Transitioning out of the military was a difficult choice for me after spending nearly eight years on active duty. I only had 12 more years to go before retirement, but I felt it was time to move on and serve the public in a different capacity -- as a civilian. I knew I wanted to pursue a career with the U.S. Department of State either as a Civil Service employee or Foreign Service officer.
I recognized the path to my dream job with State would not be a linear one given the level of competition. I would need to work my way up to join the ranks of some of the most distinguished diplomats and civil servants our country has ever produced. I also knew that military had instilled certain values in me that I could leverage should the opportunity ever present itself, such as confidence, leadership, cultural adaptability, and reliability among other dimensions.
After transitioning out of the military, I immediately decided to go to college using assistance provided through the GI Bill to major in International Relations. It was there that a friend of mine informed me about the Pathways Internship program, which gives college students an opportunity to work for the federal government while they are pursuing a degree. I applied for the program with the Department of Defense and within a few months, I was working part-time in a human resources office at the Pentagon while going to school full-time.
At the completion of my degree program and with a ton of human resources knowledge under my belt, I was finally ready to apply for positions at State. I applied for a number of positions and was considered for a Recruitment Outreach Specialist position. During the interview, I channeled all the values I gained from my military experience and the knowledge from my degree program to impress the hiring managers. A few weeks later, I was notified that I was selected for the positon. It took close to a year for my security clearance to go through, but it was well worth the wait.
After receiving my security clearance, I finally came on board and within a few months was on my way to South Africa to learn about what my Foreign Service colleagues do in our embassies and consulates abroad. While in South Africa, I had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela and visiting Robben Island where he was incarcerated for 27 years during the apartheid era. That experience “sealed the deal” for me -- the State Department was the place to be!
Fast forward to today -- I have been at State for over a decade working alongside diplomats and civil service employees. Still enjoying my position as a Recruitment Outreach Specialist, I manage the veterans’ portfolio, which consists of reaching out to veterans on college campuses, military bases, social media and other fora to share information about the State Department’s career opportunities, as well as the benefits of working for the agency.
The benefits of working at State are many, particularly for veterans like myself. To name a few: as a veteran you can buy-back your military time to count toward your retirement at State. Similarly, you can simultaneously serve as a Reservist or National Guard member while working at State and count that time toward your retirement.
Additionally, under the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015, an employee hired on or after November 5, 2016, who is a veteran with a service-connected disability rating of 30 percent or more from the Veterans Benefits Administration is entitled to up to 104 hours of disabled veteran leave for the purposes of undergoing medical treatment. The State Department also has a very active affinity group for veterans called the Veterans@State that meets regularly to connect and empower veterans.
My advice to any veteran interested in applying for a position at State is to first visit our employment website -- careers.state.gov -- to learn about the various career opportunities we have to offer both domestically and abroad. You don’t need to be a foreign policy wonk to work at State; there are umpteen career choices to choose from including Information Technology, engineering, healthcare, facility management, office management, finance and more. On our careers website, you can sign up under the Keep Me Informed feature to receive email notifications when vacancies in your area of interest are posted.
Furthermore, if you are proficient in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, or Portuguese, you should also consider applying to become a Consular Fellow. Consular Fellows work in the consular section of an embassy adjudicating visas for foreign nationals among other duties and responsibilities. If you enjoy traveling to other countries with a penchant for experiencing different cultures, this position could allow you to travel abroad to one of over 265 different postings for two to three years at a time.
Whatever your passion, I can assure you that you will find the work at State challenging, rewarding, and adventurous. It all begins at careers.state.gov.
About the Author: Faisal Khan serves as a Recruitment Outreach Specialist in the Bureau of Human Resources at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.