Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Training Wills

It's amusing seeing all of our reactions to a new consular officer on the line. Everyone has advice to confer, wisdom to impart, opinions to offer... One of the frustrations of this job is feeling you should be an expert when you're not; few things are more humiliating than having to turn and ask an FSN for clarification of some part of the FAM at the window, or being informed by a lawyer (or applicant!) that you've completely overlooked some section of the law. You spend a lot of your time feeling stupid. So when someone new arrives full of questions, how wonderful to suddenly be able to display a certain level of expertise, even if it seldom amounts to more than, "Ah, well to enter remarks in a case, try pushing this button..." (self-assured applause all around).

More than just that, however; anyone who's been on the line for any length of time develops her or his own personal philosophy about consular work: a theory about the 'right' way to speak to applicants; the 'correct' way to adjudicate certain types of cases; the 'proper' way to handle personnel problems. And of course, you'd like for the newcomer to see the inherent sense in your way of doing things. So there's a rush to share your views before other people have a chance to adulterate the person with theirs. It can get tense. Which style will the new officer choose? Whose camp will she or he fall into? Not that any of us really care, of course, you understand... Of course we're all above that. Of course.

I'm not any different in this regard.* Being overly self-certain is a constant problem for me, and I try mightily to qualify my tutorial comments with '...but this is just my opinion'; '...though you'll develop your own way of doing things.'; '...certainly none of this is set in stone.' I'm not sure that it comes across as terribly sincere. Probably because it likely is not terribly sincere. Come sit on my knee, Telemachus, and let Mentor tell you a story about non-immigrant visas. Did you bring a bag big enough to hold all my pearls of wisdom?

*Shocking, I know.


Lee said...

You ask your FSNs for FAM advice? Ours can't even find the coffee machine, much less interpret (even remotely correctly) 9 FAM.

Katie said...

You should send them over here for a bit! Our staff can quote lengths of it from heart. Often I'll receive an attached print out of the pertinent FAM section (with salient points highlighted and/or underlined) along with a complicated case. It's a beautiful thing.