Are there any bureaucratic alternatives to the US foreign service?
August 30, 2009 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Are there any bureaucratic alternatives to the US foreign service? I currently have a BSN. Fluent in Japanese, English of course, and nearing fluency in Spanish. Chinese and Russian are on the list but I'd like to first get better at my current languages. I was thinking about medical school but such a route doesn't inspire the same kind of passion I feel for stuff like international politics. Being a Foreign Service Officer seems like the dream job. However, I'm a permanent resident of the US, and acquiring citizenship as well as going through all the FSO requirements seems like I'll putting a lot of eggs in one basket. Also, I don't like moving around, I like going to one area and staying put ideally for decades but 5-10 years is fine. I'm only 22 but I'm old enough to know I hate moving around too much.

So.. part 1
I'm looking for a somewhat interesting bureaucratic job I can work in and just move up the ranks over the years. I'm being very general here since as I said before, I have a strong interest in international politics but have never pursued it academically. I know it's hard to pinpoint a specific job, so.. it would be also fine to recommend (general) possible paths I can pursue in hopes of finding the so-called "dream" job.

So part 2.
Do foreign bureaucracies (outside USA) hire foreigners for the long haul? I don't mind working for one government for 5-10 years and then moving on to another government. I don't even mind working for the same government for the rest of my life, as long as there is valuable experience to be gained. I certainly don't mind spending 8 years in graduate school to gain the necessary skills. I just really need a fresh start; such a funny thing to be saying at a young age. Nevertheless, I'm glad I caught myself early, and any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

P.S. I don't have any aversion to military-related jobs, as long as they require my brain and not my tactile skills.
posted by fairykarma to Work & Money (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, all the the US missions abroad have liason and attache components. For example, you could be posted to Embassy Mexico City as a defense attache or DOJ liason, something like that. Keep in mind that of all the DOJ liasons, for instance, 99% of DOJ employees never leave the US. Somewhat easier would be USAID, although the selection process is similar to the Foreign Service.

Have you thought about working abroad in the private sector? It seems like it would be a lot easier to get a job overseas with a multinational corporation than long-shot it with a US gov't agency. What about a humanitarian NGO?

You can keep the Foreign Service as a plan B, but you'll need some type of plan A. How certain are you that you want to live somewhere else? (And as an aside, how will that impact your LPR status here in the US?).
posted by lockestockbarrel at 6:18 PM on August 30, 2009

You definitely don't need 8 years of graduate school for an entry level position at a US mission (you do need to do well on the Foreign Services exam though) but grad school would help for say the UN or the CIA (the Clandestine service, for example, involves living abroad though I don't know how travel-intense it is).

If you do decide to do grad school and you do it in the US, then that will add years to your 5 year requirement of residency with your greencard. If you only just got your greencard, you'll be a citizen by 28 tops. Is this not enough to allow you to plan under the assumption of citizenship?

You also neglect to mention your country of nationality which could be relevant.
posted by breadfruit at 7:25 PM on August 30, 2009

You should look at the CIA, FBI, NSA, DOD and many other branches of the federal government. They have many, many opportunities available for someone just like you.
If you wish to stay put, the foreign service is not a good choice.

What country are you a citizen of? I ask because if you are interested in a career in the UN, IMF, World Bank and other major international organizations, anything but US citizenship plays to your advantage.

Part of Japan's JET program places people in local government bureaucracies. It could be an adventure, but one that lasts for a year or two. It could also be an adventure you'd rather not have had.

I recommend looking at the CIA and NSA. They always have analyst positions posted on their websites. Once you get your foot in the door in an agency, it is much easier to move within the organization and between federal agencies. DC seems like the perfect place for you to base yourself given your goals.

As part of the background check process for the CIA and probably other agencies, the jobs that require clearance will ask if you have ever been approached by a foreign government. They mean business about this question. For that reason you might ask the mods to make this question anonymous. You don't want an innocuous inquiry to come back and haunt you in a year or two.

And no, I am not being paranoid.
posted by vincele at 7:27 PM on August 30, 2009

You'll need clearance to get most interesting CIA/DoD/FBI etc work. And this usually means you need U.S. Citizenship.

Indeed, almost all federal jobs require citizenship.
posted by Jahaza at 8:13 PM on August 30, 2009

Work for a trading company selling commodities to Japan and/or China. Work in international shipping. Work for Itochu or one of the other big Japanese trading houses.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 PM on August 30, 2009

Additional info:
1. I'm a Kenyan citizen.
2. Permanent resident for about 4 years.
3. I'm still deciding whether or not to get U.S. citizenship. I don't want to restrict myself to the US quite yet until I know what my opportunities are abroad (or in the private sector now that someone brought it up).
posted by fairykarma at 4:20 AM on August 31, 2009

With Kenyan citizenship I strongly suggest you look at the World Bank, IMF and UN if you don't object to what those organizations do. Your citizenship help you get your foot in the door at these and many more organizations of their ilk. You are well-positioned if you want to work for an international organization. As for working for the federal government, the citizenship issue will pose a problem. You could always consider a large state government, or working in the Kenyan bureaucracy abroad. If you are a recent graduate of a college or still in college you should have access to the career center and the alumni who've volunteered to help students learn about different careers. Be sure to use those resources to the fullest. You have so many exciting options!
posted by vincele at 11:04 AM on August 31, 2009

Japan sells *a lot* of used cars and construction equipment to Africa, and as you well know that trade flows through Mombasa.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:41 AM on August 31, 2009

« Older Isolation Fatigue   |   Researching African-American nutrition Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.