Sometimes we just need a good pity party.  Join me:

Yesterday NPR’s Morning Edition ran a brief story on a Foreign Service Officer, Elizabeth Colton, who is suing the U.S. State Department over its mandatory retirement age of 65 for members of the Foreign Service (that’s our diplomatic corps).  As someone who is trying to get into the Foreign Service, it’s hard to avoid a strong reaction to such a story.  First, it sounds like Ms. Colton is an interesting person, has a huge range of talents and experiences and is, no doubt, using her experience to serve our country well.   It says something about a person when she is willing to give up what sounds like a successful career in order to start over in a career that is as much about service and sacrifice as it is about the perks of the diplomatic lifestyle.

Yet the article makes it sound like there is no one to take Ms. Colton’s place when she retires.  Here I am, NPR.  I am waiting in the wings.  If anyone reads this and happens to be aware of the craziness of the Foreign Service application process, I am in the limbo phase. This means I have passed the Oral Assessment, have a conditional offer of employment but am waiting on my security clearance and final suitability review to be put on a list of eligible hires.  I have a low score and would likely be on the bottom of any list of eligible hires until I can boost myself with language points.  This may mean I may never get hired off the list and my application will simply expire and I start the process over. As someone in this strange position, I can say, that there are hundreds of people currently on the registers who have all received clearances and are waiting to be hired. That is a whole crop of young talent waiting to be harvested.

Although I sympathize with Ms. Colton (shouldn’t people be able to work in jobs they love, so long as they do it well?),  it’s hard not be frustrated by the current job market for young professionals.  For many, these will simply be wasted years.  I feel fortunate to have the job I do have while I wait to see if I will become a Foreign Service Officer in the coming months.  Yet, it doesn’t seem like we are doing a good job of balancing easing young professionals into careers while easing out older professionals.  What is often not reported is that for young people (30 and under), unemployment numbers currently match those of our age group during the Great Depression.  We are the mini-depression within the recession and it is…uh…depressing.  Maybe the thought is that we are young enough to have parents willing to support us, but that certainly isn’t true for anyone I know. Although I’m all for Ms. Colton extending her “dream” life, it would be nice if there was a little more sensitivity to us bottom-feeders who are waiting for some semblance of the dream to start.

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