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Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work, The Essential Guide to the Foreign Service Paperback – April 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Shawn Dorman is the associate editor of the Foreign Service Journal and directs the book program for the American Foreign Service Association. She has written extensively on issues related to the diplomatic career. A former U.S. Foreign Service political officer, Dorman has served in Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, and Russia and in the State Department Operations Center in Washington, DC. She lives with her family outside Baltimore.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books; 3rd edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0964948842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0964948846
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Global_Nomad on April 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book goes far beyond the traditional image of a U.S. diplomat abroad, providing the perspectives of people in all of the Foreign Service careers and some of their family members.

Part I profiles members of the Foreign Service in the different generalist `cones' (economic, political, consular, and management) and specialist career tracks (medical doctors, office management specialists, etc).

The second part explains how all the different positions examined in the book work together under the head of the mission. There is also an interesting piece in Part II that provides insight into what it takes to coordinate an official visit from the perspectives of four Foreign Service officers working on it. The day-in-the life journals in Part III open a window into the variety of work that people in these different positions perform in a given day.

Part IV is a series of very different 1-3 page stories (`tales from the field'). Where Part III focuses more on everyday work and life, these stories in Part IV are focused on more extraordinary times. A couple of these center around dangerous situations from the perspective of being `on the ground' in the embassy as it as attacked - or coordinating the evacuation of US citizens from a foreign country during a time of upheaval.

Some of these stories are really touching and inspiring - like that of a specialist in Liberia who finds himself in a unique position to make a small difference in the local community, or an Ambassador in the Balkans who is able to calm an angry riot and prevent the mob's scapegoating of some innocent refugees.

The guide to the hiring process in Part V is helpful. Instead of focusing on just passing the written exam like most test prep books, it guides the applicant through the entirety of the process. A lot of junior officers are also included in various parts of the book, which provides a solid view of what to expect at the start of the career.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jon Y. on January 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
As a college student considering joining the Foreign Service in the future, I applaud Ms. Dorman's efforts in successfully creating a comprehensive overview and guide of this oftentimes mysterious and "wrapped under covers" field.

While a quick Google search of the 'Foreign Service' may give readers a most general sense of what a Foreign Service career may encompass, "Inside a U.S. Embassy" portrays the career in a much more detailed, honest and interesting light. For example, in the first section of the book, Dorman clearly breaks down the different roles and positions found within each U.S. Embassy. Rather than doing this in a laundry-list, bland-type format, she explores each of the different positions, ranging from Ambassador all the way to the equivalent of a local administrative assistant, from the eyes of somebody actually in that position.

She uses this technique for each section of the book - giving the reader insight into the realities of Foreign Service families and providing anecdotal passages in the form of "In a Day of the Life of a (different FSO positions)."

Perhaps the most important of the book for me personally was the last section, which included a detailed step-by-step look at the process in which one can become a Foreign Service Officer. Although everyone agrees upon the long, bureaucratic process of becoming a FSO, almost nobody takes the time to clearly breakdown the particular steps from Day 1 of the process until A-100 training day as this book does. It gives an overview of each part of the FSO Test, as well as the procedures and steps needed after one passes the initial FSO tests, including the security and background clearances and language tests.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kate S. on May 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Foreign Service diplomats and specialists are truly the unsung heroes of American foreign policy." This statement embodies the all-new third edition of Inside a U.S. Embassy: DIPLOMACY AT WORK. The editor, Shawn Dorman, is a former diplomat and clearly no stranger to the inner workings of the Foreign Service. This book is indeed an essential guide to all things diplomatic as she elaborates upon the broad spectrum of positions, personalities and experience that work abroad in a U.S. Embassy entails.

The five sections carefully dissect and outline the roles of each essential officer, the lives that they lead abroad, journal entries detailing personal experience, the embassy machine in action, closing with tips and advice for prospective entry level officers. Not only does Dorman relay these details through matter-of-fact descriptions, engaging diagrams, lists, maps and photos from around the world, she also incorporates an empathetic aspect through inclusion of the emotions that accompany international friendships, constant uprooting of families, the trials of culture barriers, and many other obstacles that our nation's Foreign Service Officers face every day - in service of us. We are finally able to get an inside view into the lives of everyone - spouses, entry level officers, ambassadors, security officers and the like - who plays an essential role in America's foreign diplomacy in places far and wide - from a Tandem in India to a mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to everywhere in between. This is truly a guide into the inner workings of the machine that is a U.S. Embassy and Dorman paints a thorough, realistic, and all-encompassing picture of every working screw. This book would be useful for anyone thinking about a diplomatic career or anyone curious about what our diplomats do inside those embassy gates.
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