Somewhere amidst the craziness of this past Friday at work (1 walkthrough, 1 training, 1 meeting, 1 lunch event, 2 hours of overtime and the whole 'day job' thing on top of it) I got a friendly reminder from my CDO. No big deal, just passing along the very important tidbit that our bidlist comes out next week (i.e. THIS week!)
It suddenly became very difficult to focus on visas and paperwork and cleaning out my inbox.
Despite the fact that I do really love Nigeria, I've been anxiously waiting for this moment. It's a big world out there and my 'scratch-off-the-countries-as-you-travel' map is still irritatingly blank.
They passed the instructions along to us already and so I spent a productive hour figuring out what my timing will be. I thought it would be a complicated process but it turns out I'm pretty lucky with my timing. Just to clarify for the friends and family out there, there are three big factors involved in the process. Bear with me for a brief explanation.
1 - Timing
It doesn't matter what's on the list. This is what everyone has impressed on me as I get ready to bid. It only matters which posts on the list actually fit with your timing.
Timing is bookmarked by your expected leave date from your current position (TED) and the date the new position is supposed to be filled. The time in between is filled with home leave (4-6 weeks, but 4 weeks for bidding purposes), language training, and functional training (political tradecraft courses, ConGen, etc).
My TED is January 2015 - perfect for January or February language start dates. It's kind of complicated to explain, but if my TED was a month off in either direction it would have cut in half the number of languages that would work for my timing. Also, having two options for a lot of the major languages means that I have the flexibility to take my home leave on either end of language training. That means I can make a lot more bids work with my timing.
2 - Cones
For my non-foreign service friends, there are five career cones in the foreign service: Consular, Economic, Management, Political and Public Diplomacy. All officers have to do at least a year of consular work in their first two tours. Then they usually want to work in their own cone. It's also possible to work in another cone, but this doesn't happen as often.
Again, I think I'm kind of lucky on this front. I'm a consular coned officer and I've done my consular tour already, so I could bid on jobs in every single cone. Many officers are disappointed that so many positions on the bid list are consular, but for me it doesn't really matter. I'll either get an opportunity to try something new or a chance to build more experience in my career track. Both are good options.
3 - Equity
The nice thing (in my opinion) about bidding in the entry-level is that you get 'points' based on where you've served. Difficult places give you more points. Lagos, for example is very near the top of the list as far as hardship points (and while I love Lagos a ton, it gets all those points for some very good reasons). The people with the most points get to bid first for their next assignments. Since I have so many points (so much equity) coming out of Lagos I'll be among the first people to bid.
Of course there are other factors. Every officer has a different set of bidding priorities. Some people are looking for good schools or higher pay, some need to find countries where their spouses can work or where they can bring their pets, some want to serve in a specific region or learn a particular language. The benefit of being on my own is that I can bid based on wants, not needs.
Now it's that golden moment when - for a few brief days or hours before the list comes out and brings me back to reality - the world is my oyster. I can revel in the possibilities without the pressure of acting on them, at least until tomorrow.
It's a good day.