Northeastern University

Mary Thompson Jones - Diplomat in Residence

Introduction

Mary Thompson Jones is a liaison to Northeastern University from the U.S. State Department. She is currently posted at Tufts University acting as Diplomat in Residence to the Greater Boston Area. Her extensive career with State lends to a myriad of anecdotes and processes that will be helpful to any Northeastern students interested on assuming an internship with one of the State Department’s numerous bureaus across the globe.

Ms. Thompson-Jones began her career in Madrid, Spain. After several years she moved to the Mission in Prague, Czeck Republic as the Press Attaché. She returned to Washington D.C. to improve her trade craft. In the 90’s, Ms. Thompson-Jones was stationed in Bosnia following the signing of the Dayton Accords in Ohio. She was relocated to Quebec, Canada as a public affairs officer, onto Guatemala, and finally, back to Prague as Chief of Mission. Throughout her career, her path has been scattered and diverse because she is a foreign affairs generalist.

While Ms. Thompson Jones has had an effective and impressive career, she reinforces the message that if she could do it “anyone can.” Ms. Thompson Jones came from a modest background growing up in Los Angeles, attended a California State University with no second language nor a passport. Her desire to become a journalist thrust her down an invigorating path, however, led by a gusto that eventually placed her with the State Department.

Ms. Thompson Jones has devoted her life to serving the people and the interests of the United States.

Internships with the State Department

There are three internship sessions with the State Department: Spring, Summer, and Fall. The Summer positions are the most competitive with nearly 1,000 positions available from a pool of over 12,000 applicants. Spring and Fall sessions only offer 500 posisions, however, there is a decreased applicant pool.

To apply, you must have completed two full years of college. Applications are available on USAjobs.com. Before you fill out the lengthy application she advises students to spend a significant amount of time on the State Department website so that you can tailor your resume and personal statement to the position you most desire. Ms. Thompson Jones recommends discussing your international experience, your skill set, and specific reasons for applying to a position in your 2,500 character personal statement. Get started early, as the committee prefers younger students who are more likely to return to work for State.

Students should expect to hear back from the State Department six weeks to eight weeks after the application deadline. If you are selected you will have to complete a lengthy 54 page security clearance form that can take 3-5 hours to complete. Internships run for approximately ten weeks.

Careers in the Foreign Service

Persons considering careers with the State Department should begin preparing for the process while still in college. The sooner you begin narrowing your interests, the better equipped you will be to take the Foreign Service Exam (FSE). Elementary requirements to work in the Foreign Service mandate that you be 21 years of age, an American citizen, and that you be available to work worldwide.

Candidates must pass the FSE, a test that is administered by ACT. It is a very anonymous process whereby only persons that pass the test are reported on to the Department of State. Ms. Thompson Jones advises that you should begin taking this test as soon as you feel ready. The exam is offered four times a year. It takes two hours and forty-two minutes with multiple-choice questions and a 30-minute essay section. Roughly 25,000 people will sit for each exam offered, many of whom are just testing the waters. Each candidate must preselect their career track before applying from the Political, Economic, Management, or Consular fields.

Those who pass with top marks on the FSE are further whittled down by a set of essay questions that candidates must answer within three weeks. Finally, selected candidates take part in a one-day long oral exercise with five other candidates. At the end of the day, applicants will either be welcomed to State or walked out the door.

Contact

Mary Thompson Jones is open to speak and advise candidates interested in pursuing internships or careers at the Department of State. Please direct emails to: mary.thompson@tufts.edu