My Adventures as a U.S. Diplomat and Family Man

First Stop: Tel Aviv, Israel (July 2012)!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The "Inside Baseball" of First Tour Bidding

Holy bid list, Batman! I finally got my hot little hands on the long awaited list this past Wednesday. Since then, I have pored over the approximately one hundred available posts. Where do I begin?

I suspect most people reading this blog are hoping that I post the actual list so you can test your knowledge of world capitals and rank your own exotic locales. Sorry, that ain't gonna happen. The contents of the bid list are deemed "sensitive but unclassified" which basically means that I can only talk about select posts in private. Don't worry, I don't have to kill anyone afterwards. I do know that inquiring minds want to know though. I loved to stalk blogs of newly inducted diplomats for clues about their bid list and to forecast potential trends for my own (in vain). So I'll indulge those of you with a bit of my current line of thinking. Forget about looking for a code in this blog by the way. I don't have that much time nowadays.

I liken first tour bidding to baseball. I don't follow its tedium by any stretch of the means but the strategy of the game does appeal to me. With that in mind, I like to think of myself as stepping up to the plate and trying to score runs over the next five innings (years) of my career. Here are four options based on this analogy:

1) "Swing for the Fences": There are a handful of tantalizing posts on the list over which many members of my class are salivating (myself included). Someone will get these assignments but I imagine only because of a very particular reason. I'm probably going to take a few swings but won't chase pitches at the expense of hurting my chances of landing a good post now and down the road. As I'll explain below, a cushy post for my first tour would likely result in me picking from the bottom of the barrell of posts for the second tour. This leads to an entirely different option.

2) "Sacrifice Fly": The list also contains a number of hardship posts in challenging environments to say the least. Some are drawn to these assignments for a variety of personal and professional reasons. Taking this route will undoubtedly get noticed and help move up the Foreign Service ladder. Ten years ago I would have been all over "taking one for the team" but I'm not so sure nowadays. Instead, I'm thinking a more prudent strategy will be to pursue a mix of the next two options.

3) "Bunt": Entry level officers in the Foreign Service must fulfill a number of requirements related to language proficiencies and functional work in their first two tours in order to be tenured. I plan to bid on a number of posts that enable me to "make contact" with one of these balls to move runners into scoring position. It might be best to play the odds for my second tour bidding.

4) "Base Hit": Luckily for me, the bid list has a considerable number of posts in desirable locations that also meet the aforementioned requirements. I'd actually count a number of these assignments as a "double" or even a "triple" in terms of my previously stated preferences. I'd like to think that I can make a strong case for these assignments based on my past experiences, family needs and current interests.

I hope these baseball analogies provide some insights into my line of thinking. Later this week, my wife and I will meet with one of the all powerful Career Development Officers (CDOs) who will take our preferences into consideration when deciding assignments for all of the other 98 members of my incoming class. We plan to conduct some rigorous research in the coming days on other important considerations for these posts. These details might help us make our "pitch" for why we should serve in X, Y or Z. For a glimpse into the anxiety that accompanies these meetings, check out this funny recap from blogger Kerns 'R' Us.

After I turn in my bid list on August 2, we'll have about two agonizing weeks to wait before we receive our first assignment on the fateful Flag Day on August 19. There's a lot of ground to cover before now and then. In the meantime, I'll need to keep my head in the bigger game. I'll share more about other facets in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!    


  1. Things we learned that you may or may not know:

    1. Someone from high up in the management dep. said that all management posts are to go to management officers. I don't know what your cone is, but it might help eliminate/place in the running a chunk of posts.

    2. Apparently, they are doing everything in their power to place consular officers in consular posts. On our bid list there were quite a few more con posts than con officers, and lo and behold - every single consular officer got a con post.

    3. Do the math on the timing. We were chosen for Djibouti because Phil was the only management officer in his class who *mostly* spoke French. The timing of the post was such that they didn't have time for a full French course, but it was too far out for someone who was already fluent (they told us they might "adjust" the departure dates - but they haven't actually done that for anybody - so I think it may have been a scare tactic).

    4. Medical Clearances are important. As far as I know, almost everybody who got a "cushy" post had a Class 2 in the family or (in one case) told the CDO she was planning on getting pregnant during the tour. It saves money not to Medevac. Like I said - not everybody, but almost everybody (there's an American Naval Base in Djibouti which covered my Class 2).

    5. All of the PD posts in our class went to PD officers. I don't know if it was on purpose, like the management posts, but that's what happened.

    I'm so excited to hear how the meeting with the CDO went! Keep us posted!

  2. Wow - I'm retarded.

    I'm excited to hear how the meeting with the CDO GOES.

    I should really start keeping track of the days of the week...

  3. First, congrat's!

    Now, bidding: bid jobs in your cone highest. It's really hard, unless you are consular, to get in-cone experience your first two tours. Without any experience in cone in your first two tours, it's harder to bid for that 3rd, mislabel, tour-which you have to lobby for. They aren't very up front in A-100 about how important it is to bid in-cone, in my opinion, probably because yhey have way more consular slots to fill than other cones. But keep in mind that if you don't get an in-cone position this time, even with high equity, you might have to either bid on not so great places your second tour to get your cone, AND you could still end up doing a second full consular tour.

    FWIW, I bid all of my in-cone positions highest, and got a "cushy" (no equity)
    post (no class 2 med). I'm bidding 2nd tour now, and it's a little challenging, but not awful. There are still tons of interesting places to bid on, even though I'll be
    essentially bidding last. I will definitely be doing two years of consular next, though. If I hadn't gotten an in-cone position my first tour, I would've been SOL on this list-there's almost nothing.

    I guess what I'm saying is don't bid this time thinking you can set yourself up for next time, because that strategy may or may not work out.

  4. Ah! I wish I could get my hands on the bid list every time and relive all of those exciting and sometimes scary emotions - so many possible futures for you! Good luck!

    From our experience it seemed the CDO's were very responsive to people's preferences and people, although they didn't get necessarily get their top bids, were pretty happy in our group. I would just say to be brutally honest with yourself and with your bid list - it lessens the surprise.

    When is the big day?

  5. I love the analogy. I'm also hoping for a base hit, but with this whole tandem thing I might need to take a bunt or sacrifice fly. August 19 seems very far away right now!

  6. Hey man,

    I know I'm late on the blog posting bandwagon, but I wanted to say I lived the baseball analogy for bidding...both as a huge baseball fan and first-tour bidder.

    More proof that there is nothing that cannot be effectively explained with baseball analogies.

    Anyway, I don't see you around much since our French group moved out of your building, but I hope Hebrew is going well.