Friday, May 29, 2009

The 3/50 Project

The 3/50 project is a creative way to support your local economy during the economic downturn.  I recently read about the project on simple + pretty and I wanted to spread the word.  The idea is to pick three independently owned stores that you would miss if they were gone and stop by and purchase something.  Can you imagine if just half of the working population of the U.S. spent $50 a month on independently owned stores?  It would total $42,629,700,000!  Learn more about the project on the 3/50 website.  Also, I agree with Emily from the scoop that this should include small businesses and independent artists who advertise on Etsy.  You can even search Etsy stores by location.  I'm in love with this french postcard series from my friends at this paper ship.  Available for purchase here.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ace Any Interview

Do you hate interviews? I know I do. It is a terrible, nerve-wracking process during which you never know exactly what the interviewer is looking for or if your answers succeeded in capturing your ability, experience, charm...
Well, there is hope: Did you know that most interviewers are nervous, too? They want desperately to find the right person for the job--but more often than not, very qualified people get accidentally weeded out because they don't know what the interviewer is looking for or their answers don't capture their ability, experience, and charm. Last summer I read an excellent book on this subject called What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. If you can ignore his egregious use of commas and some of the corny self-help chapters, you will find some really useful advice about job hunting. It won't help you choose a career, but it will help you frame your life experiences in such a way that stands out to interviewers and gets you the job you want. The gist of his advice is this: frame your answers as if they were short stories with a beginning middle and end. Start each answer with a problem, then show concrete steps you took to solve the problem, and finally explain the solution or lessons learned. I used his methods on the Qualifications Examination Panel (QEP) and the Foreign Service Oral Exam and would highly recommend the book to any job hunter.

The Qualifications Examination Panel is the second step towards becoming a Foreign Service Officer. After passing the Written Exam, applicants are invited to write a series of personal essays that answer questions about their leadership, management, interpersonal, communication, foreign language, and intellectual skills. I would like to direct readers once again to The Hegemonist, a more established Foreign Service blogger who has a whole section devoted to the Foreign Service Exam. You can find it here: The Hegemonist Guide to the Foreign Service Exam.

In my opinion, the personal essays aren't difficult, but they are worth careful consideration since many qualified people get eliminated in this step. Don't over-think your answers, and be sure not to exaggerate because you will be required to give references who can confirm what you discuss in your narratives.

Print by atwhim available for purchase on Etsy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

David and I went to Baltimore for the Memorial Day weekend and to celebrate my graduation and our wedding anniversary. We loved the idea of a staycation because cutting down on travel time and expense gave us the opportunity to do more of what we love. We ate yummy food all weekend including crabcakes, muscles, salmon, and Roy's melting hot chocolate souffle (thanks Marie for the recommendation!).
Baltimore is a charming city and a great day trip from DC. As opposed to the district, no one in Baltimore seemed to be in a hurry (or lost and frazzled). The weather was beautiful: just a little bit muggy with a cool sea breeze. The Baltimore Aquarium, Fells Point, and the Inner Harbor are also well worth the trip. It didn't hurt that we are also obsessed with The Wire. My photography skills need some work, so I borrowed this drool-worthy picture from nattokun on flickr. I would really like to be able to take pictures for the blog--does anyone have advice about buying a digital camera?

Friday, May 22, 2009


Before you sign up to take the foreign service test, you must first decide what it is you would like to do in the Foreign Service. You must choose one of five "cones," which include:

Political, Economic, Public Diplomacy, Management, and Consular.

The state department website has information about the different cones, but if you are seriously considering taking the test, I would recommend doing a little extra research and perhaps some informational interviews. The Hegemonist, a Foreign Service blogger, has also written about each of the cones--you can find the link here.

Because I am obsessed with culture and love working with people, I chose the Public Diplomacy track. Public Diplomacy (PD) is like Public Relations for America, and officers who work in this cone get to do a wide variety of tasks from working with the press to organizing cultural exchanges and attending cultural events. PD is also beginning to take advantage of new technology like twitter, blogging, and second life--a development that I find fascinating. I believe strongly that the arts and the public sphere are strong forces that bring people together and facilitate mutual understanding.

If you have time, check out the USC Center on Public Diplomacy wiki about PD and an informational video found on the CB3 communications blog.

If you want to know more about Public Diplomacy and New Technology, watch this TED lecture by new media guru Clay Shirky.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Isn't Spring Wonderful?

To all my friends who are recent grads:  You guys are amazing and I can't wait to see where you end up.  I know this time of year is stressful for many obvious reasons, but look at what's happening behind the scenes.  This picture of a bird's nest captured by the shutter sisters made me smile.  What a wonderful reminder about the beauty and hope in life.

Also, if you're looking for some entertainment, you can now make any landscape look like a miniature model landscape with the tilt-shift maker found on apartment therapy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dear friends

For those of you who don't already know, I am excited to announce that I will be joining the US Foreign Service.  That means that in less than a year, Dave and I will be moving overseas for two years to work for the State Department at an embassy or consulate.  This past year I have been going through the process of applying--taking exams, getting clearances--and now I finally received an offer to start training in June.  It is both exciting and daunting to have no clue where we will be sent.  Because this is not a typical career path, many of my friends and family members are apprehensive.   I started this blog to 
  1. clarify the confusing aspects of this lifestyle
  2. inspire and assist others interested in this career path
  3. keep track of the small wonders in life  
I have about a month now to rehabilitate the right side of my brain before I dive back into the books.  Dave and I are looking forward to watching movies, reading books, taking our wedding photos out of a ziplock bag, and sending handwritten letters (gasp!).  I'll end with some good advice found on happy cavalier:

Available for purchase here...