Rarely a dull moment is one way to describe the work of an Executive Assistant who supports the work of the Diplomatic Service.
Our Executive Assistants in the Diplomatic Service (grade A2) usually spend the first two years on the job working in London which is followed by an overseas posting. An average day can range from helping to coordinate the smooth running of an Embassy and general clerical duties to organising a schedule for a Ministerial or Royal visit.
I joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office because I wanted a job where I could travel, and I've certainly done that! I hadn't considered working for the FCO until I got the temping job here to save some money to go travelling, again. When I found out that I could work for an organisation that offered a job that would be interesting, challenging, send me all over the world, and pay me to do so, well.... I asked, where do I sign up?
I joined the Executive Assistant Branch in 2001, a route that gave me great flexibility in how to develop my career. The great thing about the FCO is that you never get pigeon holed into going down one particular career path. I joined with a degree in geography, and a background in recruitment, and I'm now working as a diary secretary for one of the Ministers, so as you can see your options are wide open. We move jobs every two to three years, taking our new skills from one job onto the next, if you want to try something completely different, you can.
So back to all those places I travelled to. When I joined, as an A2, I worked in London for one 'posting', it is then suggested that you have two postings abroad, then back to London. That is pretty much the pattern you stick to as a member of the diplomatic service. My first job was in London as the PA to the Deputy Under Secretary, Wider World (now a Director General). After about 18 months I went to Vienna for my first overseas posting where I worked as the PA to the Deputy Head of Mission, UK Delegation to the Organisation Security and Co-operation in Europe. As well as all the usual PA work I was also able to attend the Permanent Council, attend the annual Ministerial in the Chair country and prepare the Delegation for when the UK took presidency of the European Union - in only my second job!
My next posting was as a gloriously titled Worldwide Floater. The FCO have a team of about 40 floaters, combining staff both at my grade A2 and the grade above, B3. We are deployed to Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates around the world to cover staff on leave or absences in jobs. This was an amazing experience, living and working in so many different countries; for me 13 in two years. Angola, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, China, Rangoon to name but a few. You are also exposed to such a variety of jobs: In Madrid I worked as an entry clearance officer, interviewing applicants for UK visas; in Kinshasa I was an assistant management officer, managing a team of workmen on the Embassy compound; and in South Africa I was a PA and worked with the team preparing for the visit of the Count and Countess of Wessex.
I'm now on my London 'posting' and working as I mentioned as the diary secretary to one of the Foreign Office Ministers - Gillian Merron MP. I recently passed my promotion board which again opens up more opportunities for where my career goes next. But at the moment I'm having such a great time in this job I don't want to think of what to do next. And the learning doesn't stop either. Working so closely with parliament brings new experiences every day and a great insight at the heart of Government.