US Department of State

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US Department of State Reviews in Washington, DC

Updated August 14, 2014
Updated August 14, 2014
332 Reviews
3.9
332 Reviews
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US Department of State Secretary of State John Kerry
John Kerry
83 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

14 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1.  

    Stay Away!

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    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 for more than a year

    Pros

    The cafeteria has an excellent array of cuisines.

    Cons

    Management and Senior Management are incompetent.

    Doesn't Recommend
  2. 5 people found this helpful  

    great pros and cons but overall, competitiveness makes it dysfunctional

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    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 for more than 10 years

    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 ManagementAdvice

    Look into the facts behind the EERs

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3. 5 people found this helpful  

    Dissapointing

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    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 for more than 5 years

    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 ManagementAdvice

    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.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
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  5. 5 people found this helpful  

    Welcome to the Foreign Circus

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    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 for more than 10 years

    Pros

    World travel, occasional policy input, decent benefits.

    Cons

    Pseudo-military chain of "command" run by screaming incompetents; hated by Congress; misunderstood by most of the few Americans aware of its existence.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Tear it down and start over. The sad fact is that, under the current performance review system, a boss who doesn't like you and a boss's boss who doesn't care is enough to end one's career.

    This is not, funnily enough, cutting-edge personnel development practice, outside of North Korea.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  6. 5 people found this helpful  

    Dysfunctional HR system stymies Best and Brightest

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

    I worked at US Department of State

    Pros

    Highly selective recruiting process often produces impressive colleagues.
    International living, language learning opportunities.
    Meet lots of interesting people abroad, many of them civic or political leaders in their cultures.
    Write analyses of human rights, religious freedom, trafficking in persons that have an impact.

    Cons

    Short tours make for frequent, sometimes difficult family adjustments, especially for trailing or tandem spouses.
    Excessive human resources devoted to VIP handling, which means standing around uselessly as a "site officer."
    Promotions decided by a panel completely removed from its subjects, influenced by political correctness in designating promotees although ostensibly reliant upon written reports which consume an inordinate amount of energy each April but provide little meaningful feedback

    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO
  7. 1 person found this helpful  

    A mixture of deep appreciation and profound disappointment

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee  in  Arlington, VA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Arlington, VA

    I worked at US Department of State

    Pros

    Fascinating, stimulating, committed individuals who are actually doing the work (as against those who are in a supervisory, management role)

    Cons

    Incompetent management; obsession at the management level with establishing and maintaining "corridor reputation" (what others think of you), sometimes at the expense of mission, and always at the expense of other people; very poor balance between quality of life and work

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Learn to match your deeds with your words. Focus on integrity and mission. Learn to build community among those who are serving under you.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Disapproves of CEO
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    Lack of Responsibility

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    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

    Pros

    FSO jobs rotate every two years on average, so you always get to look forward to something new.

    Cons

    In Washington DC you do not get much responsibility until you hit the FS-02 level. Stay overseas until then.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO
  9. 2 people found this helpful  

    Diplomacy has lost its prestige and stifles ambitious young employees

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    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

    Pros

    Prestige, making a difference, work that is important and global in scope, international travel, interesting and diverse colleagues

    Cons

    No incentive structure - show up from 9 to 5 and you'll be paid the same as colleagues who work late every night. Only one promotion schedule: seniority and time in service. Work for 25 years and you might be an Ambassador. No fast-track promotions for young, smart, ambitious employees. I'm new - 7 years in - and my job today is exactly what is was 7 years ago.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Abandon the seniority hierarchy, flatten the organization, give ambitious people opportunities for advancement.

    Approves of CEO
  10. 3 people found this helpful  

    Not all it's cracked up to be

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    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

    Pros

    The State Department offers excellent travel opportunities and employees take on high levels of responsibility at early stages in their career.

    Cons

    The organizational culture is archaic, innovation and entrepreneurship is undervalued and people are not given sufficient opportunity for personal and professional growth.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Management really needs to make a greater effort to provide promotions and growth opportunities based on MERIT. The rank in person system for the foreign service is ineffective and completely unappealing to younger generations.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Approves of CEO
  11. 2 people found this helpful  

    U.S. Department of State STEP Program

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Student Temporary Employment Program  in  Washington, DC
    Current Employee - Student Temporary Employment Program in Washington, DC

    I have been working at US Department of State

    Pros

    Substantial work opportunities. Building is often understaffed; much real work is carried out by students with low pay and no benefits. It's interesting every day. Interact with senior officials and Foreign Service Officers with diverse life experiences. See how politics really works and contribute to the news.

    Cons

    Little career mobility. Must work as a student to get a permanent job and brownnose for it...hard. Bureaucracy is incredibly inefficient at best and incompetent when anything needs to get done. It's also very easy to get stuck in paper-pushing positions where you have little real power or real interesting work.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Fix the management issues - a HR office that literally does not respond to inquiries, IT and information sharing issues that take months to fix on a routine basis, lack of information about student programs or career mobility unless someone within an office takes an interest in a student and clears all paths for them. Hard to see how to be successful as a new employee unless one simply gets lucky.

    Recommends
    Approves of CEO

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