US Department of State Reviews

Updated June 22, 2015
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US Department of State Secretary of State John Kerry
John Kerry
5 Ratings

Pros
  • Really good if you are interested in the Foreign Service (in 30 reviews)

  • See the world while serving your country (in 14 reviews)

Cons
  • The biggest turn off for me were actually the foreign service officers (in 32 reviews)

  • This can dramatically impact work-life balance for years at a time (in 10 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

32 Employee Reviews

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  1. Helpful (1)

    Foreign Service Officer

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Foreign Service Officer in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Foreign Service Officer in Washington, DC

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time (More than 5 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

    Pros

    Chance to live and work abroad. Paid housing while there. The chance to marry an exotic spouse you'd never meet at home. Free language training. Better run than USAID. Lots of employees who believe in the work and in themselves. How else would you live in Bangui for two years?

    Cons

    There are maybe 200 people in the organization empowered to make a decision on anything of substance and the other 13,000 are there to support them or are waiting for them to clear on some report. The organization has a lot of good people but a lot have never worked anywhere else so can be a bit spoiled and self important. Ridiculous chasing of trendy things in public diplomacy. Consular work, the bread and butter of the place, is greatly devalued. Huge emphasis is put on political work which is nebulous and often unmeasurable. Weeks and months of work time is lost each year to performance evaluations and bidding on the next job. Promotion is done by faceless panels rewarding those who have enough free time to write exquisite evaluations of themselves. Employees are encouraged to give a lot of free time to the organization and hours can be brutal. Going out of pocket for thousands of dollars in expenses and fighting to get reimbursed. This is not entirely the fault of the organization but priorities change weekly. The single biggest issue is that recently employed folks have very limited chances to move up as promotions have slowed. If you don't move up the chain, you're not going to get great jobs in interesting places.

    Advice to Management

    Results over process. Learn how to measure performance. Learn how to allocate resources.


  2. Two Class System

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time (More than 5 years)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook

    Pros

    You get to work on big picture problems, help American citizens, and learn about the world.

    Cons

    Two class system. If you are a foreign service officer, you are afforded more opportunities. Civil service employees are largely pigeonholed under the guise of 'continuity' and looked down upon. Worse so if you are a contractor.

    Advice to Management

    Streamline all processes. Whether it is getting clearances , writing EERs, or just getting approval to travel, there are horrible inefficiencies in the day to day operations. You need to empower your workers more - lots of smart people who are forced into a consensus model results in sub-optimal decision making.


  3. Helpful (1)

    very uninspired management

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Contractor in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Contractor in Washington, DC

    I worked at US Department of State

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    big, well-known employer
    helps when applying for other jobs

    Cons

    very bureaucratic
    poor managers
    the secretary of state himself is fine but huge lack of leadership and management talent


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  5. Lost in the shuffle of bureaucracy

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Rare, but exciting opportunities to contribute to the management of dynamic and evolving situations related to international issues and US foreign affairs.

    Cons

    Feeling like a number lost in a system, surronded by careerist looking to impress the right person, as opposed to truly contributing to the mission.

    Advice to Management

    Encourage free thinking and ambition.


  6. Stay Away!

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - IT Specialist in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - IT Specialist in Washington, DC

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time (More than a year)

    Doesn't Recommend
    Doesn't Recommend

    Pros

    The cafeteria has an excellent array of cuisines.

    Cons

    Management and Senior Management are incompetent.


  7. Helpful (7)

    great pros and cons but overall, competitiveness makes it dysfunctional

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Foreign Service Officer in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Foreign Service Officer in Washington, DC

    I worked at US Department of State full-time (More than 10 years)

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    travel, good salary & benefits, interesting work--making a difference sometimes

    Cons

    Not only is it "up or out", but Congress mandates 10% be low ranked each year for possible separation out--so if you ever don't get along with a boss, you have a sword of Damocles hanging over your head. Many good upper/middle managers mentor & bask in the (reflected) glow of their employees doing well--but lots of others like to set up their employees for failure so they can show the ambassador how they "saved the day" . I was a foreign service officer for 14 years, received lots of awards, meritorious step increases, etc. (including a Superior Honor Award, the highest you can get) and had a year of graduate school paid for--but was kicked out (without a full pension because I had not been in for 20 years or more) because of a bad boss. You really have to know how to play office politics and deal with people in mid to high level positions who never should have reached those levels.
    Also is very difficult for women employees to get ahead and still have a marriage and/or children. Not only are there few professional men who want to traipse around the world being house husbands and never getting any jobs or professional positions themselves--but the required "unaccompanied postings" mean breaking up the family for a year or more, exceedingly difficult for single moms. The promotion statistics still show the pattern of the 70s: married men (especially to traditional wives) and single women get promoted, since they can devote 100% of their time and energy to sucking up & promoting themselves.
    I am not just one embittered voice. Many years ago, State asked for a "vision statement" and officers sent in "Kiss up, kick down", "Rank has its privilege, but not accountability", etc. There were so many negative statements sent in that they dropped the idea.

    Advice to Management

    Look into the facts behind the EERs


  8. Helpful (1)

    Overseas Work for U.S.

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at US Department of State

    Pros

    Opportunity to live overseas and depending on specialty do some interesting work.

    Cons

    Very bureaucratic. Must be willing to live anywhere and not always get the assignment you want to the country you want to live in. Must be willing to spend many years doing work that has little to do with previous experience or degrees.

    Advice to Management

    Take management training seriously and provide a feedback mechanism to see that principles are put into practice.


  9. U.S.-Slovak Republic Fulbright Scholar

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    I worked at US Department of State

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    The small interaction I had with the U.S. office was easy and positive.

    Cons

    Slovak office provided no support or help for its Fulbright Scholars. Tried to get us to work in their office for free.


  10. Helpful (5)

    Dissapointing

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Foreign Affairs Officer in Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Foreign Affairs Officer in Washington, DC

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time (More than 5 years)

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Important, meaningful work
    Opportunity to be a part of making history
    Contribute to ideas and plans of some of the world's most powerful people

    Cons

    Foreign service - civil service "caste" system increasingly benefits foreign service in mid-level and senior -level positions
    Foreign service tend to manage civil service, yet consistently lack the technical knowledge and skills needed to add value
    Foreign service has a very high rate of retention -- of both its outstanding officers and its dead weight, and tends to promote regardless, meaning that much of middle management hold positions beyond their real ability

    Advice to Management

    Stop promoting foreign service officers beyond their abilities just to fill empty middle management slots. State Department retains lackluster foreign service officers, producing a huge brain drain of exceptionally talented and ambitious civil service professionals who reach the GS-13 and GS-14 level and find they have little place left for upward mobility. I recommend this employer for entry-level civil service, but not beyond.


  11. Helpful (2)

    Not for me

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Foreign Service Officer
    Former Employee - Foreign Service Officer

    I worked at US Department of State full-time

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    The diplomatic immunity is always nice, as was the lifestyle, and in this economic climate you can't beat the job security.

    Cons

    You will have very little control over what you do and where you live. This is a large bureaucracy, it is incredibly outdated, inflexible, and un-acommodating.



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