New FSOs coming in can typically expect a timeline such as:
- Orientation (5 weeks)
- USAID brings in new Officers in classes. Classes are composed of a mixture of Officers of various functions (backstops) that the Agency is needing at that point in time.
- During these 5 weeks, new employees complete administrative paperwork for in-processing and benefits; obtain mandatory briefing on various USAID policies; are introduced to USAID programs, operations, and structure; are briefed on career development and leadership; and are given the opportunity to network and bond with classmates.
- At the end of these 5 weeks, a ceremony is held to "graduate" from orientation. This is a family and friend event and typically features the Administrator as the keynote speaker. Before, they used to present overseas assignments at this time, but due to a backlog in the assignment process, that is no longer done.
- After the 5 week orientation, Officers spend a week in their home Office of their backstop. During the time in DC, each new FSO will have a supervisor whom they will report to and work under to obtain on-the-job training (OJT) and familiarity with operations of DC.
- A week away in their home office, the class is brought back together again to receive additional mandatory training. This includes working across cultures, training on the Automated Directives System (ADS - internal policy and regulations of USAID), and others.
- Each backstop has a plethora courses and training that are specific to them. Plus, there are additional mandatory trainings on things like Programming Foreign Affairs, Environmental Compliance, etc. that all Officers must take.
- Depending on if you have language ability that can be tested at the required level at the Foreign Service Institute to make tenure and if you are going to language designated position for your assignment, then most Officers spend some time here.
- I found language training to be a pretty enjoyable experience. It's great meeting people from all different Agencies and language learning, if one is so inclined, can be fun.
- Between functional training and before/after language training, then new Officers work in their home offices practicing their trade. Some people have a mixed experience here depending on their supervisor and the work going on at the time. It's difficult for the supervisors because if an Officer schedules training so they are gone every other week, then they really can't provide substantial responsibility to be completed and then some DC based personnel view incoming FSOs as too transient to give responsibility.
- Generally, I think it was important plan out trainings to be well spaced apart to give adequate time to integrate to the team and demonstrate capability. Additionally, this is also the opportunity for Officers to rotate to whichever Bureaus they feel would be beneficial to their experience. So one could work as an assistant to the desk officer of your assignment country, spend a month learning how to award contracts or grants, or work with one of the bureaus on new program design.
- In additional to all this, there are also various opportunities for new Officers to take details to different Missions for assignments. These range from assisting Missions in developing their new long-term strategies, evaluating cooperating countries' financial systems, or reviewing portfolios and compliance of Missions. Mainly, these assignments must be unique opportunities that could not be obtained in Washington or your onward assignment. That and budget, of course. But these opportunities tend to arise more often than one thinks.
I feel fortunate that I had a pretty good team to work with in Washington and anticipate being fairly capable when I move on, though I still tend to learn something new every day! There are also many different people to meet around the home office and you never know when that network could help in the future.