“Don’t wait for the right opportunity: create it” – George Bernard Shaw
A few months ago, I wrote about my pursuit of the Department of State’s Foreign Service Facility Manager position. As I expected, the application I submitted in December did advance past the HR screeners on January 10th. What I didn’t quite expect was for my application to pass the Qualifications Evaluation Panel so quickly after. It only took a month. From there, it was a matter of waiting for the Department’s Scheduling Unit to contact me in regards to an oral assessment date. I got that email yesterday and requested my Foreign Service Oral Assessment for June 18th.
For me, getting an oral assessment date puts me a step closer to securing my dream job. In 3 weeks’ time, I’ll make my way to Washington for an all-important date with destiny. This oral assessment is literally a make-or-break scenario for me. If I pass, I’ll receive a conditional offer of employment, and the security clearance, medical clearance, and suitability review processes—all foregone conclusions for me—would begin and I’d be as good a Foreign Service Facility Manager. But if I’m not successful, I’ll have to go back to the drawing board…another 1-year moratorium period before I could reapply.
So what is the Foreign Service Oral Assessment? It is the 2nd part of the Foreign Service selection process—the 1st part being the Qualifications Evaluation Panel. The QEP measures my qualifications and work experience. It gets me a ticket to the assessment. The assessment, itself, aims to measure how well I demonstrate the 12 dimensions of a Foreign Service Specialist: (1) composure, (2) cultural adaptability, (3) experience and motivation, (4) information integration and analysis, (5) initiative and leadership, (6) judgment, (7) objectivity and integrity, (8) oral communication, (9) planning and organizing, (10) resourcefulness, (11) working with others, and (12) written communication. It’s not quite an adversarial ordeal and I’m not competing against other applicants, per se. This is strictly a matter of me being judged on the merits…the very thing I always wanted to be judged on during my Air Force career. There are 3 parts to the assessment: (1) a case management exercise in which I’ll have to write a memorandum outlining a scenario that might arise in the Foreign Service environment and the possible solutions to it; (2) an online competency exam, which measures my judgment in different situations applicable to my specialty; and (3) a structured interview, where I’ll be face-to-face with an actual Foreign Service Facility Manager and another assessor as they evaluate my skills. According to the oral assessment information guide, it’s a very tightly choreographed affair and I can expect to be at it for up to 5 hours.
I’d be lying if I wrote that I wasn’t nervous about this assessment. My future is literally at stake. It’s very well possible that I can secure my dream job before I’m 30 and spend the next 25-30 years after that serving abroad. It’s an incredible life-changing opportunity. I think I’m ready. I think the 10 years I spent in the Air Force prepared me for this work. I think the 10 ½ months I’ve been with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have prepared me for this work. I have my navy blue Kenneth Cole Reaction suit on deck. I’ll be looking and feeling my best on assessment day. All that stands in between me and my destiny as a Foreign Service Facility Manager is a high-leverage interview. I’ve always been cool under pressure. I think I got this.