State.  If I had a less attentive supervisor, maybe I would not be so happy.

     

    On the Diplomatic Reception Rooms Tour!

    Overall, I think our society is going a little intern crazy.  I know there are graduate students applying for my position right now because they can’t get find a job yet.  It’s probably in part due to the economy.  But they are definitely not all bad.  There was a segment on the state of internships on the Colbert Report a few weeks ago that talked about the lawsuit in the article that put things into a good perspective.
     
  • Emily 8:30 pm on April 23, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , , , State Department   

    The Government Culture 

    Yet another incredibly unique aspect of the Department of State is the politics.  Typically, politics are ignored or avoided in the workplace, but there is no escaping them in my office. The State Department’s overall role is to implement Foreign Policy. The President of the United States sets the Foreign Policy agenda. Since the President is elected, the agenda for the State Department is ultimately set by the public voters, making the work that these men and women are doing political at its core. I had the opportunity to discuss this with the Director of my office. I asked specifically about US action in the Middle East for the past 10 years. My Director explained that there was an atmosphere of confusion and disbelief when the events that led to the war began to unfold. Political disagreements ran deep. Ultimately, he explained, the members of the Department of State, both Civil and Foreign Service, hold their responsibility to fully support our men and women in the field, on the ground, and around the world over political differences. The best they can do is to do their jobs as well as they can and serve the people that are counting on them.

    Secretary Clinton delivers remarks to the 2012 Chiefs of Mission Conference, March 13, 2012. State Department Photo

    Working in the public sector and specifically in foreign policy offers a unique opportunity to explore the world and the changing nature of global diplomacy.  In the past year, we have seen changes in world power that we once thought would never come.  The Arab Spring has shaken the Middle East to its core.  The pressure of a globalizing world also adds a new dimension to working in Foreign Policy.  I found an excelent examination of this paradox in Fareed Zakaria’s article, “The Future of American Power: How America Can Survive the Rise of the Rest.” The article in full has to be purchased to be viewed, but a summary can be found on the foreign affairs web archives.  Zakaria says we are finding ourselves in the middle of “the third great power shift of the modern era – the rise of the rest.”  Much of the Foreign Policy of the Obama administration has involved measures of inclusion rather than exclusion, and cooperation rather than pure competition.  This attitude trickles down through the policy makers and the policy takers such as the employees of the State Department.  The United States is reaching out to developing and rising nations, which I believe is creating a very positive global dialogue.  Zakaria discusses the power of the US to “stabilize the emerging world order by bringing in the new rising nations, ceding some of its own power and perquisites, and accepting a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints.”  I believe this is true, this is the direction that US Foreign Policy is taking currently, and being a part of the work force that is directly involved in those efforts is challenging and inspiring, which is exactly what I want for my future career.

     
  • Emily 2:37 am on April 20, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: Civil Service, , , State Department, Structure   

    Wait, What is the State Department really? 

    Let me start by saying very few writers, journalists, reporters, or authors have undertaken the insane task of trying to describe the U.S. Department of State in the format of a concise and easy-to-read article.  In fact, I think it might just be impossible, and for good reason. The State Department is incredibly unique in that it is one of the largest bureaucracies in the world.  You can find people that work on the drug trade through Mexico, promoting women’s rights, and painting the walls of the embassies all over the world, and they all work for the same “company.”  There are offices within branches within divisions and they all fall under the general title of “State Department.”

    And one cannot simply draw a chart and be done with it.  For one thing, that would be a very large chart.  For another, the State Department is like a living organism.  It grows and shrinks to meet the needs of the federal government.  A few weeks ago, I went to an “intern briefing” with a handful of interns from a few different offices.  We were “briefed” on the structure of the State Department.  One of the first slides of the presentation was a chart, which the speaker quickly prefaced with, “Ok, this is out of date.  We’ve asked Administration to create another one and you would not believe the complicated responses we received.”

    The best description of the Department of State can be found in two places; on the State.gov website (yes, that chart is out of date too).

    The State.gov site provides the Department’s Official Mission Statement: “Shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”

    This may not be true of all departments, but this statement definitely sets the tone for the atmosphere of where I work and the Foreign Service Institute.

    A more recent interpretation of this statement outlines the main functions of the department.  Those functions are:

    •       Advising presidents on the ends and means of U.S. foreign policy
    •       Gathering and sharing information about recent developments overseas
    •       Providing representation and services to U.S. Citizens abroad
    •       Regulating and managing foreign travel to the United States
    •       Investigating solutions to transnational problems such as environmental decay, large-scale poverty, and weapons proliferation

    These are some pretty large goals for a single organization to take on, but lead by the Secretary of State, the Department does it.

    In general, everyone falls under two categories; Civil Service and Foreign Service.  The civil service is mostly based in the US, primarily in Washington, while the foreign service is based around the world.  My office is a little unique because it falls under the Foreign Service Institute.  These people are based in Washington as civil service, but they provide direct support to the Foreign Service Officers who must attend classes and trainings periodically.  The paradox is very interesting, and it’s an incredible learning experience.  By interacting with both Civil and Foreign Service, I get a pretty good sense of how my office fits into the big picture of the State Department.

    People in the Department, and probably in Government everywhere, are very proud of what they do and the mission they serve, so I’ll finish this post with a little fact from that briefing meeting that I learned.

    When you ask the general public what percentage of the national budget goes to the State Department, the average answer is around 20%. When you ask them what it should be, they say around 10%.  The actual State Department budget is one tenth of one percent of the federal budget.  And they do some incredible things with that little sliver of a percentage.

     
    • John Charles 3:47 pm on April 23, 2012 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Glad that you are getting a good view of State by being at FSI, Emily. It really is incredible to think about how broad a range of activities the agency undertakes. I look forward to seeing the updated organizational chart!

  • Emily 2:28 am on April 10, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , State Department   

    The Real World: LinkedIn 

    Social media networking has fulfilled many different roles in my life.  In my early teens, it was a way to rebel.  After high school graduation, it was a gateway to the world of college.  Recently, it has helped me keep in touch with friends and family around the world.  For the past few years, social media networking has flowed along with my pace of life.  A few weeks ago, I signed up with LinkedIn, and all of that changed.

    For the first time, I’m intimidated by social media networking.  It’s new, unknown, and different.  Instead of following my pace, it pushes me as hard as I push it.  It’s a tool, not a hobby.  And I’m still learning how to use it.  When is it ok to connect with someone? How often do people check this stuff?  How much of my resume should be on my profile?  I’m still trying to work out how comfortable I feel with my professional information out for the internet to see.

    In March, my office at the State Department held a seminar for government employees that were preparing to retire (just one of the many perks that come with Government work that I’m learning about).  One seminar focused on Job Searches, mainly for people that know they have to get another job because they have kids in college or a mandatory retirement age that is just too low to live off of.  In the classes, job seekers learn how to take advantage of social media networking, and specifically LinkedIn.

    Even though I’m supposed to be the tech-savvy Intern offering administrative support, I took every chance I could to stand at the back of the lecture room and take notes.  I told myself all week, if the retired Government Employees, so can I.  By the end of the course, some of them even “linked” with me!

    Other classes included resumes, business cards, developing a brand, and other job search tools that are helpful to everyone from government employees with 30 years of experience, to interns thinking about what will happen in a year when they graduate.  I think I struck gold on the internship front!

     
  • Emily 12:41 am on April 1, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , jealous, State Department   

    Middle Intern Syndrome 

    One of my goals for making my first impression as an intern was simple…don’t mess up.  Little mistakes that we learn from are always fine, but I really didn’t want to step on any toes or offend anyone.  So, for the first couple of days, I kept my eyes open and my mouth shut.

    The State Department is one of the largest bureaucracies in the world.  There are levels and sub levels, Training Technicians and Training Assistants, and to every Director, there is a Deputy Director.  I knew that the best way to avoid awkward incidents would be to quickly figure out where I was in the hierarchy.  Once that was clear, I had a much better idea of how I should act and react around the different people in my office.  After that, office etiquette came naturally.  I know which jokes to laugh at, when my personal stories are appropriate, and who to go to with which questions.

    I’ve been getting along so well with everyone in my office that I forgot about the new intern that was starting half way through the term.  At first, my new coworker came crashing into the little world I had grown to love.  Everyone was telling her how excited they were that she was there and how they were looking forward to getting to know her and how she was going to do great.  I felt forgotten, left out, and a bit jealous.  Have you heard of Middle Child Syndrome?  I began to develop what I have started calling Middle Intern Syndrome.

    Image from Time.com

     However, a little self reflection gave me a reality check.  The new intern was supposed to start when I started, but was held up with travel complications.  Now she’s here and anxious to get caught up.  And best of all, I’m not doing everything by myself anymore!  In the last few days I have realized that I now have a teammate.  While stuffing folders for an hour this week, we found many things we have in common (which was not difficult at all since we are both living our dream internship). We’re becoming an efficient and friendly pair that the office adores.  They are even throwing an Intern Lunch in our honor to thank us for all of our work!
    Moral of the story: Keep an open mind and never turn down a potential friend.
     
  • Emily 2:08 am on March 12, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , full time, , , State Department   

    The Internship Offer That Changed My Graduation Date 

    Registering for classes has never been a stressful affair for me.  I’m the kind of student that always has an updated 4-year plan, keeps google calendars color coded, and knows what classes she wants four weeks before registration.  This gave me the opportunity to graduate a semester early.  This past December, my perfectly scheduled world shattered.

    When I first received the internship offer from the State Department, I called my supervisor and I asked what the typical schedule for a full-time student intern was. “Well, um, did you mention to HR that you wanted to be part time?”  A wave of fear washed over me.  Not wanting to lose my internship before it even started, I quickly said, “No, but my schedule is still up in the air, so I could possibly be full time, I’m just trying to gather as much information as possible.”  Phew. Close save.  My supervisor went on to describe why they are looking for full time interns.  After discussing the work load and the types of projects that really do require a substantial time commitment, she added, “And on rare occasions, there might be a chance for you to meet the Secretary of State, and it would be a shame if you had to miss that.”  That got to me.

    Entrance to FSI

    Posing at the Diplomatic Entrance to the Foreign Service Institute

    OK, that wasn’t the only reason.  The opportunities that the internship program offered sounded incredible.  After meeting with my academic advisor, career advisor, and financial advisors (my parents), we all agreed that this is the kind of internship that would be worth pushing back my graduation date and staying for the full four years.

    Sure enough, within the first few weeks, I attended the Appeal of Conscience where I heard Secretary Clinton address the role of spirituality and religion in International Relations and Public Diplomacy.  I also was invited to sit in on one of the classes for the new Foreign Service Officers.  I learned about Security Overseas and how to travel smart and live smart in a foreign environment and culture.  These classes and events have given me incredible opportunities to see my International Relations studies in practice in the real world.

    Secretary Clinton at the Appeal of Conscience Event by State Dept Image / Feb 01, 2012

    If you’re considering an internship opportunity with a high time commitment like this, my advice is to look at all of your options, consider the pros and cons, and talk to your advisors, supervisors, and parents.  The more information you have and the sooner you start planning, the better.

     
    • Francine Blume 2:23 pm on March 13, 2012 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Really good advice, Emily. In life, it’s important to be flexible and know a good opportunity when you see one.

      • John Charles 3:56 pm on March 13, 2012 Permalink

        Yes, this experience will open up new vistas and give you a rich perspective for future decisions. Keep us posted on how things develop!

  • Emily 11:45 pm on March 7, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , , , State Department, U.S. Department of State   

    Let the Bureaucracy Begin! 

    Hello! My name is Emily and this is my first post for the AU Intern Blog.

    I’m a junior in SIS and this semester I am geting a sneak peak at the real world. I’m interning at the US Department of State in the Foreign Service Institute, 38 hours a week, and taking classes in the evenings. Having never had an internship before, I was a little unsure of what I had gotten myself into.

    I was supposed to attend the State Department Intern Orientation on a Monday, but they emailed us that Sunday night and told us that freezing rain was in the forecast, so Orientation was pushed to Tuesday. Of course, since this is the Federal Government, that messed everything up. Instead of one day of orientation, I had three.

    I work at the Foreign Service Campus outside of Arlington, but my Orientation was at the main building downtown. There are four entrances to the main building. We had specific instructions to go to entrence #2. The guard at entrence #2 told the crowd of interns that had gathered to go to entrence #1. When we got to entrence #1, they told us to go to entrence #2. We ended up being held in the loby of entrence #1 until someone from the orientation program came to claim us… at entrence #2. By the time we all got into the building, we were 20 minutes late. Now, I’m a pretty punctual person, so being late for my first day would have normally been very stressful. Surprisingly, the bothersome bureaucracy was very calming. I laughed at the all-too-true stereotype and relaxed.

    For information on the State Department Internship Program, click here!

     
    • Francine Blume 1:15 pm on March 8, 2012 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Hope things go more smoothly from here on out! How did you get your internship? And what exactly will you be doing?

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