US Department of State

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  www.state.gov

US Department of State Reviews in Washington, DC

Updated November 7, 2014
Updated November 7, 2014
368 Reviews
3.9
368 Reviews
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US Department of State Secretary of State John Kerry
John Kerry
103 Ratings

Review Highlights

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

  • If you work for the Foreign Service, you get to see the world in so many meaningful ways (in 28 reviews)


Cons
  • The biggest turn off for me were actually the foreign service officers (in 31 reviews)

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

More Highlights

33 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1.  

    Mostly positive

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

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

    Pros

    Advancing U.S. foreign policy priorities; implementing international arms control treaties

    Cons

    24/7/365 operation where individual employees matter; during contingencies the Center is always at risk of not having enough employees to do the job

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Severe lack of leadership at all levels in the AVC Bureau

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    Disapproves of CEO
  2.  

    Decent place to work, if you can get past the politics

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

    I have been working at US Department of State as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    --Relatively laid back atmosphere
    --Flexible work environment
    --Lots of room for training and certifications, should your office have the budget for it and allow you to pursue it
    --Sometimes the work is interesting

    Cons

    The workplace politics at DoS are INSANE. If you want to get anywhere at DoS, you MUST play the political game. Coworkers are not the friendliest.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Please consider raises based upon merit and completion of work. I've grown increasingly jaded by the fact one can only ascend here with kissing enough...well, you get the picture.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  3.  

    Hierarchy reigns

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

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

    Pros

    Travel. If you work for the Foreign Service, you get to see the world in so many meaningful ways. You arrive to Post with a home to move into, and all arrangements made. Even if serving in a hot spot…though those arrangements are quite different! if you are up for serving in a war zone - these can be some of the most rewarding work environments possible in ones career. Not always, but often.

    Cons

    The rigidity of hierarchy and established 'cultural' norms. It has too many inept managers, and few real leaders. All is dictated from Washington, DC, by some of the aforementioned types, who do not really know the situation on the ground in the country they are helping to guide and thus, push their own agendas without listening to the leaders in the field. Additionally, the bureaucracy does not allow for true recruiting from within. A broad swath of employees , with immense capabilities and intimate knowledge of the work of an Embassy, interested in pursuing alternate paths within the Department, are essentially cut-out and cut off. Lastly, it is a system. People know how to play the system, either by hobnobbing with the 'elite' back in DC, or through their annual reviews. When it comes to the latter, all too often managers are too afraid to present an honest assessment of a person's value and talent. Thus, everyone walks on water no matter how incompetently they performed during a given year. Or even egregiously. No one wants to rock the boat and we end up with some truly scary individuals as part of our Senior Foreign Service - 'leaders' who represent us quite publicly.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Break down the hierarchy. Allow real dialogue. Hire people more interested in the actual work than in achieving their next EER bullet. Ensure personnel are truly ready to be placed in leadership positions before promoting them to senior levels. Recognize that beyond the rigid structures of staffing, there are enormous resources by way of personnel, who are kept from moving within the silos. Stop attaching peoples success to the 'superiors' they are 'subordinate' to. Stop using the word 'subordinate'.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 1 person found this helpful  

    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

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

    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
  6. 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

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time (more than 8 years)

    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
  7.  

    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

    I worked at US Department of State full-time (more than 5 years)

    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
  8. 6 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

    I worked at US Department of State full-time (more than 3 years)

    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
  9. 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

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

    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
  10. 1 person found this helpful  

    It's a stable job with decent pay and benefits and lot of opportunity to travel

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

    I have been working at US Department of State full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    1. Travel opportunities: You receive federal holidays, local holidays (when stationed abroad), and 13+ days of vacation annually.
    2. Free housing (while stationed abroad)

    Cons

    1. NO opportunities for career advancement
    2. Management is disinclined to allow training opportunities

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    1. Treat FSOs and Specialists equally.
    2. Learn what specialists actually do, so that you may more effectively evaluate their job performance and assit with professional development.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11.  

    Bureaucracy

    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Washington, DC

    I worked at US Department of State part-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    Some of my colleagues were great. Extremely smart and capable. It'll be great to have them as friends and professional contacts for the rest of my life.

    Cons

    So much bureaucracy and so much focus on minutiae (which is fine if that's your thing). I could tell how frustrating this was for some of my more experienced colleagues.

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