Be Awesome

Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.
--Barney (HIMYM)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Planning, anticipating, bidding

Life is rarely dull in the Foreign Service.  Each year brings about new challenges in plotting one's career, family, and life.  You may be eagerly arriving to a new country, ready to learn a new language, culture, and people, or you may be formulating your strategy to make your plan for the following year to your next assignment.  This is especially true for two year assignments, which first-tour USAID FSOs are assigned to.

The Bidding Cycle
USAID's bidding season has just kicked off.  The way this works is that a list will come out around August which contains all the open positions for the following year.  The only people allowed to place bids on assignments during this first release of positions ("Priority Consideration Bidders List") is reserved for "Priority Consideration Bidders" whom are people finishing a tour in a "Critical Priority Country" (aka. CPC).  These are countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan where there is substantial danger or hardship.

After people leaving CPCs get to bid on the first release of positions, they will receive their assignments and then the "Major Listing" will be released.  This is the updated list with positions that went to CPC bidders removed.  Now everyone else gets to place their bids on positions and be assigned.

There is the exception that for people that want to only go to a CPC, then they can bid on the "Priority Consideration Bidders List" on just the CPC countries and get their assignment earlier.

After the Major Listing, there are sometimes people who place their bids and for one reason or another, do not receive an assignment.  There will then be an updated list which will come out with remaining positions and potentially any newly available positions in which they can then place bids again.

Bidding Process
When bidding for assignments, the list of positions will contain the position name, the position backstop (functional area), the FS grade level, a paragraph description of the position's responsibilities, and a contact person for the position.  Bidders must review the list for positions they are interested in and should then begin doing their research on that position and the Mission.

Research should include things such as how the management is and who other colleagues will be at the Mission, who the Mission Director is, how morale is at the Mission, the type of work, etc.  People with children must also consider things such as quality of schooling and things like that.  Often the best insight can be through contacts one knows at the Mission or people who have worked there before.

After researching, the next step is express interest to the contact person listed for that position.  This includes sending information about yourself such as your resume and references (typically must be USAID references).  This will let the Mission know that you are considering the post and get your name out there.  Additionally, if you contacted others currently working at that Mission, they may be able to do some additional vouching for your capabilities and character.  Following all this, the Mission will often contact your references and may schedule phone interviews with short-listed candidates.

Whew, definitely like applying for a job again!

Toward the time when you must input your bid selections into the USAID internal bidding system, candidates generally will have discussed with the Missions individuals they are most interested in and have an understanding of what rank the bidder will put the Mission and what rank the Mission will put the candidate.  The selections will then all go to Washington where HR, the person's function backstop representative, and the Mission will review the selections and make all the assignments.

It's a nerve-wracking process this first time around and a lot of considerations in trying to plan for the future.  We'll see how it all comes out in the end...

In the meantime, happy Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr from USAID Indonesia!
At our Iftar (breaking fast) Celebration


  1. Hi,

    Your blog has been insightful and really beneficial to me too since I discovered it.I have a few questions for you...
    i) If you are hired for a particular backstop, are you able to bid for or switch to other backstop positions e.g. Executive?
    ii) Do you know of anyone who is eligible and receives student loan repayment assistance?
    iii) Thrift savings contributions and this calculated on one's base pay, or the total including locality pay?

    I know..really slicing and dicing the numbers.
    Currently waiting for invite to the next class, pending security clearance update. I interviewed in Oct. 2011.

    I came across this reference manual for new FSOs online, which I'd like to share for the benefit of others who read your blog:
    Lots of good information on training, professional development,etc.

    I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get your first chice in the bid process!

  2. Hi USAIDHopeful,

    Thanks for your comment and I'm glad that my blog is helpful to you. To answer some of you questions:
    i) If you are hired for a particular backstop, are you able to bid for or switch to other backstop positions e.g. Executive?
    --Yes, it is possible to bid on positions outside your backstop or essentially change your backstop. However, this is rarely done until you first receive tenure (takes 3-5 years) because tenure boards will determine the basis for making tenure on how the employee performs to the requirements for that employee's backstop. After that, bidding on other positions outside one's backstop is certainly possible. In fact, there are also a good deal of opportunities to bid on positions even outside the Agency (ie. with State Department).

    ii) Do you know of anyone who is eligible and receives student loan repayment assistance?
    Yes, many people receive student loan repayment assistance. Each year, there is a sign up period for receiving the assistance. Note, only certain types of federal loans are eligible and loans generally average about $6,000/year (federally mandated limit of no more than $10,000/year can be given).

    iii) Thrift savings contributions and this calculated on one's base pay, or the total including locality pay?
    --TSP contributions are based off of one's pay following any locality or post adjustments. For pension, I'm not quite sure but I would assume the same as TSP. Retirement is pretty far off in the distance for me so I don't really pay so much attention to the numbers besides just contributing the amount needed to get the best match.

    Hope that helps and hopefully you'll soon get an invite to a class.

  3. Hi again,

    I really appreciate the quick turnaround in your response, and the detailed answers you have provided.

    The student loan assistance is a big deal to me, and with a match I have a chance of chipping away at it and getting it paid off in short order. The private sector offers tuition reimbursement to a degree, but I have never heard of anyone offering student loan repayment besides the Federal government, unless, of course you are in a highly sought after field and can negotiate for it.

    Also glad to hear of the option bid on a different backstop in case one finds there is another position that their skills and interests are better suited for.

    I learned on Friday that the Office of Security is requiring me to complete a brand new SF-86/Eqip. My TS clearance was approved last October, but I'm a little puzzled that they need me to complete the paperwork anew rather than just do an update. So it is unlikely that the clearance process will be concluded in time to get an invitation for next month. It is tricky when you have a lag in timing between the granting of a clearance and a start class. I will stay on top of it and know when the time is right, the invitation will come.

    Thank you again!!!


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