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Insight, wisdom, lessons learned and everything in between to help you find the information you need for smoother transition between diplomatic assignments.

How to Run Your Next PCS

It's Guest Blog Time!

We plan many events in our lives. From weddings and graduations, to hosting our first big holiday meal – we start with a goal in mind and build out a plan to execute. Moving is a life event. It is a significant event that may have beneficial or detrimental effects on a person’s social relationships.

When you join the Foreign Service you learn about PCS (Permanent Change of Station), and immediately the horror stories start to circulate. Everyone has one. Some PCS stories are definitely Made For TV Movies. Let those movies play in the background while you dig into planning your PCS strategy.

This month’s Guest Blogger is Morgan Province with LVL-Up Strategies. We invited LVL-Up because as business strategists, they are well versed in designing long-term project plans intended to help clients meet a specific set of goals. The bonus is that they are also EFM (Eligible Family Member) owned and operated.

Being in the foreign service requires a lot of planning for each move.
Make time to plan out your PCS. Track your progress carefully.

Guest Blog by Morgan Province

EFMs are especially good at quarterly planning because we’ve had to be. We have long-term goals for our lives in the Foreign Service, but we are often forced to approach life season by season, quarter by quarter. Our first few months upon arrival look different from the spring of Year 2 at post, and the winter of Year 2 is different from our PCS season. We have to adapt and adjust plans when factors outside of our control—political coups, global pandemics, changes to orders, natural disasters, family emergencies—come into play.

We’ve become good at creating and implementing short-term plans that align with our long-term visions without even realizing it. This process of creating an actionable quarterly plan is something my team at LVL-Up Strategies does with business leaders every day. And we are particularly good at it because EFMs do this during every tour, especially during PCS season because we don’t usually get key pack-out dates until a few months before we actually depart.

So what does it look like to intentionally take the quarterly planning approach to your next PCS?

1. Verify your vision and goals.

Each PCS is different from the last. You may be leaving a job or heading into an extremely small community. You may have just had a baby, or maybe the toddlers that used to follow you anywhere are now teens with their own opinions. No two PCS moves are alike, so before you start on the next one, it is a good idea to think about a vision for what you would like to achieve with this move. You can use lessons learned or set your vision in a completely new direction. Either way, once you have a vision, you can also set some goals and milestones to keep you on track.

2. Evaluate your situation, requirements, and resources.

Sit down and spend 30 minutes taking a 360-degree view of the upcoming PCS. Examples of questions you can ask yourself are:

  • What needs to get done between now and arrival at your onward post?

  • Who do you need to talk to find out processes, dates, contact information, etc.?

  • What do you need to sell, donate, acquire, schedule, and/or coordinate?

  • How do you need to prepare your home for pack-out (HHE vs UAB vs luggage)?

  • What appointments need to happen before you depart?

  • What are unavailable days in this plan due to meetings, vacations, visitors, appointments, etc.?

3. Identify important milestones and “due” dates.

Use a physical or digital calendar and plot out the arrival date of your next post, the departure date of your current post, and any other key dates. There may be visa appointments and school interviews, and don’t forget to save time to gain closure and say farewell to friends and family. A strong exit from post is just as important as a strong entrance, so be sure your entire family gets the chance to say goodbye. If there are dates you know are coming but don’t have confirmation yet (can anyone say “orders received” or “pack-out”), put a tentative date on the calendar.

4. Set Goals.

You know your vision, the requirements of your PCS, and your milestone dates. Now it is time to think about what you want to accomplish. If you are PCSing with family, you should probably develop goals together. When creating goals, keep your vision in mind. You might ask yourself: how important is it for the EFM to work overseas? Do you want to live close to the embassy, in the city, or near a school? Are you moving with a pet? Are there any must-haves to bring with you to post?

Remember, the goals you set here will help you fill out things like housing questionnaires, decide what groups you would like to join, and build out a good task list of what you want to accomplish before you leave or once you arrive.

5. Create tasks and deadlines.

Answers to the previous questions help you create your task list. Plot them on your calendar and create deadlines for each one. Spread the tasks out so you systematically tackle your list (such as two tasks per week) throughout the quarter.

Pro tip: put your tasks in your calendar with reminders so they more naturally become part of your week. “On Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon, I work on my PCS plan.”

6. Be prepared for change.

No matter how well you plan out your PCS, you will get derailed by something at some point. Remember the long list of things outside of our control that affect our lives in the Foreign Service? Stuff happens, and we adjust. You can consider huge risks and how you’d tackle them (e.g., What if no one buys our car before we leave?), but be ready to handle other issues as they come along.

You’ll gain experience with each move, and that will strengthen your next PCS quarterly plan. For example, a bad experience with welcome kit pans means you’ll bring an egg pan in the luggage the next time. Or if you realized that the movers packed each piece of silverware individually, you’ll remember to bundle small items together before the movers arrive.

A PCS Quarterly Plan simply puts structure around your preparation, and it’s just one example of how EFMs are constantly building and strengthening transferable skills that add value to our families, teams, and clients.

Morgan's Bio
Portrait of Morgan Province
Morgan Province, LVL-Up Strategies

Morgan Province is a Marketing Program Manager at LVL-Up Strategies. Morgan loves building digital marketing campaigns to help small businesses connect more effectively with their target audiences. Using research and industry benchmarks, she enjoys the process of identifying opportunities in a marketing strategy to create a vision of success and plan to get there.

More recently, Morgan has leveraged her experience as a small-group facilitator to teach digital marketing professionals all over the world how to systematically build, manage, and evaluate online marketing plans.

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Being part of the Foreign Service has allowed Morgan to travel around the world with her family while also giving her the freedom to build her own career as a program manager and digital marketing consultant.

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