My life in boxes

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Happy pack-out day to you all!  I’m sitting here in on the floor of my bedroom, watching two very awesome hard working movers lovingly pack my knick-knacks in bubble paper.  They are hustling to try and beat the impending snow storm headed my way, and yet here I sit, not helping.  All of the instructions I received from State told me DO NOT PACK YOUR OWN BELONGINGS!  There’s a few reasons why.  Namely if I pack something myself and it breaks in transit, the moving company can’t help me, and also there’s no guarantee I won’t put something sneaky or dangerous into one of the boxes and put people at risk.  So here I sit, trying to stay out of their way while still trying to provide some level of supervision to the process.

My situation isn’t entirely typical of all State employees, since I am moving from the Midwest to the East Coast, and then on to the next post abroad (hopefully.)  Plenty of new hires are already from the DC area, so they get to skip this step.  So I have to separate my items into a couple different piles:

  • Things getting trucked to a storage unit in Maryland
  • Things getting sent to my furnished apartment in DC
  • Things coming in the car with me on the drive to DC later this week.

Then of course there are the endless piles of items getting thrown away, getting donated, things I’m leaving for Nate, etc.  My place has been a war zone for the past week so it’s nice to see things starting to get cleared out so I can see my floor again.

Thursday begins the drive to DC, and luckily my mother has graciously offered to ride with me to so I don’t have to go it alone.  We will break it up into two days so we can handle the inevitable weather delays that we will encounter.  Move-in is on Friday, and I’ll have a couple days to settle in DC before starting work on Monday.

MONDAY.  I start work on Monday, how is that possible?  I barely slept last night, and when I woke up throughout the night my heart was beating a mile a minute, I think it’s safe to say I’m relatively stressed out at the moment.  Quitting my old job, starting a new one, leaving STL, starting again in a new city, all while anxiously awaiting to find out what country I’ll move to this summer.  (BTW, I find out on Feb 25th!!)  It should surprise nobody that I’ve found a few more grey hairs lately.

But hey, these are all good problems, and I know that.  Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved inside your comfort zone, so bring it.  I will just try to keep breathing in and out, and remembering that I chose this.  On purpose.

6 Reviews later and I ALMOST have a job offer

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So I got some good news today!  My file had been reviewed 5 times so far by various groups within the Department of State, but this final review was the only thing keeping me from becoming a fully-vetted candidate and being placed on the “register,” and it came through today!!  😀  6 Reviews and approvals later and I ALMOST have an official job offer.

But wait….didn’t I post on Facebook that I’d already been through my final review? 

Why yes, yes I did…my bad.  A little mixup lead me to believe I was done with the process, but as it turns out they needed another look at my file.  I don’t know if it was my international travel or my recent obsession with Thai food, but they felt the need to look into my background a little more and make sure I was a good fit for the position.  Luckily after almost 3 months (in a review that typically takes 2 weeks) they gave me the final stamp of approval, saying I was Foreign Service material, and that I was now officially a candidate.

So from here, I have another bit of waiting to do.  Due to all of the budget shenanigans going on in DC, things in the federal government are trying to play catch-up, so they can’t officially sign off when the next training class will be, or how many from my specialty (IT support) they will choose for that class.  They could take all of us, a few of us, or none of us, it totally depends on the needs of the department.  In all likelihood I am PROBABLY going to receive a spot in the training class that begins in January, though it isn’t even remotely set in stone.

My placement on the register is ranked according to the score I received at my interview that took place in July.  (OK yes it was my “oral assessment” but people keep turning that into an innuendo so now I’m just going to call it my interview…you dirty birds.)  You can receive bonus points (and therefore a better placement) if you are a veteran or speak one of the foreign languages they are looking for (Chinese, Arabic, Korean, etc…they don’t care about my limited German…Was ist deine Telefonnummer?).   You can spend up to 18 months on a register awaiting placement, and if you don’t get a position within that time frame, you are dropped as a candidate and have to start the process allllll over.  Now the score I received was pretty solid , but I didn’t receive any bonus points, so I estimate that I am somewhere in the top half of the list…my chances of making it for the next class are pretty good.  I can’t imagine going through this whole ordeal and not getting a placement…ouch.  Let’s just assume it won’t happen, ok?  My poor heart couldn’t handle it.

Once I receive an offer to attend the training class, and I accept the position, I’ll go through the process of moving to DC for training.  I’ll do a follow-up post on how that stuff goes later.  For now I’m going to just keep smiling and being excited about making this far….WOO!

And now, we wait

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So, as of 8/8, my file has been sitting in the Final Review Panel.  Since the rest of my hiring actions took place at breakneck speeds, I perhaps naively thought that this part would be a breeze too.  Alas, the bureaucracy of working for the man has caught up with me, and no update is available on my particular file.  Many phone calls and emails have given me one frustrating answer: “We don’t know what’s taking so long.”  I honestly have a squeaky clean past so I can’t really think of anything they’d need to investigate.

I mean look at her.  How could you NOT want to send her abroad?  She's so WORLDLY!

I mean look at her. How could you NOT want to send her abroad? She’s so WORLDLY!

The 2014 Fiscal Year begins 1 October, so the last training class for Foreign Service Specialists begins on 9 September, and at this point it look like I am not going to make that cutoff.  While it’s hard to sit around and be patient to get this show on the road, really this is a blessing.  Since the next class will likely start in January, I’ll get to put in plenty of time at work getting my ducks in a row, save some money (the summer was spend furloughed so I was being frugal), I’ll get to take a trip to the Dominican Republic (NOT MEXICO) over Thanksgiving, and will get to spend another Christmas at home with my family.  Hard to be mad at that, amiright?

One huge issue I’m dealing with is handing over my dance coach responsibilities.  I took over the McKendree University Dance Team in summer 2009, and they have been a huge part of my life ever since.  I am tremendously proud of the group of young women I got to coach, and the thought of walking away just about breaks my heart.  I know it’s the right choice, quite honestly I was feeling like I had taken the team about as far as I could personally, so it’s time for new, fresh talent to come in and experience the same joy and pride that I got to experience for the past 4 years.  I so look forward to seeing these ladies and what they will accomplish down the road, and I have every intention of jetting down to Florida for NDA Nationals to cheer them on!

Looking forward to the next few months, some quality time spent with family and friends sounds like just what I need!

Clearances

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So, here’s the update for ya!  I received a conditional offer of employment with the DoS on July 11th (the day of my interview), but I was handed a list of hoops to jump through before I would ACTUALLY get an honest-to-goodness job.

1.  I have to get a Top Secret Security clearance – now the cool thing here is that I already had this from my job with the Dept of Defense.  So all I had to do was fill out the additional changes since the last time I was investigated, and they’d be able to transfer it right over.  I received the good news this week that it was done in late July, so that’s a HUGE step forward.  Those starting this process without a clearance stay in this stage for a year or more, I don’t envy them.

2.  I need a Worldwide medical clearance, called a Class 1 clearance.  Since this job could send me to the artic, to the desert, to a war zone or to a place without an emergency room, they needed me to get a VERY thorough health screening.  This involved multiple trips to the doctor for blood draws (10 vials!!), x-rays, urine tests (I’m a pro at these as the DoD has tested me yearly….do I look like a druggie?), a vision test, and a physical exam.  I wasn’t really anticipating any problems here, so the only thing I was worried about is if my blood work would come back and show that I had some crazy disease I never knew about.  Happily I got my results yesterday and I am 100% cleared for worldwide availability.  I do have a disease called hypothyroidism that I’ve been treated for since High School, but as it isn’t life threatening when treated well, my doctor had no problem signing my release forms.
-Side note, it had been a year since I did any bloodwork for my thyroid, and last year I got a pretty bad report when it came to my lipid profile.  I was pretty unhealthy, and it was starting to affect my liver.  So after a loss of 25 pounds and totally turning my diet around, I’m happy to report that my levels were GREAT, what an amazing feeling!  (Turns out, if you eat healthier, you will get healthy…who knew?)

3.  The final hurdle will be something called a Final Review Panel.  This group will check out my clearance paperwork and see if there any glaring gaps in judgement that would make me unfit to represent the US abroad.  For instance, you can get a security clearance if you’ve had prior drug use or a DUI, but does the DoS REALLY want you if those are on your record?  Are you an alcoholic, is your boyfriend a drug dealer?  Again, I’m not anticipating any problems here, unless they decide my fear of spiders would make me a bad fit.  (Is it bad that I’m already wondering how I’ll react if they send me to a place with massive poisonous spiders?)  Less concerned about bombs, more concerned about spiders.  Glad I’ve got my priorities in check.

Once ALLLLLLLL of the right people review my file and give me the stamp of approval, that’s when I OFFICIALLY get put on the “Register.”  This is a ranked listing of alllllll candidates within a specialty, and your rank on the list is completely dependent on how you did at the interview.  (For your reference I got a 5.8, which is on the higher side but it goes up to a 7, so I won’t be the highest I’m sure.)  As openings come up for my specialty (IT Support) I will get orders to pack up my life and head off to DC for 4-5 months for orientation and training.  A few weeks into the training, they tell me what country I’ll be going to.  I get to tell them my preferences, but ultimately the DoS dictates where I go for the first two tours, so I’m kind of at their mercy.  People keep asking me what I will do if they decide to send me somewhere I don’t want to go, and the answer is pretty simple:  I’ll go.

I didn’t sign up for this job thinking I’d end up in Western Europe the whole time, I know I’ll have to endure some danger and hardship posts, and I know it will be difficult and scary, but that’s what I signed up for when I made this my goal.  (I know my family hates hearing this, and I don’t blame them.)

I’m getting a TON of questions on when I will leave, and I realize how maddening this is, but I truly have no idea at this point.  I do know there is a training class for my specialty that begins in September.  My gut feeling is that I won’t be far enough through the process to be invited to that class, but I am not ruling it out, as the rest of my application has moved faster than I ever anticipated.  I promise I’ll tell you the instant I know anything!

In the meantime I’m in the process of hiring a replacement for my dance team (SUPER DEPRESSING, ugh I’m going to miss them so much) and starting to simplify my belongings, and throw out and donate the things that I just don’t NEED.  For now I’m not selling my place, as the market on my street isn’t ideal for 1br units right now, so that’s kind of up in the air.  Hoping I’ll be able to rent it out instead!

As always, I’ll keep you posted, but that’s how things are going right now.  Full of uncertainty!!

And hell yes, before I leave I promise we’ll have a badass going away party, and keep in mind I’ll be in DC for several months so while I will leave STL I won’t be out of the country for a loooooooooooooong time.  In the meantime I’ve invested in the following map to keep track of my world travels.  It’s a scratch-off world map…how cool!

http://www.amazon.com/Luckies-London-Scratch-Map-LUSCR/dp/B003NCIPS6

(can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Luckies-London-Scratch-Map-LUSCR/dp/B003NCIPS6)

 

 

Information Management Specialist

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So, hello!  I don’t have the greatest track record for blogging, but figured that this new-found career goal was as good of a reason as any to start again and see if I can actually stick to a blog “schedule.”  So, here goes nothing.

So as many of you know, I’m in the process of pursuing a career with the Department of State, in the Foreign Service.  In April 2013 I applied for an Information Management Specialist position (http://careers.state.gov/specialist/vacancy-announcements/ims).  This incredible group travels around the world to different Embassies and Consulates abroad (and here in the US) to support the DoS in their day-to-day activities.  The job honestly seemed too good to be true, but I decided to go for it anyway.  I always hear about people getting these amazing, dream jobs, and finally I realized maybe I could have one too if I just TRIED.  So this was me, trying.

I put in my application, waited a few months, and found out I had not only made it through the DoS initial qualification review, but a panel read my personal statements and decided they’d like to offer me a chance to come to Washington DC (on my own dime, ouch) and interview for my dream job.  I was floored, flattered, and completely nervous, but decided just to rip the bandaid off and interview as soon as humanly possible.  I cashed in my airline miles, booked my flights and hotel reservations, and headed to the capitol to try for my dream job.  DREAM JOB.  One’s dream job doesn’t often get dangled in front of their face at 28 years of age, so I buckled down and studied my butt off. (I’ll go into the specifics on how I studied at a later post.)

So, long story short, I spent 5 hours in a small conference room in DC, and came out of there with a conditional offer of employment.  I am still required to receive a Top Secret Clearance (I currently have one with my DoD job but it will need to be transferred over, something that could take a few hours or even a year, they honestly can’t say.)  I will also need to get a medical clearance from my doctor, though unless their VERY thorough bloodwork uncovers some yet-undiagnosed condition, I’m not expecting any problems there.  A final “suitability panel” will meet and make sure that I make good decisions and don’t associate with any shady characters, then I’ll officially be added to a “register.”  As openings come up, they’ll invite me to DC for an orientation class and ship me off for 1-2 years at a time.

These first two tours are completely not my choice, and the DoS can choose to send me ANYWHERE they see fit.  Could be Paris, could be Afghanistan, I’ve signed up for any possibility, which both scares and intrigues me.  For now I continue my employment at DISA, they’re a great group and I’ve been completely honest with them throughout this whole process and wish me nothing but the best.

For now that should resolve some of the bigger questions you may have, but if not, here’s a quick summary!

1. I have a conditional job offer, but no actual JOB until I get the clearances required.

2. I don’t know where they are sending me, but I hope it’s somewhere awesome where you can all visit.

3. Yes I’m scared, and also SO EXCITED.  This is going to be an amazing adventure and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!

Thank you all for the words of support and encouragement 😀