Matamoros, Mexico: Washington, D.C.:

Friday, August 13, 2010

How I Got This Job, Part 1

You may be wondering how I managed to land my dream career. To be honest*, I'm not entirely sure myself. This blog entry will try to trace the steps to how I got the job, beginning with my first trip out of the US and ending with beginning the process of applying. Part Two of the history will come in a few days, which will cover the actual process of becoming a Foreign Service Officer. Let's get started.

My first time out of the country (minus a trip to Toronto, Canada when I was young) was a family vacation to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. I was enthralled - everything was different, new, and unknown. I had studied Spanish for four semesters in high school, so the opportunity to use what I had learned gave me a sense of accomplishment. That week long trip sparked something in me that I have only recently identified as being a major component of my personality. Adventure. I live for adventure, but it wasn't until a few months ago that I realized that. Of course, in college, I have been pursuing adventure all along, but I never saw the big picture. (Because this post is so long, I've snipped the part that appears on the main page. Click on the Read More link to see the rest of this post.)

A street in the Meyong-dong
shopping district in South Korea.
After that short visit to Costa Rica, I knew I had to go back. During my four years of college, I managed to travel quite a bit, thanks to some generous parents and a generous God. I did a three and a half week January-term in Costa Rica during my freshman year, which included staying with a Costa Rican family and going to language classes for six hours a day. During my sophomore fall, I spent a semester living in London while taking classes and serving as an intern in the Education Department at the Spanish Embassy to the United Kingdom. The following summer, I convinced my university minister and mentor to take a group of students to Peru for two and a half weeks. During the summer of '09, I managed to convince three of my good friends to come with me back to Peru to live in Cuzco doing ministry for two and a half months. In January of '10 I got to go back to London, and for my senior spring break, I won a scholarship to visit South Korea for ten days. Suffice it all to say that I fell in love with international travel. At this point in my life, I've visited seventeen foreign countries, and I don't plan on stopping any time soon!

Much of that travel leads up to how I found out about this career as a Foreign Service Officer. When I finished my sophomore year in college, I decided to lay out some criteria for what I was looking for in a future job. I came up with three basic things that, if I could find in one job, would be my dream. Those criteria were: international travel, foreign language usage/learning, and service to people. When Samford's Career Development Center sent out a campus-wide email advertising an info session with a State Department recruiter, it piqued my interest. On a whim, I decided to go and just see what it was all about. After hearing the recruiter's forty-five minute spiel, I was hooked. I was late to my next class because I spent so much time talking to him. Looking back, I'm totally OK with missing the first half of class for that conversation!

Ultimately, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career with the US Foreign Service, but I never really thought it would actually happen. The competition is fierce, my experience is lacking, and my major was Spanish Language and Literature, not Political Science or International Relations. But in the end, everything seems to work out for the good of those who love him, and have been called according to his purpose.

I filled out the on-line application in June of '09 to register to take the Foreign Service Officer Exam in October. Thus begins the crazy long, intense application process to get this job. Which means you'll have to read more about it in Part Two. :)

Until then, let me know in the comments what you think of this fledgling blog. I'd love to hear what you have to say.


*Isn't that a funny turn of phrase? "To be honest." Using it implies that you're generally dishonest, but at this moment you're going to be honest. Let's assume that's not the case for me, and that I just thought it fit nicely there.


  1. Steve found your site for me, I'll be checking on you.


  2. Wow. I thought only my college had Jan-Terms! Crazy

  3. I was a biology major and at the 28, I found my calling to be a foreign service officer when trying to complete my Masters in Biomed Science and I don't plan on giving up. I passed my exam, I am currently waiting to hear back on my personal narratives which is another 5 weeks, but no matter what our paths are, we sometimes find our passions. I am glad you shared your blog.