How I Got This Job: Foreign Service Officer


Caroline Savage is a career Foreign Service Officer who served most recently as Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Press Center.

As a non-resident fellow at Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, her focus is diverse diplomacy leadership in foreign affairs, a project she began during her tenure as Virginia and Dean Rusk Fellow at ISD from 2018-2019.Prior to Georgetown, she served as Public Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassies Azerbaijan and Mozambique. In Washington assignments, she was Director for Russia and Central Asia on the National Security Council and Political-Military Officer in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Russian Affairs. She also served previously in Belarus and Luxembourg. A native of Wisconsin, she graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, then received master’s degrees in Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her languages are French, Russian, Portuguese and Azerbaijani. She is currently in Kazakh language training for her next job as Consul General in Almaty, Kazakhstan, this summer.

Line of Work / Career Journey

The foreign service generalist track houses specialties in political, economic, public diplomacy management and consular cones. The traditional path is you sign up to be a Foreign Service Generalist, and you’re typically sent overseas to begin your career at one of the 270+ embassies or consulates around the world. The work you’ll be doing involves representing U.S. interests abroad, putting a human face on American interests and policy, and forging relationships with local people.

Savage spoke about her first two years on the job and the time she spent overseas in Luxembourg. She reflected on the large workload and political portfolio she managed, as well as the meetings and issues she tackled while there. Savage explained the series of tests one must take to get their foot in the door to do foreign service. After she passed her tests, there was still a long process to receive her health and security clearance, during which she completed her Master’s. As an undergrad, Savage studied abroad in Russia, taught, and secured as many internships as she could. Her main goal was to gain as much experience as she could in whatever form it was available to her.

Application and Hiring Process

The big components are the written exam and the qualitative evaluation panel to basically look at your resume and your written products and decide whether you’re invited to the oral exam. Therefore, the written and oral exam are the big components. If you pass those, then you have to go through the process of receiving your health and security clearance, which can take several years.

Skills / Experience / Advice

  • If you’re interested in joining the foreign service, take the written test sooner rather than later, because you may have a couple years, like I did, between taking the test and actually starting the career.
  • Be aware, engaged, and informed about what’s happening in the world.
  • Re-read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so you know which amendments are which.
  • Sharpen your oral and written communication skills – be concise, clear, and compelling in your writing.
  • Be able to distinguish yourself professionally and experientially from other applicants in the oral exam and group sessions (leadership and collaboration skills).
  • Take practice exams, gain experience with local organizations such as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, network with industry professionals in the Midwest.
  • If you don’t pass the Foreign Service Exam the first time, it’s no big deal. Savage knew several people who passed the 5th time or the 8th time

Websites and Resources

Expand Your Search: Opportunities in Education, Nonprofit & Government

Despite COVID-19’s impact on the job market, there is still a strong demand for certain careers within the education, nonprofit, and government industry. As a member of this community, you possess valuable transferable skills that will help you land similar roles.

Here is our curated list of alternative career options to consider:

 

For Grads Interested in Teaching: Summer School Tutoring


Summer school teaching opportunities may be hard to come by right now. Instead, there is still a high need for Tutors, where you can build transferable skills to obtain a full-time teaching position  in the future. 

  • Transferable Skills: facilitation, problem solving, conflict resolution, instruction, interpersonal skills

Example: K-12 Academic Tutor and Mentor for City Year

 

For Master’s Grads Interested in Higher Education: Online Instruction


As enrollment at larger in-person universities declines, universities are forced to freeze hiring. Online universities and community colleges, however, are still hiring faculty and staff roles. Gain experience in these settings to prepare you for a future career in a larger university once hiring is safe to resume. 

  • Transferable Skills: leadership, networking, management, remote technology 

Example: Admission Advisor for Orbis Education

 

For Grads Interested in Social Work: Community Outreach Coordinator


Currently, the social work industry is hiring less. As a Community Outreach Coordinator you can still work with the community to improve the status of their health and overall well-being just as you would as a social worker. 

  • Transferable Skills: communication, case management, active listening, critical thinking, empathy

Example: Community and Outreach Coordinator VISTA 

 

For Grads Interested in Event Coordinator Roles: Marketing Associate


With all large events canceled, Non Profits no longer need Event Coordinators. Instead, consider a similar role within the Non Profit sector: the Marketing Associate. With social media and marketing becoming increasingly influential, there is still a high demand for these roles. 

  • Transferable Skills: creativity, organization, budgeting, attention to detail, planning, networking

Example: Marketing Associate for Upwardly Global, Inc

 

For Grads Interested in Fundraising: Program Manager


As most fundraising events and galas are postponed, Non Profits are not hiring Fundraising Chairs or Coordinators. To gain similar experience in fundraising and management, consider Program Manager positions. 

  • Transferable Skills: budgeting, grant writing, communication, outreach, program development   

Example: Children’s Music Education and Arts Camps Programs Manager for Old Town School of Folk Music

  

As the job market continues to evolve, the Career Center is here to help you highlight your transferable skills and explore different opportunities. Get started by making an appointment on Handshake

Who’s Hiring: Recruiting Trends in Education, Nonprofit & Government

Law Enforcement & Civil Service


Top Posted Occupations in Illinois:

  • Compliance Officers
  • Emergency Management Directors
  • First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives
  • Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers
  • Court, Municipal, and License Clerks 
  • Protective Service Workers, All Other 
  • Police, Fire, and Ambulance Dispatchers
  • First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers 
  • Correctional Officers and Jailers 
  • Fire Inspectors and Investigators
  • Firefighters

Top Companies Posting:

  • State of Illinois 
  • Army National Guard 
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency 
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police,Incorporated
  • City of Chicago
  • County of Cook

Current Job Openings:

Museums & Cultural Organizations

Museum & cultural organization jobs up 9.7% from last year (EMSI, 2020)


Top Posted Occupations in Illinois:

  • Managers
  • Librarians
  • Curators 
  • Archivists
  • Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers
  • Museum Technicians and Conservators 
  • Statistical Assistants 
  • Set and Exhibit Designers 
  • Historians

Current Job Openings:

Human Services, Outreach & Advocacy

Social work job postings up 53.4% from this time last year in Illinois (EMSI, 2020)


Top Companies Posting in Illinois:

  • State of Illinois 
  • Lutheran Social Services of Illinois 
  • Wellcare Health Plans, Inc. 
  • Children’s Home & Aid Society of Illinois
  • Dd Homes Network 
  • Reaching Across Illinois Library System
  • One Hope United 
  • Total Spectrum Inc Heartland Alliance 
  • Gateway Foundation, Inc. 
  • Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Inc.

Top Posted Occupations:

  • Social and Human Service Assistants 
  • Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors 
  • Child, Family, and School Social Workers 
  • Rehabilitation Counselors 
  • Social Workers, All Other

Current Job Openings:

 

Industry Trends


Education – Schools shut down completely

  • CPS and other schools have shifted to remote teaching and learning. Student teaching will continue in a remote capacity.
  • No changes have been made for fall 2020 recruiting.
  • Global unemployment rate in education – 3.2% (Based on UNESCO’s data on April 7, 2020)

Nonprofits – Loss of funding

  • The cancelation of fundraising galas and partner development conferences further strains the finances, capacity, and resources for the majority of nonprofits. The long-term impact to nonprofits’ bottom-line will affect the capacity of many nonprofits to serve their constituents in the months, and possibly years, to come. (Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire)
  • Foundations and donors are supporting frontline nonprofits that are tending those who need medical care as a result of COVID. (National Council of Nonprofits)
  • Global unemployment rate in Nonprofit – 4.6% (BLS)

Government – Federal, State and Local departments are overwhelmed

  • Global unemployment rate – 3.2% (BLS)
  • All levels of government are on a rapid learning curve as they try to manage remote workers and new online skills. This is an opportunity for jobseekers to highlight their skills with technology as an asset to employers. 
  • As a result of economic challenges (relief, aid, etc.), budgets will likely be more strained in 2020 and 2021. Serious reprioritization of technology investments will be required to overcome these challenges.

5 Transferable Skills to Highlight in Your Education, Nonprofit, & Government Job Search During COVID-19

Careers within Education, Nonprofit, and Government are evolving and changing due to COVID-19. Many of you are now being asked to adapt, change your perspective, or even consider pivoting your career goals. While this may seem daunting, as a member of the ENPG community you have a unique set of transferable skills that you’ve acquired through your various experiences–skills that make you marketable applicants for the jobs that are currently hiring. To stand out in your job search, here are five transferable (hard and soft) skills to highlight in your career toolkit documents:


1. Technology

With most activities shifted to virtual platforms, technology is at the forefront during COVID-19. You now use technology every day to communicate (Slack, Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams), complete coursework (Microsoft Office, Google Suite, VoiceThread, Panopto), and manage projects (Asana, Trello). Since most businesses and organizations are operating remotely, highlight your proficiency in different technology platforms in your resume, cover letter, or an interview to show a hiring manager that you are able to effectively work remotely.

2. Leadership

Whether you’ve taken the lead on a group project in one of your classes or had a leadership role in a student organization, being a leader can show an employer your ability to take charge. Highlight your leadership skills to demonstrate your effective communication, organization, and time-management skills so that an employer has the impression that you can be a leader in their organization. 

3. Adaptability 

During this pandemic, we are adapting to change. COVID-19 has impacted school, work, and daily life. Highlight your ability to adapt to different situations to show your flexibility and willingness to modify projects and tasks within the workplace. Implement a statement in your resume to showcase this skill.

4. Facilitation

Have you presented in a class, at work, or at a conference? Emphasize your ability to successfully present in front of a quantifiable number of members. Facilitation can also look like leading a group in an activity, implementing a lesson plan in a class, guiding a meeting, and more. Highlight this skill in your documents and interviews to show an employer that you have strong public speaking and presentation skills. 

5. Management 

Management doesn’t have to mean being a “manager” in a job or an internship. Management skills can come from working on a group project in class, leading a sports team, guiding a group of people through an activity, and more. These management skills speak to one’s ability to work and collaborate with others. Feature this skill in your documents and speak on your management abilities in interviews with employers. 

 

With the added pressure that COVID-19 brings, your current job or internship search can be challenging and intimidating. You may be seeking adjacent careers or considering changing career paths altogether. Have a solid toolkit of transferable skills in your back pocket to help you explore different careers and to be competitive candidates within the Education, Nonprofit, and Government community. 

Looking to discuss transferable skills or your career plans further? Make an appointment on Handshake!       

DePaul Diaries: Life as a US Army Intern

By: Sean Nasi, DePaul University digital cinema major ’15

DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.


For Bai O’Donnell, a DePaul political science major, the best internship programs are the ones that feel just as important as full-time jobs, such as the United States Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI). “At PKSOI, interns were not treated like interns. We were never asked to file papers, make coffee, or mail letters. Instead, we were treated like full-time members of the PKSOI staff.” While that amount of responsibility was stressful at times, Bai found the real-world experience beneficial to her own career development.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 2.28.43 PMThe internship program at PKSOI allowed interns to work on projects that matched their area of interest. In addition, students also received their own mentor to assist them along the way. Bai developed a training model that coached UN peacekeepers on how transnational crime might affect the organization’s peacekeeping operations. Although Bai was raised in a military family, her experience gave her new perspective on military operations, and she believes it will do the same for other students. “Working on a military post, with high-ranking men and women in uniform, is an extremely humbling experience, and one will surely come to respect these men and women more than they ever have before,” Bai said.

Bai’s fellow interns really helped solidify her amazing experience at PKSOI. “My fellow interns were remarkable people. Many of them have traveled throughout the world, can speak multiple languages, and have even served in the military themselves. I got to experience people from all ages and backgrounds, which made the summer extremely fulfilling.” More importantly, Bai learned of different opportunities available within her industry from fellow interns. “PKSOI reaffirmed my wish to work for the U.S. government, and in many ways, provided a roadmap on how to ‘get there,’” Bai said.

PKSOI reaffirmed my wish to work for the U.S. government, and…provided a roadmap on how to get there.

Interning at PKSOI was a dream come true for Bai, who has known exactly where she wanted to intern since high school. “PKSOI was located down the street from my house. My goal was always to participate in the internship program, and I am extremely fortunate this wish came true,” Bai reveals.

“The key advice for any future intern is to always give their best, always take responsibility, and always be accountable—for the things that go right, and more importantly, for the things that will inevitably go wrong,” Bai explained.

Bai proves that with hard work and dedication, anyone can achieve their goals.


Want to learn more about DePaul’s University Internship Program? Check it out, here, or send inquiries to UIP@depaul.edu. Need help finding an internship? Visit depaul.joinhandshake.com, or come into DePaul’s Career Center to meet with an advisor.