The Ultimate Guide to Secure Your Dream Job

Finding a job is something the vast majority of us is going to have to deal with at least once in our professional lives. It is a big decision to make, especially when (and let’s be honest here) most of us don’t go to school knowing what they want to do when they grow up.

It is hard to tell if what we study is what we’re going to end up doing, or even if it’s what we want to do later on. Some of us have a clear view of the path we’d like to take while other will most likely change their careers multiple times. There is no right or wrong here, but there is a way to make job hunting easier and more enjoyable.

When looking for a job or an internship, there are a few things you want to keep in mind to make sure you’re finding the position that’s right for you:

  • Are you looking to work for a big company or would a small startup get your wheels going faster? Different people have different preferences, some need more stability while others seek for thrills.

  • I’ve personally tried both – As soon as I graduated from Law School I started working at major corporate-like law firm which provided me with financial security, a clear career path and a lot of stability, but I also felt like I was going nowhere and making a very slow progress in life. After a while, I decided to make a career change and went to work for a small early-stage startup, and boy, what a rollercoaster it was. I learned so much in a course of a year, but with the thrill also came the ongoing sense of uncertainty – Are we going to take off or are we making no progress?  

  • I realized that I loved the thrill but also needed a little bit more stability, and there came along (where I currently work), which provided me with a good balance and advantages of both worlds. Today I’m happy to say that I still get to be working on different projects, take on new initiatives, bring ideas to the table, while maintaining what I call a ‘flexible order’, and personally, I love it!
  • Who do you want to work with? This is a crucial aspect of your professional life as you’re going to work with mostly the same people every day. When interviewing for a job, try to look around the office and see who you’ll be working with – Does it look like you can have things in common with them? Do they look happy? This can tell a lot about what it would be like for you to work there.

    Make sure that you’re entering a work environment which will get you motivated. You don’t need to be best friends with your co-workers, but you do need to like working with them, otherwise you wouldn’t want to go to work.
  • This item might be tricky, but it’s also important for your own growth. Try thinking of where you would like to be in 5 years from now. Have you always been dreaming of a specific role or industry, being in a management role, etc. You don’t need to have a clear answer right now, but try to at least have an idea as it will help you choose the right career path for you.
  • Keeping all of that in mind, the most important thing you need to think about is what gets you going in the morning? You want to make sure you’re passionate about what you do and that you actually like waking up in the morning, getting out of bed and going to work. Think of the last role you’ve had, what was the part of it you enjoyed most? Great, now look for a job that allows you to pursue it.

Now that we know what we need to take into consideration when searching for a job, let me tell you how I searched for a job and what I found useful on my way to securing the best job ever:

Make sure you do your research. Look for all the optional positions in your field, see which roles you could enjoy the most and focus on those.


Write your resume/cv, cover letter and make sure you have anything needed to apply. You really don’t want to submit partial applications as it’ll decrease your chances of even having your application being fully reviewed.


  • Send your resume/cv to as many companies/organizations as you want. Sometimes you’ll be interested in a position but when looking at the job requirements you’ll start thinking ‘Am I a good candidate? Is my resume enough to qualify for a job?’ My suggestion for you is to apply even if you think you might not qualify. If you are a strong candidate with a great application, the lack of experience might not be as relevant as it would be for other candidates.
  • You scheduled an interview? Great news. Now, research the different companies/organizations you’re interviewing for. What do they do? What do people say about the company? What’s the average salary for the role you’re seeking? Read the reviews, come prepared.


  • Congratulations! You got a job offer. You’re almost at the end of the road. Make sure to carefully read the offer, see that you’re satisfied with the salary and terms and don’t be afraid to negotiate (but also stay realistic and know what is the industry standard). Take a deep breath, sign the offer and go celebrate with your family and friends.

The road to securing a job can be very stressful, but if you do it right you might find yourself enjoying it. So what have we learned here?

  • Think of what will make you wake up happy in the morning.
  • Choose a work environment which will motivate you – The industry, the size of the organization and the people who you’ll be working with.
  • Apply to relevant positions and make sure you have your cv and any other required documentation up do date.
  • Do your research and come prepared to all your interviews.
  • Go to to see how we can help make your life as a student better and way more fun. You might even be eligible for a free account!
  • Go to to see if there’s a relevant position for you – we’re always looking to add more people to our team.


Business Boot Camp for Non-Business Students

Open to first year and sophomore undergraduate non-business students only. The Business Boot Camp sponsored by Morgan Stanley, will equip those interested in a career in business with the knowledge of industry terminology, an understanding of transferable liberal arts skills, insight into corporate culture, and a basic understanding of various career tracks in business. Lunch will be provided. Apply today for the Business Bootcamp!


NYU Wasserman Survey!

Need a study break? Take this short survey and be entered to win a giftcard or swag!

NYU will once again be participating in the Universum Survey! Your responses provide great information for our team to better know what you value from employers, your future career goals, etc. which informs programming and future services provided by our office! Complete the survey for your chance to win one of many prizes!

Survey found here!

Should You Consider A Career in Fintech? Advice from N26

Considering a career in financial technology? N26, an app designed to help users achieve their financial goals, shares three reasons why you should.

Technology has penetrated every aspect of our day-to-day lives: dating, dieting, learning, and transportation. It was only a matter of time before it reached our wallets. Enter fintech, the intersection between finance and technology. From budgeting apps to automated investment services, the fintech industry has revolutionized our relationship with money. Here are three reasons you might want to consider a career in fintech.

You’ll make a difference
Fintech is still young. In fact, a majority of the businesses in the sector were created within the past decade. If you land a gig at a startup, you’ll have the opportunity to play an integral role in shaping the company’s future. You’ll likely join a close-knit team, perhaps even in the single digits, which means more ownership and agency over your work. For some, the pressure can be daunting. For others, it’s the greatest inspiration there is. Stephanie Balint, Strategy and Operations Manager for N26 in New York, is just one of the employees working towards the app’s forthcoming 2019 launch. She believes that the entrepreneurial spirit is contagious.

“At N26, each employee gets to work independently, drive their own timelines, and determine their own workstreams,” she explains. “You get to have a really big impact on the direction the company is going to take in the next two or three years.”

You’ll actually enjoy coming to work
Startups have set the bar for creating state-of-the-art working atmospheres that keep their employees motivated. Many tech gurus have traded in their suits and briefcases for hoodies and sneakers. The kitchens are stocked with fresh fruit and cold brew, and the well-lit open floor plans are littered with four-legged furry friends. And the perks aren’t limited to the office space.

“We’ve had quite a few social events so far here in our NYC office, from lunches and happy hours on rooftops to Escape the Room challenges and axe-throwing,” says Amaan Lakhani, Strategy and Operations Associate at N26. “We are a pretty adventurous bunch so we’re always coming up with interesting ideas for places to go.”

You’ll impact everyday lives
It’s a fact — more people are dissatisfied with their banks than ever before. Working in fintech, you’ll be part of building personal finance solutions for millions of everyday consumers.

“N26 offers a traditionally unfriendly service through an extraordinarily friendly medium,” explains Sam Davidson, N26’s Head of Legal, Compliance and Risk. “Our clean and user-friendly products are a direct result of our amazing teams. Our engineers and designers work hard every day on innovative features, constantly pushing to improve our product.”

Interested in learning more? Prior to our upcoming launch, we’re hiring campus ambassadors to join our #N26 Campus Crew. To support our growth in the US, we’re looking for students to represent and promote the N26 brand. The ideal candidate is actively enrolled at NYU, is comfortable speaking and meeting with their peers, and is already well connected with groups and organizations on campus. This is a great way for you to gain experience in the fintech industry, network and get access to a community of technology enthusiasts, receive tons of swag, and make money working on your own time with no minimum commitment. If this is something you’re interested in, please stop by our table in the Palladium Lobby on Tuesday 12/4 from 2-6pm. See you there!

NYU Alumni in Government: Ashley Cortez & NYC Opportunity

Ashley Cortez is a Fall 2016 graduate of the Interactive Telecommunications MPS program at the Tisch School of Arts. She is currently a Training and Outreach Specialist at the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity).

How did you find your current job and what Wasserman services or programs did you use, if any?
A fellow ITP alum, Song Hia, was working with NYC Opportunity as a product manager for ACCESS NYC, a mobile-first designed website able to let folks understand what City, State, and Federal level benefits and programs they may be eligible for. Going to ITP, I was interested in how technology was being employed for social good. NYC Opportunity was one office in local government that was using Agile software development, human-centered design, and outreach methodologies to create a product portfolio with the aim of helping New Yorkers find assistance. When they were looking for someone to fill the role of talking about our products to New Yorkers, City agencies, and Community Based Organizations, I knew I had found something that merged my desire to be on the ground talking to folks and creating technology that had a social good component.

What’s your favorite part of working in government?
It’s great and humbling to know that the work I do directly impacts such a broad base of people. New Yorkers make up a 8.5 million, with 19.5% of the population living in poverty and another 44.2% living at or near poverty. That’s my pool of people to work with, and that is very humbling.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Working in government, something that impacts all aspects of our lives, is a lot more complicated than working on one product. When we ask to make change to something, we’re asking to make a change to a very complex system with lots of people in it who may have different approaches or perspectives of the goals they want to accomplish. It’s about having small wins that incrementally add up to a sea change.

Is there anything about your work that surprised you once you began?
I was pleasantly surprised about how much need, and want, there is in City government to put people at the center of every process. It goes without saying that City government has always wanted to hear from people, but I see this larger degree of workers really trying to understand, and grasp with, new ways of reaching people where they are.

What classes or projects did you work on in school that helped prepare you for the work in your current position?
My past life as social services counselor and community advocate helped me understand how to talk to people where they were, but it also highlighted the dire situation that government has around tech modernity and creating tools that are designed for all. My thesis project, Every Vote, was an attempt to universalize the voter registration process. This gave me a way to talk about how tech tools can be designed so that folks who need information, need to access benefits, or navigate a system, can do so without the need of a social worker or case manager as a gatekeeper to that system, and that things like time and resources don’t impact your ability to do so.

Were there any jobs or internships you held in school related to your current work?
The summer after graduation I worked with the United Nations in their Peacekeeping Technology division, headed by another ITP alum, Christina Goodness. It prepared me for what it was like working in technology in a large organization with many different goals.

What advice do you have for current students looking for jobs in government?
Work in government because you care about people. I’ve always thought it was cool that I can get up everyday and make actual impact on how the City is working to communicate its programs and benefits. In the end, I’m dreaming up ways that government can become less silo’d and more integrative in how we talk about programs, how we reach people with these programs, and how we ensure every person has access to these programs.

With the midterm elections coming up, why do you think voting is important?
It’s SO important. Bill de Blasio thought it was important to bring human-centered design to government websites and products, and now my office exists. We have to make sure that we’re electing individuals who want to hear from people, build new methods of communication, and figure out how to employ technology for the good of society.

Quick Links

3 Less Than Obvious Tips to Prepare For Your Career Life Post-Grad

The workplace is competitive, and more often than not jobs are requiring a combination of skills. Leverage your strengths and skills while keeping the next three tips in mind to pave your own path and reach your goals.

1. Step out of your comfort zone.
Yes, risks are scary, and yes you might fail, but what if you don’t? By taking risks and
doing something that scares you, you’ll find out you are more capable than you think,
and you’ll do the things you once wondered whether or not you were capable of.
Through this you’ll gain the confidence to take on new or uncomfortable situations,
pushing yourself to find what you didn’t even know you were searching for.

2. Ask the right questions in your interview.
An interview is a two-way conversation. You should want it to be the right fit for both parties. Sure, it seems like your dream job and you want to pass the test. But what if it’s not? What if you get the job and realize the position and company are not what you envisioned? While the interviewer is asking you questions that sort of feels like a deep dive into your soul, be prepared to ask the nitty-gritty questions that matter to you. Avoid asking yes or no questions. This will help you gauge the delivery of their response and observe the interviewer’s body language. Do ask questions about what matters most to you in a job or company; What does your day look like? What will impact your overall happiness? Is it a job with flexible hours, or maybe one that encourages collaboration? Is culture important to you? Avoid the generic “google-able” questions. By asking different questions you’ll leave a memorable impression as well as paint a more realistic picture of life beyond the interviewer’s closed door.

3. Be the authentic version of you.
Don’t paint a loftier version of yourself than you truly are. Instead, express the characteristics of the role you desire and be candid about it. No one is perfect, and employers understand that. Candid responses are appreciated as they demonstrate self-awareness and a growth mindset. Yes, work ethic is valued but they also want to get to know the real you. Show them the person that you’ll be every day, not the buttoned-up version of you for the 30 minutes they have you in their office. Your hobbies and personal traits aside from the work environment add to your package, making you a more well-rounded individual that would also be well-rounded in the workplace.

Written by Tatum Whitley, Sales Trainee Recruiter at Shaw Industries. Shaw Industries Group, Inc. supplies carpet, resilient, hardwood, laminate, tile and stone flooring products and synthetic turf to residential and commercial markets worldwide. We are a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. with approximately 20,000 associates worldwide. Shaw is headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, with salespeople and/or offices located throughout the U.S. as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, India, Mexico, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

The benefits of working in a global organization

When looking for a job there are many things that typically persuade your search decision such as the job description, office location, salary, on-the-job training, etc. However, I challenge you to expand your list and consider the benefits of working at a global company. Choosing a company to work for is a big decision so you want to ensure you consider all possibilities.

Here are my top reasons why you should work at a global company:

Personal development and growth
Working in a global company increases your exposure to multiple areas of the business and provides more opportunities for job movement within the organization. Global companies invest in their employees’ career development through internal and external continuing education and on the job training. They expect you to move and grow within the organization. You are able to expand your knowledge of the global market by applying best practices relating to policies and strategies.

Increased Mobility – work/life balance and traveling!
Because global companies often work with remote teams, global companies rely on technology to stay connected which means you can be flexible when and where you carry out your work tasks. Think of the luxury of taking an early morning call with a colleague in London in your pajamas at your apartment – Don’t you wish you could have dialed into your Monday 8 am class from home? Global companies are more accepting of work flexibility that leads to happier, healthier, and more productive employees. Global companies also have offices across the globe that increases your chances to satisfy your love of traveling.

Access to innovative technology – Big data, Smart Analytics, Robotics
Technology is necessary for the future success of any company. Global companies are already utilizing and benefitting from innovative technology in different capacities. Imagine robots doing the boring, mundane tasks you don’t want to do so you can focus on the part of your job you actually enjoy doing or using data analytics to look through thousands of notes to determine text trends to help you come up with new solutions. Global companies have the bandwidth and financial ability to back this type of technology and use it to help their organizations grow.

Learn more about other cultures
When you graduate high school and go to college, you get out of your comfort zone, learn new things and meet new people. Think of how much you have personally developed through these different interactions. When you work in a global company, you continually meet new people, learn about different cultures, and expand your understanding of other people. This allows you to be more empathetic, gain more insights into how people make decisions, and become a better team player, which in the long term is appealing to all employers.


Written by: Jamie Lamborn, HR Advisor and Intern/Graduate Program Manager for Swiss Re Americas. She received her bachelor’s degree in communications and master’s degree in human resources management. Her passion is to help and support young talent as they start their career development journeys. After 5+ years working at Swiss Re, she recognizes the company for supporting her career development and passion for traveling.

Swiss Re is one of the world’s leading wholesale providers of reinsurance, insurance and other innovative forms of insurance-based risk transfer. Our business at Swiss Re is about understanding and analyzing the major risks that concern the world – from natural catastrophes to climate change, from ageing populations to cybercrime. We combine experience with expertise and innovative thinking to create new opportunities and solutions for our clients. This is only possible with around 14,000 truly exceptional Swiss Re people across our group worldwide.

Should You Delete Your Social Media Presence? Advice from

“The biggest mistake people make in social media is that they let their posts live forever.”

So says Mark Cuban, celebrity billionaire, investor and sports team owner, in the very first line of a video that presents something of a dystopian outlook on social media and, indeed, digital communication as a whole.

The crux of Cuban’s argument: that every move we make on social media is tracked, and that, when collated, can be used against you.

As he puts it, we’ve arrived at a point where many people don’t realize that “on social media […] every person you follow on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook […] every person you retweet, repin, repost, renote, regram on social media defines who you are.”

And, once defined, there are applications now that collect it all and use the information to anticipate what you’re going to do next—or, worse, prevent you from doing it.

“By what you do on social media, you are creating a profile about yourself, and that is going to be used not just by online companies, but […] in every walk of life. You’re gonna go look for a job and they’re gonna run an online social media analysis of you and use that as a psychological profile. You’re gonna get sued if you’re a business person, and they’re gonna look to see where and how you posted.” [Emphasis added]

At this stage, I was kind of with him. I mean, we all know that companies will use whatever method they can to root out less-than-ideal employees, right? And, sure, there are lawyers and sections of the media that will use a “celebrity x follows terrible person on Twitter” story to their advantage.

But Cuban didn’t stop there. Check out what he said right after the end of the previous expert:

“Then they’re gonna bring in an expert and they’re gonna say ‘Mark Cuban, based off of who you tweeted, who you retweeted, who you pinned, who you repinned, who you posted, who you regrammed, what you put on Instagram, what you wrote in this form, we’ve aggregated all that together and run it through some algorithms and we decided that you are most closely like this person who we convicted of that crime, so you must be alike. That is definitely going to happen.” [Emphasis added]


Let’s put aside any concerns about Cuban’s seemingly paranoid state of mind and suppose, just for a moment, that he is correct. What does he recommend? Surely, given such a dire future state, it will be that we get off of social media altogether?

“You need to be going back and deleting all your tweets after a certain period of time. Deleting all your retweets after a certain period of time. Unfollowing people that you think could send the wrong message, even though you don’t know what that message could be construed as in the future.”

Well, that’s another approach, I guess—although it’s hard to know where the concept of unfollowing people or deleting tweets based on their ability to “send the wrong message” to someone, at some point in time starts or finishes. After all, if we’re talking about establishing patterns of behavior that will look suspicious to the pre-cog detective bureau of Cuban’s nightmares, surely covering your tracks and/or opting out of the system would be somewhere near the top of the tree?

As it turns out, Cuban has good reason to ramp up the fear: as he reveals in the video, he’s got a couple of apps on the way that are designed to let people communicate without leaving any digital trace behind.

Until such time as those arrive and take over the world, I’d say that approximately half of his advice in this video is worth paying attention to. Specifically: you should police your social media presence and privacy settings, to ensure that nothing you’re posting or retweeting casts you directly in a bad light. (i.e. If your Twitter thread can’t survive a 5-minute scroll without something embarrassing or incriminating popping up, you should clean it). But all that stuff about personality profiles based on your usage? Feel free to take that with an enormous grain of salt.

Authored by Phil Stott for

Grad Alumni Spotlight: Tamarie Macon

Tamarie Macon completed the NYU Provost’s Postdoctoral and Transition Program for Academic Diversity Fellowship in August 2017 and completed her PhD in August 2015. She is currently a Program Director of Permanent Supportive Housing at Homeward Bound of WNC (Western North Carolina).

How did you find your current job and what Wasserman services or programs did you use, if any?
I found my current job through Homeward Bound’s website, after becoming aware of the good work they are doing in the community I decided to relocate to: Asheville, North Carolina. I attended several Wasserman workshops and took advantage of one-on-one counseling sessions with some of the great staff there. They and others coached me throughout the entire job search process, beginning with (re)identifying my passions, goals, and skills; conducting a job search; preparing application materials; practicing interviews; and job negotiation. For practicing interviews, I also used Big Interview, an online service you can find on NYU CareerNet, for extra practice on my own schedule.

What’s your favorite part of your work? 
Making things better! From improving service delivery to clients, to clarifying intra-agency communication, to becoming better stewards of our resources, I love improving systems and processes to better serve others.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Navigating complex staff roles and dynamics, and continually shifting priorities within my bailiwick.

Is there anything about your work that surprised you once you began?
How my previous experiences prepared me so well to do this work. From working in social policy at the national level, to developing research skills in graduate school, to teaching at NYU, I am pleasantly surprised at how many skills are transferable and useful in my new environment.

What classes or projects did you work on in school that helped prepare you for the work in your current position? 

I participated in the IDP course through the NYU Postdoctoral Office, which provided structure to help me build my network and conduct informational interviews. As an NYU postdoctoral fellow working in a research lab, all collaborative research helped me identify my strengths and areas for growth in leadership.

Were there any jobs or internships you held in graduate school related to your current work?
My research and teaching appointments are related to my current work in that they helped me develop leadership and communication skills. In my last year of graduate school at the University of Michigan, I was selected as a Graduate Teaching Consultant, which further honed my communication skills and ability to navigate difficult conversations.

What advice do you have for current students looking for jobs in your industry? 
Be bold in being yourself. Work in your gifts unapologetically. Be willing to take judicious risks!

Tips to Prepare for a Career in the Foreign Service

Usha Pitts is the Diplomat in Residence for the New York Metro Region. She is based in the City College of New York and serves communities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Usha is dedicated to supporting professionals and students pursuing opportunities with the U.S. Department of State. Usha has served for 19 years as a Foreign Service Officer, in the Political Affairs career track, at posts in Vienna, Rome, Havana, Moscow, Panama City, and Washington, DC.

The first step in the process is to take the Foreign Service Officers Test, offered three times a year.  Even if you don’t think you’re ready to take this test or embark on this career, take it anyway.  It’s free.  You can register at

If you pass, great!  And if you don’t, well, now you know what to study for next time.  Many of us need to review our high school history and study our maps, and most of us don’t get in until we are in our late twenties or early thirties.

In the interim, there are habits you can develop and activities you can do to prepare for the written exam.  In particular, I recommend you follow my recipe of READ-WRITE-DO.  Please note that the below tips reflect my personal opinion, and should not be viewed as guidance from the State Department.

  1. Read the paper every day, including at least one meaty editorial from The Washington Post or similar. You can substitute the editorial with an article from The Economist or Foreign Affairs.  If you want a more conservative approach, stick with The Weekly Standard or The National Review.
    Also get used to listening to shows like The World, Morning Edition, Meet the Press, Nightly Business Report, BBC World News, Face the Nation, Washington Week, The PBS News Hour, and GPS with Fareed Zakaria.  All these shows are available on iTunes, YouTube or their own websites, so you can listen while exercising, commuting, or cooking dinner.
  2. Write something (anything) at least once a week. Writing is like any other skill and it takes practice to get good and stay limber.  Your piece for the week can be a letter, editorial, journal entry, or essay.  Write to your congressional representative or your grandmother, but make it a thoughtful piece.  Rewrite it twice so you can get used to editing your own work.
    As an alternative, get a daily journal that forces you to sit down and compose three or four good sentences describing your day.  After all, if you played your guitar for ten minutes a day, you’d get pretty good at it.Also, if you don’t know how to touch type, learn now.  Typing allows you to compose and communicate your thoughts faster, thus improving your efficiency.  There are many free, on-line programs.
  3. Do activities every year that challenge you and build life experience – travel, volunteer, teach, work for a politician, join the Peace Corps, do a Fulbright, whatever. Many young people find they can’t pass the FSOT because they just don’t have enough life experience under their belt, so go out and get some.  Here’s a quote to live by throughout your twenties:  “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

A quick note on advanced degrees: Getting an advanced degree isn’t required to join the Foreign Service, but may help you build the knowledge and writing skills you will need to pass the test.  In any case, furthering your education should not be seen as a substitute for challenging yourself in other ways.  Resist the temptation to go straight from undergrad to graduate school – you are depriving yourself of valuable field experience.

Further to that point, make sure you get field experience outside of your ethnic or cultural background.  A Latina who speaks Spanish has potential, but a Latina who speaks Spanish and Arabic and has traveled in the Middle East is setting herself up for an international career.

All these things take time, but they are cumulative!  As the weeks pass, those incremental steps you take to improve yourself will start to build up.  Believe me, your boss will notice.  You may even find it increasingly difficult to hang out with people who are not well informed and don’t care about what’s going on in the world.  Much like compound interest, the more you invest in yourself over time, the greater the reward. Working incrementally will leave you better prepared to succeed in the Foreign Service (or any international career).

And always remember… Netflix is your enemy!



Foreign Service Officer Career Overview

Usha Pitts is the Diplomat in Residence for the New York Metro Region. She is based in the City College of New York and serves communities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Usha is dedicated to supporting professionals and students pursuing opportunities with the U.S. Department of State. Usha has served for 19 years as a Foreign Service Officer, in the Political Affairs career track, at posts in Vienna, Rome, Havana, Moscow, Panama City, and Washington, DC.

Foreign Service Officer (FSO) is the title our country uses for its diplomats.  This is a career with the federal government, working alongside civil servants to advance American interests abroad.  Our headquarters is the U.S. State Department in Washington, though some FSOs spend their entire career abroad.  The State Department is the lead agency representing the United States at more than 270 diplomatic posts around the world.  It is divided into geographical and functional bureaus, each of which keeps in contact with U.S. Embassies (and U.S. Consulates), foreign governments, and international organizations around the world.  We take the lead on America’s foreign policy, and our top boss is the Secretary of State.

When you’re abroad, the highest-ranking U.S. official in the country is the Ambassador (the head of the Embassy).  There may be anywhere from 1 to 1000 people working at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate – both Americans and local staff.

FSOs usually change countries, jobs, and embassies every one to three years.  They may work at “Main State” in Washington or abroad.  The jobs may be similar from country to country, or they may be radically different.  Much will depend on what career track you choose as your specialty (political, economic, management, public diplomacy, or consular).

I am a political officer, so most of my assignments have included gathering information, talking to people, and writing about the political or social situation in the country where I am assigned.  Economic officers do similarly.  Public Diplomacy officers handle the press, media, educational, and cultural side of things.  Consular officers deal with the movement and protection of people, including American citizens.  Management officers run the Embassy, including cars, housing, schools, and community.

The first four or five years of your career, you have less control over your assignments, and you will spend at least two years doing consular work (providing services to the public, including by interviewing people for visas to travel to the United States).  Some people like consular work and choose to spend their whole career in this career track, whereas others are happy to get it done and move on to work in their chosen career track.  For example, I did a year of consular work in Panama City (followed by a year of political work) and a year of consular work in Moscow (followed by a year of political work).  All senior diplomats have to understand the ins and outs of consular work, so even those of us who didn’t take to it naturally find the experience invaluable later in our careers.

In addition to new FSOs, the State Department also hires Consular Fellows on short-term contracts to do consular work.  Consular Fellows are temporary members of the Foreign Service hired for their language skills; many go on to become FSOs themselves.

In all cases, the State Department takes care of your housing, travel, moving costs, health emergencies, and education for your children.  You may also get six months or more of paid language training before going out to post.  For example, I got nine months of Russian training early in my career, and will soon embark on two years of Mandarin training.  There are risks to living in other countries, but most of us feel the State Department does a good job of protecting us.

Most assignments outside of westernized countries are considered “hardship tours,” and include an increase in pay to make up for the difficult conditions.  For example, I got a significant pay increase during the two years I spent in Cuba, where living conditions were restrictive and difficult.  In addition to hardship assignments, you may also accept a high-risk, one-year assignment in a war zone like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Needless to say, you are amply rewarded to taking such assignments.

All in all, we are well paid and live rent free in high-end houses.  FSOs don’t get rich (we are public servants, after all) but we do enjoy good insurance and retirement benefits, and our kids go to good international schools.  Though it didn’t seem so at first, I now consider myself better off than many of my friends in the private sector.

You may get language training between assignments, which can be fun (or frustrating, depending on your language ability).  You may also take a domestic assignment at the State Department in Washington, which a lot of people do if they or their spouse get sick of living abroad, or if they want to work inside the Washington “policy machine.”  For my part, I prefer the field.

The acceptance rate for getting into the Foreign Service is about 2-3%, but it changes from year to year depending on hiring decisions.  Also, most people take the Foreign Service Officer Test more than once before they pass, and they’re usually quite a bit older than people expect for an entry-level job – around 30-35.  Most people need quite a bit of life experience to pass the FSOT, which starts with a written exam followed by an essay portion (the Personal Narratives), and wraps up with an interview in Washington (the Oral Assessment).  The process takes about nine months from start to finish.

Once they’re in, most of them stay.  Attrition is very low.  I’ve been in for 20 years and have been abroad for nearly all of them, barring one year in Washington, one year in Newport, RI, and my current tour in New York City.  It’s a great career for those of us who love the excitement of living abroad, believe in promoting American values, and seek substantive work that can, at times, make a difference in people’s lives.

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