Friday, February 3, 2012

Anticipating the unanticipatable

State announced its May, 2012, specialist class well before announcing its May, 2012, generalist class.  Let me explain.  Specialists are folks who are hired by the State Department to do very specific types of jobs.  Some are security specialists, some are doctors, some nurses, some administrative, etc.  They don't have to undergo the gauntlet of testing and retesting that generalist undergo.  Generalists are foreign service officers.  State has a tentitive schedule of classes lined up for the rest of the fiscal year, which calls for specialist and generalist classes to be held in January, March, May, July, and September.  State stressed time and time again in its online forums that these dates are tentitive, especially given the cuts State anticipates to its future budget.  And here I was, absolutely CERTAIN that State was going to make copious generalist calls to its March class, with the remainder of the budget secure for the year in November/December of 2011.  After all, the January generalist class was called as soon as the budget was finalized and organized in December.  This gave me much hope that I would be called next, since the January class dipped into the 5.5s on my register.

But State began making specialist calls several weeks ago, leaving the hopeful generalists in a state of panic and fear that the generalist class might be cancelled.  I called in a favor with my local ambassador-in-residence to determine what the holdup was.  Word came back that the undersecretary in charge of the hiring decisions hadn't decided whether to even have a generalist class in March.  To make matters worse, my plum position on the register began looking less so as several new consular candidates with better OA scores or language points made their way aboard.  After the specialist class calls went out, I discovered I'd dropped 6-8 spots!  The horror!  I told me wife to stand down on the pins and needles because it no longer looked good for us in March.

Then the announcement came that a March class was, in fact, approved, but only for "about 60" officers.  Suddenly a rank in the high 20s wasn't looking so hot with an average of 12 people from each of the five cones getting calls.  So I told my wife to forget about it.  Perhaps my 5.5 would never be good enough given the rate at which new candidates were added.  Perhaps the 5.5s called in January were a fluke owing to short notice for the January 17 A-100 and copious invitation turn-downs under the shortened timetable.  I watched from the sidelines as folks in the A-100 yahoo group announced their March invites and resigned myself to business-as-usual, living by the billable hour and working hard for a faceless corporate client.  I was very happy for the lucky souls who were in, but I knew I was not likely to be one of them.  To make matters worse, the schedule of a litigator did not lend itself to the Spanish Skype lessons I would need to pass the telephone language test.  I chalked my foreign service dreams up to being just that, and patted myself on the back for making it as far as I have.  I told my wife we were doing fine where we are, and half-heartedly said we'd see how the May class panned out.

But to my surprise this past Monday, the coveted (and, for the first time, unsolicited) email showed up in my in-box from the State Department registrar.  I am in!  It's four days later, and I still can't believe it!  It's a second round invite, but they all have the same effect.  I told my firm Monday, because it's going to take them at least six weeks to logistically plan for my absense, and for me to train a replacement.  My wife is also ecstatic, but she has to find a replacement for herself at her job as well.  There's so much do to and to plan for these next 40 days, but I am relieved, nervous, excited and thrilled!  Let the adventure begin!