Peter Van Buren, the most recent State Department “white blood cell” looking to do to some institutional housecleaning at Foggy Bottom, commented in a recent Huffington Post article about choosing a career in the State Department:
Understand that promotions and assignments are more and more opaque. State has recently determined that even promotion statistics cannot be released. Changes in Congress will further limit pay and benefits. Your spouse will be un/underemployed most of his or her life. Your kids will change schools, for better or worse, every one, two or three years. Some schools will be good, some not so good, and you’ll have no choice unless you are willing to subvert your career choices to school choices, as in let’s go to Bogota because the schools are good even if the assignment otherwise stinks. You’ll serve more places where you won’t speak the language and get less training as requirements grow without personnel growth. As you get up there, remember your boss, the politically-appointed ambassador, can arbitrarily be a real estate broker who donated big to the president’s campaign. Make sure all these conditions make sense to you now, and, if you can, as you imagine yourself 10, 15 and 20 years into the future.
Is he right on these points? Absolutely.
But keep in mind that State is still a damn good place to draw a paycheck with great benefits to boost. As long as you’re resigned to holding out your hand for a paycheck every two weeks, State beats a lot of other employers out there. Every job has it’s draw backs and frustrations and State is not immune. But few employers out there pay you to work overseas on expat packages.
Personally, I am still on the lower rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, caught between “physiological” (food, water, sex) and “safety” (of body and resources). If you live in the levels “self-acutalization” (morality, creativity), then ok, maybe you might not want to join State afterall.