US Department of State

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US Department of State Reviews

Updated August 17, 2014
Updated August 17, 2014
321 Reviews

3.9
321 Reviews
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US Department of State Secretary of State John Kerry
John Kerry
80 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • See the world while serving your country (in 12 reviews)

  • I worked at the Foreign Service Institute, where they train diplomats (in 22 reviews)


Cons
  • Foreign Service officers are then central employee core and taken care of (in 27 reviews)

  • The biggest challenge is that every two years, there is a rotation of mid-level Foreign Service Officers who arrive with "attitude" (in 15 reviews)

More Highlights

65 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1.  

    Soul sucker

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

    Pros

    Good money, interesting work, friendly environment

    Cons

    Government work is soul sucking. No incentives, productivity is meaningless for advancement, no difference between hard workers and lazy ones when it comes to raises, etc. Terrible management and ever increasing bureaucracy that totally stifles productivity.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  2. 1 person found this helpful  

    Great if you're in it for the long haul

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

    Pros

    Public service, world travel, free overseas housing, decent pay. If you'd like to travel the world and aren't too picky about where you're going, then State is for you. It might be Ciudad Juarez, Baghdad, or Paris, you just don't know what will open up. You can lobby more as you rise in the ranks. Pay is pretty good but it's hard to live in DC on your salary if you have kids and a stay-at-home spouse.

    Cons

    Promotion is highly structured and there's lots of bureaucracy. Strategy and planning are needed but the building seems to constantly be responding to the latest crisis. This can dramatically impact work-life balance for years at a time.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Organizational culture shift is overdue to increase innovation and adaptibility.

    Recommends
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  3.  

    Passport Specialist, I adjudicate applications for processing passports

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

    Pros

    Something different everyday. It is definitely a challenge everyday.

    Cons

    Keeping Focused on everything you do.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Have more Patience with employees

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 5 people found this helpful  

    It's a mixed bag, and not the best place in the federal government for ambitious civil servants

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

    Pros

    - Opportunity to make an impact on foreign policy decisions; work with very senior officers and talented, intelligent people.
    - Great benefits, and thanks to Colin Powell, civil servants can access training opportunities at the Foreign Service Institute - an impressive institution and rarity in government agencies.
    - Opportunities for TDYs, or longer-term overseas jobs for the well-connected. This provides an excellent way to get overseas experience / exposure without subjecting your family to the long-term costs of a foreign service career.
    - Competent people move up quickly, and get a lot of autonomy. Similarly, technical subject matter expertise is not common trait in leadership, so if you are an expert in something, you will very easily be able to influence policy decisions and fill an important niche.

    Cons

    - The separate personnel systems between the foreign and civil service are like a cancer that constantly erode the credibility and equity of this entire system. Civil servants, no matter how qualified and competent you are, do not have the same long-term career growth opportunities than their foreign service colleagues. This is an institutional/legislative issue, and can lead to some pretty strange outcomes, including: 1) being managed by FSOs with little subject matter expertise, and various levels of managerial in/competence, 2) constant churn when your leadership changes every 2 years result in inconsistent and sometimes ineffective policy and programmatic outcomes; 3) lack of any long-term strategic thinking; 4) leadership decisions motivated by careerism / politics rather than technical reasons.
    - This organization is very complex, and a lot of your success depends on being to navigate politics within the building. That's all fine, but given the proliferation of political appointee specialty offices, it's difficult. New offices / working groups / initiatives take the focus of diplomacy, which is really State's core competency. A lot of the other stuff, this organization just doesn't do so well.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Dual personnel system results in high attrition of many of your best and brightest civil servants.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  6. 4 people found this helpful  

    Good international opportunities; terrible human resources system

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

    Pros

    Good opportunities for international work. The very best Foreign Service Officers are very good.

    Cons

    Excessively rigid tenure and promotion system does not reward initiative and allows almost everyone, even the bad apples, to obtain tenure (approx 98% tenure rate). Career advancement emphasized over professional development, and insular environment, union, and lack of mid-level hiring creates an echo chamber-like environment within which everyone perceives their abilities to be excellent even when demonstrably false.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Open up the diplomatic service to mid-level hiring and reduce the percentage of officers who are tenured. Emphasize professional skills development as a means to career advancement instead of separating the two ideas, Encourage officers to become experts in at least one skill or discipline. And reward innovation by overhauling the review and promotion process to focus on advancing mission objectives instead of just working on isolated projects.

    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO
  7.  

    Internships vary widely

    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee

    Pros

    Ability to work in huge DC federal agency, make contacts. Looks good on resume.

    Cons

    Quality of internship depends hugely on which bureau it's in -- working in an area bureau is a lot more rewarding than working somewhere like ECA, where I did, because you get to do more hands-on research. Make sure you are really passionate about the work of the bureau before accepting the offer, not just international affairs in general.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Pay your interns!

    Approves of CEO
  8.  

    Bureaucratic But ...

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

    Pros

    Unique global opportunities and responsibilities. Sometimes you feel like you could make a difference.

    Cons

    Despite the responsibilities given, the decision making is stifled and managers are hit and miss.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Make a difference, don't just talk about making a difference.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9.  

    Internship

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

    Pros

    Great work-life balance, great location, prestigious work environment, and a newly renovated cafeteria. People are generally helpful, although not necessarily friendly.

    Cons

    The competitive work environment can foster adversarial relationships among staff members. If you metro to work every day, the Foggy Bottom metro station can be a bit of a hike in the DC summer heat and humidity.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10.  

    Intern (at US Embassy abroad)

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

    Pros

    Depends on where you're posted. My internship at a "cushy" posting had great work-life balance. It was also helpful to see what a FSO does day to day while also exploring a new country. Also great to have on your resume.

    Cons

    Turns out what some FSOs do day-to-day can be really uninteresting. Job can get monotonous or dull. Sometimes relationships with foreign national staff can be stressful. You need to be the kind of person who gets bored easily or loves change to enjoy the FSO life.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  11. 1 person found this helpful  

    HR Specialist

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Human Resources Specialist  in  Rosslyn, VA
    Current Employee - Human Resources Specialist in Rosslyn, VA

    Pros

    Pay and benefits are good.
    Relatively easy work

    Cons

    Very bureaucratic
    Your experience depends largely on the nature of the office management
    Uneven workload distribution - the deadweight employees can skate by very easily

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Get rid of the promote at all costs mentality
    Encourage efficiency in the workplace

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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