Their Advice

Interested in this career? Here is some advice.

While the State Department lists thirteen character dimensions for a successful Foreign Service Officer, including ‘motivation’ and ‘integrity,’ we asked the women, the practitioners themselves:

What characteristics did you recognize in yourself that made you believe this was the career for you? 
  • Curiosity & Inquisitiveness 
  • Good Radar
  • Decisiveness and Leadership
  • Perceptiveness
  • Judgement
  • Interest in a world beyond myself 
  • Intellectual chops
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Empathy
  • Affinity for Languages 
  • Ability to finesse and maneuver situations
  • Solid listening skills 
“Judgement, interpersonal skills, and intellectual chops.” Ambassador Marcie B. Ries

“First, don’t let anyone tell you there is something that you can’t do because you are a woman. Secondly, study as much international economics and finance as you can stomach. Third, you can be a woman and a professional at the same time, don’t ever doubt it.”

Ambassador Sally Shelton-Colby

“Do it. Put your fears aside, put your apprehensions away – and just do it. You are as capable as any other person coming into the Foreign Service and you can be as successful as any other person.” 

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield

“The qualities women bring to the Foreign Service are more needed today than ever. I beg you, think, and do. It really is a win-win for women”

Ambassador Pamela White
“If you want to join the Foreign Service, take the Foreign Service exam. If you don’t pass it the first time, do it again…until you get in. My other bit of advice is, if you are in the Foreign Service, look for the best people to work for. Don’t be particularly committed to a geographical area.”
Ambassador Nancy Ely-Raphel