Monday, July 12, 2010

None of your bid-ness

July 12 was supposed to be a red-letter day: the day USAID HR would release the priority bidding list. At last, Nick and I would be able to answer the question that everyone -- friends, family, and colleagues alike -- has been asking us: where are you going to go when you're done with Afghanistan?

For the uninitiated, the bid list is the process by which a foreign service officer (FSO) picks which post s/he goes to next. (I think the process is essentially the same for USAID and State, although of course we're looking at different positions and posts. But just FYI that any time I talk about FSOs in this post, I'm talking about USAID employees.) In very basic terms, HR sends out a list of all of the jobs available at all of the USAID missions throughout the world. Nick, and everyone else serving at a critical threat post, get to bid before the rest of USAID. Nick and I review the list, pick three countries that sound like fun, and then we get assigned to one of them. Quick and painless, right?


According to colleagues with significant bidding experience and the booklet we received from HR titled "Tips for first time bidders", bidding is a long and complicated process. Deciding which posts to bid on involves more than just looking at a map and picking what country we'd like to see next. We have to take into consideration:
  • Nick's career trajectory
  • how difficult it might be for me to get a job outside the Embassy (or if it's even allowed)
  • how far away from our families we want to be for the next four years (the duration of most USAID posts)
  • whether it's a language-designated post (requiring us to move to DC temporarily so Nick can do language training)
  • the different benefit packages associated with each mission (danger and locality pay differ from country to country)
  • the security situation, and
  • the overall quality of life.

The last two points -- as well as the second bullet -- are especially important as we move into the potential baby making/adopting years. Wait, don't get excited (I'm looking at you, Parents X, Parents M, and Sister J). It's not something we're looking at in the immediate future. But it is something in the back of our minds, and something we need to consider when picking where we're going to be living from ages 31-35.

Needless to say, the buildup to the release of the bid list has been intense. We've been tossing around our "dream" locations, trying to get inside information on what positions will be open, grilling our colleagues about the pros and cons of the missions at which they previously served, and doing a lot of thinking and talking about whether a career in the foreign service is right for us. Nick has even been counting down the days to the release of the bid list, until I asked him to stop because just thinking about all of the variables and the implications and the...bigness of it all made my head hurt. So I was really looking forward to today. July 12. Bid list release day. The day when the fuzzy, shapeless mess that is our future would become just a little bit more clear.

Except that it didn't happen. Saturday morning an email went out to all USAID staffers: "Due to unforeseen circumstances, HR must delay indefinitely the release of the bid list for priority bidders."

So today ended up being just another Monday, like all the other Mondays in Afghanistan before it. And the waiting resumes.


  1. hi, my name is whitney. i am entering the FSO next month and have been reading your blog for information on what it would be like. I was curious what BS your husband is and how you ended up in Afghanistan with posting. Since everything ive read says that shouldn't be your first posting. thanks for your time!

  2. Hi Whitney--

    Nick isn't entering the FS through the normal track. He's doing a GS to FS conversion (he's been with USAID since 2004). Basically, GS employees can apply for certain FS positions that have gone through 2 bidding cycles without being filled. These tend to be at CPCs. Nick had his choice of Sudan, Iraq or here.

    With that said, when he bids Nick will be BS02.

    And I think that we have a few DLIs who are here on their first post, although I think they all have previous experience working overseas.

    Good luck with your new career!

  3. ouch. That's really lousy. Hope it comes out soon.

  4. we are thinking about you! and we do look forward to sometime in the future when "cousins" can play together.

    Wow from your reply to your above post I can almost have a whole bowl of alphabet soup!

  5. Hah! You should hear us talk shop. With all the acronyms, it barely sounds like english!

  6. Arghhh. Bidding is horrible. Here's hoping there are some good posts on your list.