Foreign service offers opportunities aplenty for those who like a challenge
By Billi London-Gray
“There’s nothing like the satisfaction of doing your job, serving your country and helping American citizens living abroad,” says Jen McAndrew.
The 2007 master’s graduate of Texas State’s mass communication program is a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, currently representing the State Department in Israel. As a vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, McAndrew does everything from approving visa applications to managing the consular section’s social media outreach.
“You know you’re a form of protection for your family and friends back home,” McAndrew says. “I never experienced that kind of satisfaction before I came to work for the State Department. But you need to have maximum flexibility for this type of work.”
Even before she started the years-long application process, McAndrew showed the determination and flexibility that made her a perfect fit for her job. She followed the course of preparation suggested by the State Department.
“I read The Economist for a year before I took the test. I went through each issue, region by region, taking in as much as I could,” she says. “I also re-read all my U.S. history textbooks from undergrad.”
She started the State Department application process in 2006, while she was still a grad student at Texas State. The State Department hiring process involves a series of steps: the Foreign Service Officer test, a personal narrative review by the Qualifications Evaluation Panel, a day-long oral assessment, evaluations for medical and security clearance, and an examination by the Final Review Panel.
Once an applicant has passed the entire gamut, he or she is ranked on a list of successful candidates. If selected within 18 months of being placed on the list, he or she takes an orientation course that explains State Department work in more detail. During this orientation, new hires may “bid” on assignments. While personal preferences are considered, they do not ultimately determine where a new hire will be sent.
According the State Department’s website, “Anyone applying to be in the Foreign Service must be willing to accept the following three commitments: flexibility in assignments, public support of U.S. government policies and worldwide availability.”
McAndrew reinforces the point, noting that a successful Foreign Service candidate must have dedication to the State Department’s mission and enthusiasm for the vicissitudes of the job.
“I would recommend this kind of work to somebody who wants to be constantly challenged,” she says. “You are constantly learning. And every two years you’re in a new place, learning a new language and a new culture. If you want to keep your brain sharp and feel like you’re always learning, this is great work.”
To learn more about McAndrew’s work in the Foreign Service, read her alumna profile on the Texas State Blog.
To learn more about Careers in Foreign Service, visit the State Department website or take advantages of the many government job resources available through Texas State Career Services, like the following video on getting a job with the State Department.