US Department of State

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US Department of State Reviews in Washington, DC

Updated Jun 29, 2014
All Employees Current Employees Only

3.8 139 reviews

90% Approve of the CEO

US Department of State Secretary of State John Kerry

John Kerry

(39 ratings)

88% of employees recommend this company to a friend

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)

27 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews
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    • Culture & Values
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    • Disapproves of CEO

    3 people found this helpful  

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

    Foreign Affairs Officer (Former Employee) 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 Senior ManagementDual personnel system results in high attrition of many of your best and brightest civil servants.

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    • No Opinion of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

    HR Specialist

    Human Resources Specialist (Current Employee) Rosslyn, VA

    ProsPay and benefits are good.
    Relatively easy work

    ConsVery 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 Senior ManagementGet rid of the promote at all costs mentality
    Encourage efficiency in the workplace

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

    • Culture & Values
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    • Approves of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

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

    Office Management Specialist (Current Employee) Washington, DC

    Pros1. Travel opportunities: You receive federal holidays, local holidays (when stationed abroad), and 13+ days of vacation annually.
    2. Free housing (while stationed abroad)

    Cons1. NO opportunities for career advancement
    2. Management is disinclined to allow training opportunities

    Advice to Senior Management1. 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.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    Bureaucracy

    Anonymous Employee (Former Employee) Washington, DC

    ProsSome 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.

    ConsSo 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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    • Approves of CEO

     

    Good stepping stone

    Graduate (Former Employee) Washington, DC

    Proslots of people to meet, good networking that is readily available

    Consnot much of an innovation culture

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    • No Opinion of CEO

     

    An agency with a lot of potential.

    IT Specialist (Current Employee) Washington, DC

    ProsTravel, pay, and a lot of training.

    ConsToo many ego's and employee dissatisfaction.

    Advice to Senior ManagementPractice what you preach.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    3 people found this helpful  

    Amazing work and an opportunity to see the world, but suffocating bureaucracy and serious costs for health and family.

    Foreign Service Officer (Current Employee) Washington, DC

    ProsThe Foreign Service provides some of the very best jobs in foreign affairs and public policy, especially at embassies overseas, where you have autonomy and responsibility for important, engaging issues. Embassy communities are generally tight-knit, and if you like seeing the world, there are few ways to do so with such good overseas benefits.

    ConsThe bureaucracy, from human resources to policy making, is stifling, especially at headquarters in Washington, DC. The evaluation and promotion system is broken and unreliable, and the way assignments are handed out can be intensely political and geared toward those who serve in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan. There is an illusion of meritocracy, but a reality of "who you know." I have never encountered a more passive-aggressive corporate culture, and such behavior is rewarded as "diplomatic." Never underestimate the negative effect of the Foreign Service lifestyle on your health or your family. Many hardship posts present actual life-or-death situations with sub-standard health care, and far too many senior Foreign Service Officers are lifetime singles or divorced.

    Advice to Senior ManagementReform the evaluation and promotion system. The current one is Byzantine and depends very little on either accomplishments or potential. Likewise, seek to add transparency to the assignments process, and discontinue the linking system. Look out for spouses, not just children of employees working overseas - clerical jobs don't cut it for professional spouses, and embassies need to do a better job learning the local job market to help them find meaningful work. Don't just medevac employees and their families - boost the capacity of overseas medical units.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    • Approves of CEO

    1 person found this helpful  

    Prestige, but very high turnover and no opportunities

    Public Health Advisor (Current Employee) Washington, DC

    ProsAccess to many high level people

    ConsNo room to grow, and hindered by bureacracy

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend

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    • Disapproves of CEO

    2 people found this helpful  

    Hired help

    IT Manager (Former Employee) Washington, DC

    Prosextensive travel to overseas locations

    ConsLong hours of with absolutely no recognition by management

    Advice to Senior Managementnone

    No, I would not recommend this company to a friend

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    • Approves of CEO

     

    Good intern experience

    Intern (Former Employee) Washington, DC

    Pros-- Worked in an office within one of the geographic bureaus
    -- Variety of tasks, many of which were substantial
    -- Weekends off

    Cons-- Little contact with other interns
    -- Did not seem like a great place to work long-term (if you're a foreign service officer, you are basically deployed somewhere else every two years and can't have a life; if you're a civil service officer, you're considered easily replaceable and not very respected)
    -- Very bureaucratic. I did not understand what that meant until I worked at State.

    Advice to Senior ManagementYour job is impossibly difficult -- I think you're doing pretty well.

    Yes, I would recommend this company to a friend – I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company

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