Part One discusses what the Diplomat in Residence is, Part Two discusses my experience, make sure you read both… and in order!
So you’ve done your homework, you researched the State Department careers website on what the Foreign Service is all about. You read up on the FSOT, follow the forums, and have taken the practice test. You are such an achiever that you have even looked up Foreign Service blogs in order to read more about the life of a diplomat and/or spouse.
A listing of some Foreign Service blogs can be found at AFSA.
Yet you still have questions that go beyond the general information you have found online. What do you do?
You contact the Diplomats in Residence (DIRs)!
What are DIRs?
Diplomats in Residence (DIRs) are career Foreign Service Officers located throughout the U.S. who provide guidance and advice on careers, internships and fellowships to students and professionals in the communities they serve. DIRs are available to answer questions and share insight with those interested in Foreign and Civil Service careers, internships and fellowships.
When you’re ready, contact a DIR closest to your geographic location who will answer your questions. State Department
In total there are 16 DIRs that make up 16 regions in the US.
An interactive map is available, which displays all regions, and clicking on it brings up a profile with the DIR and where they are located.
You should contact a DIR because they are senior level officers who have made a career with the Foreign Service (currently, all but three have at least 25 years of experience). They know the ‘ins and outs’, can discuss real life experiences, and are there to provide guidance. The position also acts as a post (I believe), with a new Officer taking the position every couple of years.
Additionally, they are not all from one cone. If there are specific questions you have regarding what life in the consular track is like, you can (and should) reach out to the appropriate Officer.
Most DIRs are located in a major university within their region and this is to improve availability. With many students aspiring to be diplomats, being on location is perfect.
Further, one of the best ways they impart their knowledge of the Foreign Service is by holding informational sessions. When I was in college I attended one. Even though the knowledge imparted was broad and can be found online, if you are just starting out then, as the name implies, it is a great information session. However, the question and answer portion is what makes the sessions stand out and worthwhile.
You should check their Facebook pages for upcoming sessions and try to attend one. This information is listed on the State Department DIR website.
Now, a U turn.
With all the above said, my experience over the last two months trying to contact DIRs has not been fulfilling.
I have tried both the official messaging system found on the State Department, and by individually Facebook messaging each DIR. I don’t believe this latter to be inappropriate as the State Department listed their official pages as a means to contact them.
I had absolutely no luck through the official messaging system. Now after two months I still have not received a response.
I did have more luck through Facebook. Unfortunately, the responses I received from three different DIRs were similar and told me to do the same, to attend an information session.
Before you read their responses some background. The questions I was posing were two fold. First, they are questions I truly want to know. Even though I grew up in the Foreign Service and have talked to my parents about the job, I wanted to hear other experiences. Second, I wanted to extrapolate their responses (yes I reached out to all 16 DIRs) and make a series of posts for the Path to Foreign Service blog.
My background, my interest, my questions, and their use, both for the blog and myself, were explained in the message. The one possible hiccup was the one line in the DIR description that for contacting purposes, I should reach out to the DIR in my region.
Clearly, I was going beyond this request. However I was not spamming and do believe this would be a great public relations piece for the DIRs, I thought it would be welcomed. It turns out the DIRs do not agree.
For the responses that follow, I do not include their name, have made blank their region if mentioned, and have not otherwise edited the replies. Even though the responses are disappointing, I still thanked them for their time and once again explained what I was doing. As of yet I have not received a follow-up.
Jack, if you find yourself in the __________ region, I hope you’ll try to attend a general information session to learn more about the Foreign Service. There are a couple coming up in March at _________ and __________ that will be posted on the careers site under events soon.
Thanks for your message and your interest in the State Department! are you interested in taking the FS exam? for general posting, would be easiest for you to link to info on our careers website, facebook page, ask questions on the career forums…and I or my other DIR colleagues would be happy to engage with individuals who want to talk through these questions at an info session. I post upcoming sessions on my fb page and the general careers website.
Jack, thanks for your message. I should not have assumed that you had already received a reply from a colleague. My preferred approach would be for you to link your readers to the content that already exists at careers.state.gov, including videos. Also, depending upon where you are located, you might attend an FSO Information Session hosted by a Diplomat-in-Residence, to whom you could pose your questions.
That third response I find snarky, but maybe I am being sensitive.
After these responses I began to think I overstepped by reaching out to the DIRs. I posed a question on the Reddit Foreign Service group to see if others had had better luck in communicating with them via the messaging system and Facebook.
To my surprise, because I really did think I was at fault, the responses all stated the difficulty in contacting a DIR. There was one positive comment, but even this individual noticed something off about the response received, “its funny because it looks like it was a form letter that he sent out based on information from State, not my inquiries”.
So be it, even though I did not receive the responses I was aiming for there is still something to learn here.
First, when contacting a DIR, they prefer you to have already done research on the careers State Department website. This is also the case when you are helping others, for instance with this blog. Fortunately, I believe I do this with all my posts (linking to where the information is located) and have even made a resource page that links to multiple State Department pages.
Second, if you wish to communicate with a DIR then you must attend an information session. My understanding from the DIR State Department page was that these individuals are available to answer your questions. From the responses, and lack of responses, I received though, it would seem they are only available if you attend an information session.
Third, the responses you receive are form based or cookie cutter. I almost wonder if it’s an intern responding on Facebook, because the answers were written in a way that suggest my initial message was not read, but I don’t want to believe it. In writing this, I know I am being negative but I am also being honest.
The second part of this post is completely my own experience and I do not want this to detract you from reaching out to the DIRs or attending an information session. The knowledge they have and the time they take to impart it to others is invaluable and truly appreciated.
It is just unfortunate that those who responded on Reddit and I have not had luck in our communication. For indeed, I have heard of others (funny enough on the Yahoo Group) whose communication with their DIR to be great.
Again, this has just been my experience and I welcome any comments on your experience contacting a DIR.
Join the pFS Newsletter!
Receive 5 lessons to help you prep, study, and practice for the FSOT.
Plus! By signing-up you are also joining hundreds of other FSO applicants in a communal pursuit to join the Foreign Service.