Friday, January 20, 2023

Miscellaneous Bidding Advice Roundup

I've written a few posts consolidating advice that's helped me when bidding, the term we use for applying for our next assignment in the Foreign Service. Now that the main bidding season is winding down, I wanted to do one last post with other tips I received that didn't make it into previous posts.

  • If the incumbent is lousy, it might be worth keeping the job in consideration. My friend S pointed out after my last blog post on bidding that it might be smart not to write off a job with an unimpressive incumbent. Because that person will turn off other bidders, you may have less competition for the role. In addition, replacing a mediocre employee will give you more opportunities to shine, clean up any messes they left behind, and make an impact in that post or office (as well as in the minds of your colleagues).
  • Your bidding doesn't have to be a secret. Some people keep where they're bidding close hold, but I like sharing it with as many people as possible. Multiple times, that has led a colleague or friend to say, "Hey! I know someone there" or "The hiring manager is great" or even "I don't know about that post; they've had a lot of toxic workplace complaints lately." Insights like that have led me to informational interviews, a deeper dive on some of the issues at that post, and even to people lobbying (i.e., advocating for and recommending me to the hiring manager) on my behalf for the job whom I never expected to do that for me. You'll miss out on a lot of informal networking and information gathering if you keep your bids a secret.
  • Bidding success is not necessarily reflective of your competence as a diplomat or worth as a person. Some people are better at bidding than others. I personally think bidding strongly favors extroverts (like me) who enjoy talking to people, interviewing, and networking - even when those aren't the most important traits for a particular job. Every year, there are plenty of awesome diplomats who don't get a handshake (i.e., job offer) on handshake day (when offers are traditionally extended by in the main bidding season). There are also awful employees who seem particularly adept at getting great assignments through our bidding process. It happens. So although I've done well and been very lucky in my own bidding experience, I don't agree with those who suggest Foreign Service bidding is a pure meritocracy.
  • Don't take a job just because someone else says it's a good career move. You have to actually be in that job day in and day out doing the work, so choose work that you're actually interested in at a post or office where you actually want to be. If you're passionate about the work, you will more likely excel and be your best (and happiest), but if you take a position you're not interested in then you won't be at peak performance or job satisfaction.
  • Sometimes hiring decisions will be opaque or unfair. It's extremely frustrating to experience and watch, but don't let one closed door prevent you from looking for other open ones. There is always more than one fantastic job available at any given time.

Best of luck to everyone still looking for their next assignment and every office still looking for a great candidate! I hope you find your match soon.

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