Congress, Marriage and the Foreign Service Oral Assessment

It has been three long months since my last post, and for good reason! Much has changed, and nearly all of it for the better. There was barely enough time to keep my family updated, much less my nascent blog.

However, I am not some fly-by-night blogger dilettante – I already purchased the domain name and I’m sticking with it! I’ll delve more into each of these three major life events in future posts, because they all deserve a separate telling, but here is a recap that will hopefully explain how their confluence has made my life a pretty awesome shit-show for the past 3 months.

So here we go –

keep-calm-and-take-the-oral-exam

I got invited to the Foreign Service Oral Assessment

First things first – this is a blog about getting into the Foreign Service, and I have officially been invited to the FSOA! It happened on the the last day of my honeymoon in India, when I was sheltered in my hotel room and facing one of the greatest gastrointestinal tests of my life. I was weak – but that email made me feel like superman. If I had to liken the feeling to anything in my past experience, I would say that it is very similar to reading a letter from a college that you never expected to get into, and then you see “we would like to congrat…..

Around 25,000 people take the Foreign Service Officer Test each year. Around 4% make it to the FSOA, and about half of those end up becoming Foreign Service Officers. So – by no means is it a done deal, but knowing that you’ve reached 50/50 odds makes the rationale for optimism significantly easier. I like to think that I am a pretty confident and self-assured individual – but it’s hard to look in the mirror and tell yourself, with any certainty, that you’re gonna make a 2% cutoff. I can handle 50/50. I’ll be taking the FSOA on October 5th.

That being said, something else has changed in my life that might make the decision a tougher one. It has already shut down any plans of joining the Peace Corps and, depending on where I am in my life on October 5th, might even delay my Foreign Service plans…

united-states-capitol-dc

I work at congress now.

If you’re one of the dozen-ish people who have actually read this blog, you may know that I used to work for a think tank in Washington, DC. It was a great experience. I enjoyed using my life experiences and researchy-collegey skills to write about defense policy in a way that I hoped would be digestible to people who come from non-defense backgrounds. I also got a solid crash course in practical data science.

That was all well and good, but think tanks mostly just think, and who wouldn’t like to be in a position to actually do something, right? After all – that’s why I began the process to become a Foreign Service Officer. It’s also why I served in the military.

So – while I spent my days think-tanking away, I applied to a number of congressional staff jobs (in DC, these are known as “Hill jobs”). I went to numerous interviews in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although I am a Republican, I even took an interview with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Office (we didn’t see eye-to-eye, and we haven’t talked since). Then, one day, I got a call, and an offer. I was suddenly a congressional staffer. I now worked on “the Hill.”

I don’t make much money. The hours suck. Everything is an emergency. 

But it’s also Hill experience, which is its own whole thing on a resume. Anyone who has tried to get a job on the Hill can tell you that the primary requirement is… Hill experience. You can’t get a job on the Hill unless you have Hill experience. For most people, that means you must progress like this:

Intern (4 to 6 months): $0/year

Staff Assistant (12 to 18 months): $28k/year

Legislative Correspondent (1 to 2 years): $35k/yr

Legislative Assistant (variable): $45K-$55K/yr

Legislative Director (no idea): $80K+

And so on and so forth.

The problem is – I’m an adult. I have bills. I couldn’t really swing those first two steps. In the end, I got lucky. I was offered a research position somewhere between the Leg Correspondent and Leg Assistant level, which is a bit uncommon within the normal congressional hierarchy. After 6 to 8 months of that, I would be uniquely qualified for a Legislative Assistant position. That means that I will be in a prime position to make a pretty decent living, doing something pretty important, right around the time I will be taking the FSOA and, directly after that, learning whether or not I will receive a conditional offer to become a U.S. diplomat.

That would be a very tough call. I have gone back and forth on it and to be honest, I have no idea what I would do in such a situation.

On the one hand – I know for a fact that if I am skipping around the world as a diplomat, executing the foreign policy directives of the United States (ya know, the ones that come from the President and Congress) – part of me will wish I was still in DC helping to write those directives. Beyond this, if my guy – Marco Rubio – wins in 2016, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that I could end up working for him (ya know, in the White House). All of this adds to the FSO price tag.

On the other hand – I came to DC to become a Foreign Service Officer. I left the military (sort’ve, they still technically own me) in order to be one of the people who prevent wars from happening in the first place. I never dreamed of slogging away on the Hill and dealing with high blood pressure when I’m 40.

That reminds me – I’m 30. I have to choose, and choosing one means that the other will probably disappear. I may be bolder than most in my career choices and willingness to hit the reset button, but I know that I won’t be so intrepid as to ditch a well-developed Foreign Service career when I have two kids (which is going to happen relatively soon now). I also know that I won’t ditch a reputable career on the Hill and rip the aforementioned kids out of their schools so that I can skip around the world in my new diplomat job. Or would I? Hmm…

My solution: I’m going to wait and see if I get the Foreign Service job offer. I’ll also wait and see if I get another amazing Hill offer (especially seeing as it would be at least January before I would have to start any Foreign Service job). If one or the other doesn’t pan out, it will be a moot discussion.

USNA wedding

WE GOT MARRIED

I saved the best for last! Yup – that’s Lady Vick and I at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel. She is obviously stunning – and I look good enough. I opted for a tuxedo with mini-medals because, while I am still technically in the military and could have worn my uniform, I wanted to reflect my life as it is today (and I wanted to own a really nice tuxedo).

The reception was great. We had Famous Daves cater some amazing BBQ. Then we spent two weeks in India and Hong Kong. Good times.

I am the luckiest man in the world.

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