Marianne McCurrie

Global Diplomat

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Wednesday 29 October, 2008

Probably the best job in the Foreign Office.................

I probably have the best job in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (well at my grade anyway), so I thought I should share the experience. Mainly with anyone thinking of working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), but also for anyone else who wants to know what kind of things we are doing around the world. So welcome to my new blog. This is my first overseas job and involves travelling the world to our various missions, covering for staff temporarily absent for one reason or another. I spend between 3 weeks and 3 months in each place and the whole thing will last for two years in total. My first assignment was Panama in June 2007 after three (rather long, but stimulating) years in London and six months of training courses. A downside is my job title’s unfortunate connotations – World-wide Floater – but I can just about live with that.

You join me in one of the more cushy postings – Victoria in the Seychelles. So yes, it’s all amazing beaches, palm trees and jealous friends and relatives. The sea is an incredible colour ranging from jade green and turquoise to deep electric blue. I’ve only been here two weeks and leave for my next post in another two, but I have hit that point where I feel settled and new possibilities are opening up. With my pale Celtic skin, I have decided that I am better off under the sea rather then turning into a human lobster next to it on the beach, so I have started diving. And that is leading to new friends and a preoccupation with understanding the physics of pressure.

So what exactly do I do? Well pretty much any of the jobs relevant to my grade (I joined as a mainstream graduate, called “operational entrants”). That means consular work (passports and helping Brits in distress mainly), visa work, management work (supervising the accounts, day-to-day operation of the mission, countless information returns to London), some IT and admin support, event organising, tea making and any other random request. It also explains why I spent so long in training. I have covered jobs at the grade below and up to three grades above so far (which is a brilliant opportunity for development) and in very different environments from Sierra Leone to Denmark. That is why for me, this is the best job I could have chosen. When it is time for me to pick another overseas posting, where I will remain for typically 3 – 4 years, I will know what job I want, what size of post and where I think I’d like. And that’s not to mention the amazing time I’m having in all these different countries that I would never normally get to see. This is the reason I joined the FCO and I love it.

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Well.. Variety is certainly the spice of life..never has a truer word been spoken. Enjoy your diving in the Indian Ocean. I doubt whether the sea conditions around Denmark will match the pristine waters of the Seychelles.. I'm guessing the temperature might be slightly different also.! Good luck in your travels. Stop by the Cayman Islands one day and we'll show you some proper dive sites.!

Posted by Kevin Ashworth on October 30, 2008 at 04:26 PM GMT #

Well said Marianne and lets hope the FCO has moved on enough to appreciate that its all right to enjoy the smooth - there's plenty of rough! After all, all it needs is a local natural disaster and there's the payback for the good times! Me, ex FCO spouse, still married, she's ex FCO and a whole range of posts, some cushy, some challenging to say the least. I hope the line manageent has improved since we travelled the world at HM's expense, that was the real payback for us - great countries, lovely people but often a selection of managers who ... well enough of that!

Posted by Simon Mallett on November 03, 2008 at 06:34 PM GMT #

Hello Marianne, I'm glad my tax money is being spent on a 'cushy' posting - when you should be up to your ears in paperwork, we need extra value for money and we need every pennysworth of effort from you... Seriously, I think most of us back home would regard the Seychelles as 'cushy' - you are quite correct. But you shouldn't rub our noses in it! Of course I'm jealous as I sit here in freezing cold Teesside, and I envy your privileged position. I'm sure you earned it and that you work hard, but a little less focus on your leisure time is appropriate! Tell us some of the problems of the Seychelles, and what the FCO is doing there.... Anyway, have a swim in the sea for me, (I can't in the North Sea - not ever). Mark

Posted by Mark C on November 03, 2008 at 08:18 PM GMT #

Well Marianne, It seems that Eddie's Mairs PM listeners, like me, are glad you are having a good time. Nice to read your description and for you to brighten up our lives,

Posted by jonnie on November 04, 2008 at 11:32 AM GMT #

Well id be glad to see my tax money is being well spent, but sadly you are not getting a tan. Thankyou for your human post, while it is annoying in many ways to see the 25%+ of the money (not to mention the rest of the stealth taxes) I earn going towards this lousy government, with their bloat, incompetancy, lies and corruption, at least one normal sounding person seems to be raking it in along with them. Best of luck

Posted by Kev on November 04, 2008 at 04:40 PM GMT #

Guess you can kiss any hopes of making the policy grade in the next 10 years goodbye!

Posted by Sholto on November 05, 2008 at 09:37 AM GMT #

Why are you being paid a London-based FCO salary to fly multiple times all around the work to do administrative functions which local staff could be recruited to do on a much cost-effective basis?

Posted by Will Meek on November 06, 2008 at 11:17 AM GMT #

All you guys bitching about her enjoying the Seychelles ... sounds like a bad case of sour grapes

Posted by roger on November 07, 2008 at 06:35 AM GMT #

Congratulations on making 'quote of the day' on the BBC web-site! Actually an interesting link for me - I didn't know people like you did official blogs. I've just started a distance learning unit on third world economics. It would be nice to compare and contrast academic theory with first hand experience. So tell us what the Seychelles are really like!

Posted by Michael Grazebrook on November 08, 2008 at 03:04 PM GMT #

Hello Marianne, I found the link to your blog whilst having a nose about on the careers section of the FCO website. I enjoyed reading the latest two posts (congratulations on the 'cushy' posting!). I'm commenting as a way of contacting you; I have some questions about working for the Foreign Office and you mention in your blog that you're keen to help attract new recruits. So if you had a minute or two free would you mind sending me an e-mail, so that I can pose my questions somewhere a little less public? I'm sure I'll regret posting my e-mail on a blog that's splattered all over google, but what's life without a little risk: Then again I understand completely if you don't even see this post, or can't find time to help me out. Sincerely, and hopefully, Bruno Szota

Posted by Bronek Szota on November 27, 2008 at 12:28 PM GMT #

Those who have commented negatively about your posting to the Seychelles show an unfortunate ignorance of how the FCO operates. I would also like to comment on those who have said that local people should be employed wherever possible. I am sure that there are roles where this is practical and advisable. However, the FCO is supposed to promote and sustain UK interests overseas and as such should surely be staffed by people from the UK. Good luck with your next posting!

Posted by Toby Crozier on December 07, 2008 at 09:12 PM GMT #

Bruno, thanks for your comment. My focus is to answer questions publicly on the blog, so that others can see the answers too. But you could look out for our next careers fair where you can put specific questions to current FCO staff.

Posted by Marianne on December 08, 2008 at 05:44 PM GMT #

Hello Marianne, I found your blog very interesting and think you should ignore those jealous postings. I am interested in a career with the FCO. I am currently at King's College London studying for a Geography BA. Looking at the career descriptions on the 'Working for us' section, there are a number of jobs I would love when I have graduated. Especially as travel is my passion. I wondered if in one of your next blogs you could mention briefly your route into the FCO, to give people like myself an insight into joining the FCO. Thanks, enjoy your posting in the Seychelles!

Posted by Matthew Sales on December 23, 2008 at 03:13 PM GMT #

"Those who have commented negatively about your posting to the Seychelles show an unfortunate ignorance of how the FCO operates." -Which is presumably why the FCO is doing blogging, Toby... "I found your blog very interesting and think you should ignore those jealous postings. I am interested in a career with the FCO." -Well you would say that, Matthew, you want to work for them! And presumably get your own cushy posting!

Posted by Mark C on January 21, 2009 at 10:53 PM GMT #

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