U.S. State Department Careers Offer Wealth of Opportunity

Tulane’s diplomat in residence, J Nathan Bland

Tulane’s Spring 2022 Virtual Career Fair hosted by Newcomb Tulane College Career Services and Freeman School of Business will be held Thursday, March 24. Students will have an opportunity to connect with a variety of employers. One of which is the U.S. Department of State (DOS).

J. Nathan Bland, who serves as Tulane’s diplomat in residence with the DOS, will be online to advise and assist students interested in State Department Foreign and Civil Service careers. Bland’s purpose on campus is to point out State Department programs and internships that may pass under most students’ radar. Hosting a Diplomat in Residence on campus gives Tulane students studying Political Science or interested in policy-related fields an upper hand with the opportunity to utilize Bland's unique experience navigating the journey to becoming a Foreign Service Officer. Such guidance can only come from someone who has been through the process.

During his career with the State Department, Bland served as diplomat to the Vatican, where he met the Pope and worked on global health issues such as preventing the mother-to-child transmission of HIV. He served as head of the political/economic section in Belize and served as acting deputy chief of mission for a year. His favorite assignment was at the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs, where he headed the U.S. delegation to two environmental treaties, including the London Convention, which set the rules for ocean dumping.

The Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) offered by the State Department, is used to find out who is well suited to becoming our nation's diplomats. The first time Bland took the test, to his shock, he did not pass. After going through most of grad school, an internship with the State Department, a class on the FSOT, and taking the test two more times he finally passed. Bland says to never give up. The State Department seeks people with life experiences who are determined to become Foreign Service Officers and are undeterrable in that process, so not passing the test the first time should not discourage you,” he says.

Bland says he is enjoying his time as Diplomat in Residence because it not only brings him to live in his home state for the first time in 20 years, but it also allows him to guide students who otherwise may have never considered the State Department as a career option. Traditionally the State Department has been dominated by white males and Bland says he is proud to help the State Department more accurately represent all of America.

When it comes to advice for students wishing to start a career in the field, Bland says the internships and student programs run by the State Department are a great way to get your foot in the door. He also suggests studying a foreign language and pursuing life experiences abroad with international organizations. “Being part of study abroad programs is one of the most valuable experiences available to college students seeking Foreign Service careers,” Bland says. In addition, there are 13 dimensions that the State Department looks for in applicants. He encourages students to seek and record experiences that conform with these dimensions. Bland says this will not only help expand the State Department’s attraction toward you in the application process but also your enjoyment and understanding of life abroad.

Bland says that being unwavering, tireless, and purposeful in all of your endeavors, whether they are standardized exams or traveling the world, is essential to any career but especially one in the State Department.