The new 2022 Foreign Service Core Precepts

The Foreign Service Core Precepts were updated this week, making for an exciting post! The Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM), in collaboration with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), and with input from the Department of State, significantly revised the Core Precepts used by Foreign Service Selection Boards to determine tenure and promotion.

Why does this matter? Continue to read to learn how promotion within the Foreign Service now changes and how this may alter the Foreign Service selection process.

What are the core precepts?

The Core Precepts reflect the competencies determined to be the most critical to successful service throughout a Foreign Service career and comprise the most essential competencies to advance.

Through evaluation of these competencies, Selection Boards identify and rank-order employees who demonstrate the potential to succeed in positions of greater responsibility.

Employees, raters, and reviewers are expected to view the Core Precepts as building block competencies. Effective work requirements and employee performance development are framed during a given rating period.

The Precepts are revised triennially by GTM in negotiation with AFSA and provide the guidelines by which tenure and selection boards determine the tenure and promotability of Foreign Service employees. The revised Core Precepts are for 2022-2023, 2023-2024, and 2024-2025 rating cycles.

What are the 2022 updates to the core precepts?

Streamlined for ease-of-use

The precepts are more concise. What was once six competencies to now the following five: 

  • Communication; 
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility; 
  • Leadership; 
  • Management; and 
  • Substantive and Technical Expertise.

Selection Boards must weigh all competencies equally, and no one precept is more important than another. 

Additionally, the table format (example) is now readable paragraph format. 

Each precept is divided into expectations for:

  1. All Members of the Foreign Service (all grades);
  2. As one advances in grade and/or responsibility and gains institutional experience (mid-level); and
  3. For those seeking promotion into and within the Senior Foreign Service, as well as consideration for performance pay,” thus providing guidance for entry-, mid-, and senior-level grades.

The new Precepts contain breakouts at the mid-level for those who are supervising to clarify expectations regarding talent management and development. 

More Inclusive – with a strong focus on DEIA

The new precepts seek to apply to all skill-codes, including Foreign Service Specialists. Additionally, there is a unique, dedicated precept for DEIA. This precept embodies the Department’s value of ensuring DEIA is integrated daily into all work.

Skills Necessary for the 21st Century

The significance of specific skills and competencies were given greater emphasis, including strategic risk-taking and learning from failure, institution building, and career-long learning and development. 

In addition, supervisory excellence and data literacy were given prominence in the new precepts. Supervisors need to take responsibility for the professional development of their staff and for enabling the success of their subordinates. Similarly, the Foreign Service workforce needs to know how to interpret data and make data-driven decisions and policies.

“Entry-level onward” core precepts

Since the audience for this site is geared towards those seeking to join the Foreign Service, let’s showcase each of the “entry-level onward” core precepts.

Communication

Writes and speaks clearly, concisely, and effectively, using well-organized, grammatically correct, and persuasive language. Demonstrates persuasion and negotiation skills as appropriate to position; influences internal and external stakeholders. Listens actively and respectfully, including to differing viewpoints. Develops proficiency at communicating across cultures and organizational lines. In language-designated positions, uses language skills appropriately and effectively as required by the position. When possible, addresses diverse audiences as a representative of the U.S. Government and the American people. Uses social media, emerging technologies, and traditional methods for public outreach as appropriate to position.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility

Takes advantage of opportunities to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in interactions with colleagues and interlocutors. Demonstrates inclusivity and respect in relations with colleagues and interlocutors. Proactively seeks and is receptive to feedback to improve one’s own self-awareness with respect to promoting inclusivity in the workplace. Builds, maintains, and fosters healthy, productive workplace relationships with all colleagues. Collaborates with others and achieves Department goals through inclusive teamwork. Exhibits cultural sensitivity with colleagues, including Locally Employed Staff and foreign interlocutors. Identifies and reports disrespectful and inappropriate workplace behaviors.

Leadership

Manages conflict constructively. Exhibits self-awareness, compassion, professionalism, and composure under pressure. Adapts behavior and work methods as needed in response to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles. Demonstrates critical reasoning and adaptability. Identifies the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches; outlines realistic options. Holds oneself accountable; seeks informal feedback in order to grow. Raises concerns appropriately and, when necessary, uses appropriate avenues for dissent. Demonstrates open-mindedness to change and innovation.

Management

Is well-prepared, dependable, and conscientious. Offers courteous customer service that responds to customers’ needs. Effectively manages human, financial, physical, and time resources, as appropriate to position. Utilizes internal controls to prevent waste, fraud, and mismanagement; reports concerns appropriately for further investigation. Takes responsibility for mistakes and learns from them. Remains calm and professional, and contributes to the protection of lives, property, and American interests in times of crisis. Protects classified information; observes security practices.

Substantive and technical expertise

Masters one’s own portfolio, to include pertinent rules, regulations, procedures, and specific technical skills. Maintains and applies institutional and subject matter knowledge and relevant technical expertise, as applicable to position. Embraces innovation and improves processes. Pursues training opportunities to keep abreast of professional standards, policies, programs, and trends. Develops as appropriate the ability to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information. Identifies the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches based on data-driven analysis, as appropriate. Develops interagency knowledge and understanding of foreign cultures and languages as appropriate to position. Understands the roles and authorities of the Department and other USG agencies. Applies that knowledge to build interagency cooperation and provide effective customer service. Meets language requirements for tenure; uses foreign language skills to enhance job performance and better serve customers.

How will the new core precepts impact the Foreign Service selection process?

Unclear. We know that the personal narratives are linked to the precepts (3 FAM 2216.2-3(B) Eligibility), but we have yet to see a change to the questions on the personal narratives. It probably wouldn’t take effect until the October 2022 FSOT window if one were to happen. However, there is also no guarantee that a change will occur. Though, given the language on the FAM, it would seem likely. 

What to do moving forward? 

Keep the new core precepts in mind, and make sure to double-check the published narrative prompts before you start writing. 

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