Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bid Season is Now Open

After what feels like months of hearing "the future assignments memo is in routing for clearance," it finally showed up in my inbox. However, as far as I can tell, the Foreign Service Construction Engineer assignment process is significantly different from other Foreign Service assignments because we're not filling a position that's being vacated by someone heading to their next post. Rather, we create a position for the duration of the project and it goes away when the project ends. Imagine penguins hopping onto an iceberg while knocking off penguins that are already on the iceberg into the ocean. It's kinda like that, but the metaphor needs work.

First step: Analysis. Because there are only so many projects to choose from, the choices are limited to start with. Now filter by appropriate positions/grade, compatible schedules (some are short notice moves), and desired scope (new construction vs renovation). What I'm left with is a stratified list with about 3 projects in the top tier, 6 in the middle tier, and 4 bottom tier options. But there are also a few other projects in the mix that I stand little chance of getting because they are above my grade. 

Second step: Research and Development. I've started the research by downloading post information, specifically to cull out projects that don't meet our requirements for schools and pets. Pets are actually a pretty big deal in the Foreign Service, judging by the American Foreign Service Association website page dedicated to pets. Then there are considerations like hazard/hardship pay, R&R trips, and benefits like that. There are also the intangibles, like how well the project has been managed through the design phase, up to the point it's handed over. Would you willing jump onto a train wreck in progress? Maybe to get away from something worse, I suppose.

Last step: Bidding. This is my first time through, so I really don't have any experience in this area. But what it sounds like to me is that I send in my rank-ordered preferences to the upper management who sit around a big table and try to figure out the best matches for people to projects without pissing off too many people or setting a project up for failure by assigning someone who doesn't have the right skill set for that particular project. I imagine it's kinda like that scene from Moneyball where all the scouts are discussing the players.



Anyways, I've got about 10 days to produce a list to submit, and even then, it's entirely possible that my preferences are disregarded as policy dictates that my first two assignments are considered to be "directed" assignments. So I go where the needs of the service dictate. Fortunately, policy also dictates that it also means that I'd have to volunteer for an Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan assignment...which isn't going to happen in the foreseeable future. The real question is how long until I find out where I'm going so I can start preparing for it.
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