OpinionLet’s Drink to That

Let’s Drink to That


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LOUIS, MISSOURI–I was scrolling through Facebook while waiting for my espresso martini to be served at Petterino’s, a cozy Italian restaurant just a stone’s throw away from Chicago’s Christkindl Market when I stumbled upon an announcement on the next run of the Foreign Service Officers Exam. It’s been around ten years since I took this exam and I’d have to be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most nerve-wracking exams in my life. Yet, I would also be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most enjoyable.

The Foreign Service Officers Exam (FSOE) unfolds in five stages, a rigorous journey for those aspiring to become Foreign Service Officers. Starting with the Qualifying Exam—an aptitude test covering English, Math, and Statistics—the process includes a Preliminary Interview resembling a job interview with diplomats and experts, a dreaded Written Exam spanning topics from current events to foreign languages, a Psychological Exam, and the final Oral Exam, a comprehensive test of public speaking and social graces. Advancing from one stage to the next is a feat, with thousands attempting the Qualifying Exams but only a handful making it to the final stage. I still remember the day I learned I made it, fresh from a Hatha Yoga session a decade ago.

Achieving success in the FSOE demanded a blend of luck and hard work. While the comprehensive nature of the exam made perfect preparation impossible, I was fortunate that the content aligned with my interests, turning review sessions into a relaxing rather than a painful experience. Enjoyable as it was, effort remained essential. It demanded plenty of grit, discipline, and perseverance to bring myself to study after exhausting eight-hour drives or lengthy client meetings. The exam’s reputation as the most difficult government-administered test preceded itself, motivating–if not scaring–me to give it my best shot.

The entire FSOE process can stretch up to a year. A piece of advice for aspirants: don’t resign from your current job until you’ve received news of success. Joblessness and soaring inflation don’t make a pleasant mix, a lesson some people learned the hard way.

Describing myself as neither extremely cautious nor ready to take a plunge without knowing what’s at the bottom, I embarked on the FSOE journey while firmly tied to my full-time corporate job. Juggling at least 12 hours of work daily, thanks to its travel-intensive nature, and dedicating the rest of my time to FSOE preparation wasn’t an ideal scenario. However, my dogged determination to switch careers saw me through.

In hindsight, taking the FSOE turned out to be the easiest part of being in the Foreign Service. I will spare you the gory details of Hunger-Games-Meets-Game-of-Thrones scenarios. Suffice to say, my career has been a cocktail of lessons, experiences, and conflicting emotions. Just like crafting the signature drink, building a career in international relations requires a skillful blend of various elements. As a toast to a decade since passing the FSOE, I’m going to share with you a secret, homemade recipe to stir up a satisfying and maybe refreshing career in diplomacy. Let’s call this drink:

Diplomatic Swirl


Communication (2 oz)

  • 1 oz Active Listening
  • 0.5 oz Empathy Syrup
  • 0.5 oz Clear Articulation

Negotiation Essence (1.5 oz)

  • 1 oz Compromise
  • 0.5 oz Tactful Persuasion
  • A Dash of Patience (Sometimes, an entire bottle is needed)

Office Politics Syrup (1 oz)

  • 0.5 oz Connections and network, extra strong
  • 0.5 oz Trustworthy Alliances Extract

Mentorship and Coaching Infusion (0.5 oz)

  • A Splash of Sage Guidance
  • 1 Dash of Real Talk

Friendship Fusion (0.5 oz)

  • A Trustworthy Circle
  • 1 Dash of Reliability Elixir

Global Harmony Splash (1 oz)

  • 0.5 oz Cultural Intelligence Extract
  • 0.5 oz International Cooperation Infusion

Leadership Twist (1.5 oz)

  • 1 oz Moral Compass
  • A Splash of Confidence
  • 1 Dash of Strategic Vision

Humor Elevation (0.25 oz)

  • Witty Banter Essence
  • A Pinch of Lightheartedness

Problem-Solving Garnish

  • Diplomatic Creativity Slice
  • Garnish with Solution-Oriented Zest


  1. In a shaker, blend the ingredients for the Communication Elixir. Shake thoroughly to ensure a seamless and harmonious mixture.
  2. Add the Negotiation Essence to the shaker. Gently stir, embracing the art of compromise. Adjust the vigor based on the situation, recognizing when a stronger approach is necessary.
  3. Pour in a dollop of Office Politics Syrup, infusing the mixture with strong connections and trustworthy alliances. Adjust the intensity for a balanced taste, understanding that this ingredient is an acquired taste.
  4. Carefully add the Mentorship Blend, incorporating a splash of sage guidance and the wisdom of experienced mentors.
  5. Include a generous quantity of Friendship Fusion, surrounding yourself with a trustworthy circle and infusing the elixir with reliability. This is a rare ingredient but essential for a delightful blend.
  6. Add the Global Harmony Splash, letting the flavors of cultural intelligence and international cooperation meld.
  7. Carefully infuse the Leadership Infusion, ensuring a balanced blend of confidence and strategic vision.
  8. Elevate the mixture with a touch of Humor Elevation, incorporating witty banter and a pinch of lightheartedness to neutralize any potential bitterness.
  9. Shake the shaker vigorously to activate the problem-solving garnish, infusing the elixir with creativity and innovative thinking.
  10. Strain the mixture into a chilled diplomatic glass, garnishing with a slice of Diplomatic Creativity and a zest of Solution-Oriented thinking. Enjoy the harmonious blend of diplomatic flavors!

Disclaimer: proportion of ingredients may vary from person to person.

So, here’s a spirited toast to all aspiring and accidental diplomats! May your journey be a rich concoction of diverse experiences that will allow you to grow into the best version of yourself. May the challenges you face be met with the wisdom of seasoned mentors, the camaraderie of trustworthy friends, and the resilience to navigate the twists and turns of this exciting career.

And to my fellow diplomats, here’s to the rewards that come with the perfect pour – may your endeavors be a harmonious blend of flavors. Cheers to a career where every sip is a celebration and every challenge is just another opportunity to garnish life with the zest of success–and grab another drink!


Author’s email: thedumalady@gmail.com



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