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May 1999 Issue

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Estonia's Gateway to the West


Eight years ago, Estonians left 45 years of Marxist economics behind and jumped headlong into the world of free-market economics, adopting and adapting to capitalism with a vengeance.

Anyone assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn will very quickly recognize the trappings of a lively, consumer-oriented society--from neon lights and well-stocked supermarkets to the variety of cars on the streets. Thankfully, most of the new drivers in these cars no longer look upon red lights merely as "polite suggestions" to stop.



Why do we need to recruit at all? a senior Foreign Service officer asked me shortly after I joined State's recruiting team. "Aren't 10,000 people taking the Foreign Service exam every year enough?"

If only it were that simple.



Next month, thick 11x14-inch envelopes will arrive in the mailboxes of some 3,000 State and U.S. Information Agency Foreign Service members. The mailings represent the official start of the annual summer assignments cycle and the time for members of the Foreign Service to submit their "wish lists" for their next assignments.

It's a time of opportunity and anticipation--and sometimes, as Jim Williams, director of the Office of Career Development and Assignments, admits, of trepidation, too. "It's a very complicated process," said the 33-year Foreign Service officer. "And I can easily understand how someone coming into the system would have some concerns about it."


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1999 State Magazine, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Personnel

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