I am a Foreign Service “generalist.” We are expected to work in any of the several kinds of position in the State Department. There are five “cones” of work. In my first tour, I did Consular work. During my first year in Vietnam, I was a Consular officer again for one year. Now in my second year, I have switched to being a Public Diplomacy officer.
When I applied to work in the State Department, I opted Public Diplomacy as my cone of choice. The Public Affairs Section is the public face of the Department. It interfaces with the media (both traditional and new media), and manages all the cultural and educational programs that embassies and consulates perform. During my year as a Fulbright scholar, I worked with Foreign Service officers in the Public Affairs section in country. They impressed me so much that I started to think about the Foreign Service as a new career direction. And now, here I am.
I’ve been in the new job for three weeks already. My main portfolio is the press and social media. I oversee our Facebook presence. Something like 37% of the Vietnamese people are on Facebook, meaning that there is a serious conversation happening on that platform, and we want to participate in it. I am also involved in writing statements for the press on issues as they come up. I meet with visitors and help arrange interviews with the press. It’s more press work than I had expected, but I also get to do a lot of educational and cultural work, too.
This is the first time that I’ve worked “in cone.” I really enjoy Consular work. But the reason that I joined the Foreign Service was to do Public Diplomacy work, and I’m thrilled to finally be doing the kind of work that I signed up for. We have a great team of hard-working locally-engaged staff. It’s going to be another interesting and eventful year.