Tuesday, January 24, 2017


An important milestone in ones Foreign Service career is obtaining tenure. For specialists, one goes up for tenure after 24-36 months of service. To be granted tenure by the tenure board, you have to show the ability to successfully perform throughout ones career (see 3 FAM 2250 for more details). You get three shots at tenure, and after the third try if you aren't granted tenured you are separated from the Service (ie shown the door). Sounds easy, right? For my class, it wasn't that easy.

My class (the 130th Specialist) went up for tenure the first time in September 2014. When the cable (a cable is State Department speak for an "official email") came out, we submitted our EERs (Employee Performance Review documents) to HR in Washington. Most people had 2 EERs. Myself, due to having multiple supervisors during my first tour, I had 2 EERs and 2 Memorandums of Performance. All of my performance documents said I was performing superbly and at a high level and should be granted tenure. 

On the day we were traveling to Suva, I got the email one doesn't want to see. Our CDO (Career Development Officer) emailed almost our entire class saying we were denied tenure. Needless to say, my class was in shock. Traditionally (for IRM at least) tenure was granted for the first time to 90-95% of those eligible. This time, 80% of my class was denied tenure. The reasoning from the board was (for all of us) was they wanted to see "more overseas experience" - whatever that means.

I will admit being denied tenure was a blow to my ego. But I was determined to get tenure the second time up. When I arrived in Suva and had my first meetings with both of my supervisors, I mentioned to them I didn't get tenure and wanted to get it the second time, and wanted to work closely with them to ensure I was doing everything possible to get it. I also had some phone conversations with my CDO (who by the way was excellent and reassuring to me) on what I needed to do. 

This past August the cable came out saying I was up for tenure again. This time, I spent a lot of time reflecting on not only my current EER, but my past EER's as well. One suggestion my CDO had was the tenure board looks closely at a section of your EER call "area for improvement". This is an area that your supervisor writes and says where you may have a weakness and what you should improve upon. There are about 7 categories to chose from. In my last EER, my supervisor said I needed to get more confidence in expressing my ideas to those at a higher grade than me. In discussions with my CDO, he said the board really wants to see how you are addressing your previous area for improvement. Before my EER was written, I had spent my time in Suva working on my area for improvement, ie gaining confidence in myself when expressing ideas to those at a higher grade. Due to Suva being a small Post, I have the luxury of having almost daily interactions with the Management Officer, Deputy Chief of Mission and Ambassador. 

When I wrote my EER, I made it a point to mention that I had taken the previous area for improvement to heart and what I was doing to work on it, with concrete examples. Also, at the suggestion of some colleagues, I wrote examples of what I was doing to impact not only Post but "big Washington". All in all, I spent about a month writing and editing my EER. In September, it was sent in to Washington and the wait began.

I was hoping to find out before Christmas if I had gotten tenure or not. One thing I failed to mention is before the cable saying you got tenure comes out, those who did not receive tenure had to be contacted by their CDO advising them they did not get it. That is the email/phone call one does not want to get. Every day I would wake up hoping not to see an email from my current CDO. A few weeks ago, a few of my classmates received the dreaded email. Since we all keep in touch, we were all scrambling to look and see if we got one. Nothing was in my inbox. For the next 3 days I held my breath hoping not to get the email. Nothing came in. A coworker of mine finally told me if I hadn't heard by now, I'm safe. Nothing is safe until I see the cable.

Finally about a week or so ago I got the news. It was via Facebook from a friend of mine. The post said "congratulations on tenure". I grabbed by Blackberry and sure enough there was the cable, saying I was granted tenure! I can't tell you how happy I was to have this lingering cloud gone.

So what happens now. Well I've sent in my information to Washington so they can send me a certificate (signed by the Secretary of State) saying I am a career member of the Foreign Service. When Officers are granted tenure, their tenure certificate is signed by the President. Also by being tenured, I am considered a mid-level officer. If need be, we can extend or curtail our tours without having to jump through as many hoops. We are also subject to time in class/time in service requirements for the current grade you are. Also, I am considered as "competitive service" in the Federal hiring process. 

In closing, it has been a somewhat stressful 3 years while waiting for tenure. I want to thank all of those who have helped me and given me suggestions along the way. I couldn't have done it without you. Also, a big thanks to Deb for having faith in me and keeping my spirits up when they were down. We did it!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations!!! I hope you are celebrating in Suva style! We'll toast a Windhoek lager in your honor from our neck of the globe!