I’m thinking about taking the exam and going for a foreign service career if they’ll have me. I might have thought myself a more natural fit for the political track, involving as it does assessment and the writing of reports and so on. (Basically what I’ve spent seven years training to do as an academic.) But competition is much more fierce in that track than in the consulate track, and something appeals to me about dealing with concrete individuals and their situations (w.r.t. immigration and legal problems), which I take it you get more of in the consulate track than in the political track. (I take it the political track is more about looking at groups and their attitudes than it is about helping individuals solve their problems when possible). It’s just that I’m not sure to what extent my past work experience would help me with an attempt to get hired into the consulate track.
So basically, one thing I’m wondering is, what do they look at exactly when deciding who to hire? There’s your Foreign Service Exam score of course, as well as your performance at the oral exam. But there’s the whole “Qualifying Board” stage which is where I guess they basically look at your resume and see how well your past experience fits you into the kinds of jobs available in the track you’ve chosen. I’m afraid that my history as a humanities graduate student is more likely to help in the political track, (though I don’t pretend it’s likely to help much even there,) and my history as an educator is more likely to help me in the Public Diplomacy track, than either is to help me in the consulate track. Does this mean if I went for the consulate track, even though it’s less competitive, I’d nevertheless start at a serious disadvantage when it comes to who they decide to place where on the waitlist?
Pursuant to that, another thing I’m wondering is what makes for a good work history for someone looking to go into the consulate track?
A third thing I’m wondering is whether I shouldn’t be worrying about this, since everybody starts at the bottom in the foreign service anyway and work history is perhaps irrelevant.
Fourth thing I’m wondering is whether I just have a completely inaccurate idea about the nature of the work to be found in the various tracks I’ve mentioned.