Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Flag Day

Finally! They day we've all been waiting for has arrived. That's right, it's FLAG DAY! Today we received sweet, sweet resolution to the giant question looming over our head for the last week. Would we get our first choice post? What about our second...? Tenth!? Well, good news; I got my first choice! Chennai, India!!!

Being called relatively early in the ceremony was a mixed blessing, because it was difficult to maintain interest in all of my classmates posting assignments... when I really wanted to be running back to my family to exult in our upcoming move. That being said, I powered through and watched the rest of my classmates learn their fate. The majority I spoke with got their top choice, with a small handful getting their second or third (and one getting their fourth). I didn't memorize everyone's bid list, nor did I speak to everyone, but on a whole I'd say we did pretty well! The last bit of good news I received today is that my estimated departure date is June 26th, which our Career Development Officer (CDO) said was the earliest date for any post!

Time to furiously research my upcoming new home... in the mean time, enjoy these random pictures from the internet.

US Consulate Chennai.
Chennai Panorama.


  1. Looking at your mile markers, wonder why you had the flag day (February) way sooner than your graduation (June)? Also, is there any tips and tricks to do with the bid list? For example, if you put your most favorite country on the bottom or in the middle of the bid list, would you have a better chance to get it than putting it on the very top? There might be a strategy other than a pure luck. I've read somewhere that you put down your most to least favorite countries in different continent groups. OR maybe you just put down a number of countries. Well, it looks like you had lots of fun at the ceremony.

  2. Flag Day is part of your orientation (A-100 for non-specialists). Generally speaking, you'll know where you're going around 2 weeks after being hired so that you can begin the process of getting visas and travel orders. We had a graduation day from Orientation (Post: http://im-fss.blogspot.com/2014/02/oath-of-office.html). After Orientation, IMS go to "Core Training" which lasts around 14 weeks. The mile marker is referring to graduation from that.

    On bidding:
    Your Career Development Officer (CDO) chooses everybody's first post. Everybody has their own strategy to bidding, but they mostly revolve around managing expectations and compromise. Your bid list contains one city for every person and you have to rank every city, in my case it was 1 to 23. If you really really really want to go somewhere, you should always put it at the top of your list, because you might get it. I bid based on four simple strategies:
    1) Not everybody can go to . So we picked posts we would really like to go to, but wouldn't be everyone's first post. That way if everyone puts (picking a random post here) London as their first pick, except us... we're more likely to get our first pick. If everyone picks 1-London, 2-Chennai, and I pick 1-Chennai, 2-London... Guess who gets Chennai? Sure it wasn't my first choice, but it was a high pick.
    2) Don't put a post that is a logical location for a tandem couple's placement as your first choice. Tandems (often, but not always) get priority, so don't 'waste' your first choice on a place that someone else is a shoe-in for.
    3) Create a high desirable "buffer" between your top choices and your bottom choices. We placed countries that (we thought) were other people's highest desirability posts as 5-10 on our list. Idea being they'd have to give us one of our first four picks, or drop all the way down to our 11th choice.
    4) Don't be the highest bidder on a post that no one wants to go to. In my class the person who went to the least desirable post was the person who had it listed higher on their list (albeit still in their bottom 25%).

    That being said, the most important thing is to be flexible. You don't know everything about every post. Many of the highest 'glamour' posts are also the highest curtailment posts and have very low morale. 'Hardship' posts tend to have much tighter diplomatic communities. Besides, Chennai is listed as a hardship post, and many (if not most) of the people posted here (including us) love it.

    Remember, your city preferences are based on where you want to live for two years - not cities where you would like to vacation. This is an important distinction because many day to day aspects of life are already chosen for you, e.g. small posts may give you more responsibility but fewer potential contacts for your Corridor Reputation, embassies can be outside the main city center, housing may be far from the consulate, the houses may be clumped together or dispersed throughout the city, a beach vacation is fun but small islands offer very little other activities, etc.