The ones who keep the embassy or consulate running, the Foreign Service Management Officers are in charge of projects both small and large. Staff leaders, management officers supervise (potentially several) local staff from the beginning, and are trained to be able to manage real estate, human resources, logistics, construction, budgeting, and more.
What follows are three written pieces, by the Department of State (DoS), the American Foreign Service Association, and the DoS “Becoming a Foreign Service Officer” brochure, to assist you in better understanding what the Management Officer does.
Department of State Main Website
Creative, fast-thinking problem-solvers who handle diverse challenges.
As a Management Officer, you’ll use your professional background to serve your country — meeting everyday challenges head-on while you learn new skills and enjoy outstanding beneﬁts.
Myth: Management Officers do “in-house” routine work and do not rise to become ambassadors.
Reality: Nothing is routine about managing an embassy or consulate! Management Officers are the “go-to” leaders at U.S. embassies. They are resourceful and creative, as they manage all embassy operations, from real estate to human resources, from security to budget. Management officers make diplomacy work, and many advance to the level of ambassador, where such skills are highly valued.
Management officers develop efficient, on-target solutions in fast-paced and mission-critical situations and have multi-disciplinary responsibilities in complex situations:
- Managing multi-million-dollar real estate and other assets, including the construction of new embassy and consulate facilities.
- Coordinating with other U.S. agencies in embassies to work efficiently as a team.
- Coordinating visits of and interacting with senior officials.
- Promoting leadership and professional development of staff.
- Negotiating agreements with host countries on issues ranging from taxation to social security to embassy construction.
- Ensuring the security of U.S. personnel and installations.
The American Foreign Service Association
Management officers run our embassies. Similar to managers in multinational firms, State Department management officers handle all of an embassy’s human resources, budget and finance, real estate and property matters, in a multicultural, multilingual environment.
It is not necessary to come into the Foreign Service with previous management, human resources, or budget experience in order to be a successful management officer. What the State Department’s extensive training program does not teach, the management officer learns on the job. More important, however, than technical skills is a management officer’s ability to lead. The management cone is about supervising, mentoring, advising, and deciding.
Our managers often head large sections very early in their careers, directing the work of sometimes hundreds of local-hire staff. Some have been on the job for years. Others are new hires, completely unfamiliar with the embassy environment and American work culture. Some do not speak English well, so the management officer has to communicate with them using a language just learned. The officer needs to find ways to relate to all of these employees, finding different ways to motivate them.
The management officer’s goal is to provide the best possible service to his or her colleagues—to ensure they have what they need to carry out the embassy’s mission. Management officers oversee the technical staff providing our communications systems, direct the work of staff responsible for improving family member morale, and chair countless committees—from those ensuring mission resources are being utilized fairly among various U.S. government offices represented at the embassy, to those assigning housing to incoming officers and those giving awards to employees.
Being privy to just about everything that is going on in a mission, the management officer is one of the ambassador’s closest advisers, keeping the executive office informed on everything from morale issues to the embassy’s obligations under U.S. and local laws.
In contrast to officers in some of the other career tracks, where the impact of a particular policy or program can take years or decades to materialize, management officers can point to tangible accomplishments every day. If you like to get things done, are comfortable making decisions, have good people skills and like being in charge, the management track may be right for you.
Becoming a Foreign Service Officer Brochure
Following is an overview of a potential progression as a Management Officer:
- Run a unit within the management section of a large embassy, or be the sole Management Officer at a small post
- Plan and problem-solve for your customers, from the Ambassador to every local and American staff member (and their families)
- Maintain a wide array of contacts with host-country officials and local business people
- Hone your foreign language capabilities, test your negotiating skills and learn what works in the host country’s culture and what doesn’t
- Supervise more employees than your peers in other career tracks and have autonomy to resolve administrative problem
- Run a management section in a medium-size embassy or consulate, or perhaps supervise human resources or other major unit at a large embassy
- Develop and manage multi-million dollar budgets, lease and maintain government-owned and short-term leased residences and office buildings and provide the logistical platform to support dozens of high level visits
- Negotiate with host government authorities over diplomatic privileges and immunities, applications of tax reciprocity laws and family member employment
- As with other career tracks, become a Deputy Chief of Mission, an Ambassador, or a Principal Officer at a large consulate, or a Management Counselor at a larger post
- If serving in Washington, D.C., you may be an Office Director, Executive Director, or Deputy Assistant Secretary, directing resources to support the work of posts throughout a region, managing the Department’s global logistics or building programs, or coordinating recruitment, training, or assignments of Foreign Service personnel
Looking for more information?
Along with the publications listed above as great resources to review, FSO Compass has interviews with current and former diplomats to help you gain a better idea of what the role is all about.
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