YouTube FSOT Prep on Writing Personal Narratives

I just posted my sixth screencast on YouTube. The video covers how to write your best possible Personal Narrative (PN).

As you know, the State Department invites applicants who scored the highest on the FSOT part one exam to complete PNs. Successful PN writers advance to the Oral Assessment.  Examiners from your chosen cone will grade your Personal Narrative and then pass it to the Qualification Evaluation Panel (QEP), which reviews your total file to date. The QEP will review your performance on the FSOT and Written Essay scores as well as your work history, education, and personal experiences. The Panel will also look at your language abilities, either your FSI-tested results or your self assessment.

The Personal Narratives are based on six subject areas drawn from the Decision Criteria for Tenure and Promotion in the Foreign Service:

— Leadership Skills
— Interpersonal Skills
— Communication Skills
—¬†Management Skills
— Intellectual Skills
— Substantive Knowledge

Yes, these may look familiar and when you join the Foreign Service you will be judged on your performance in these areas annually for the length of your career.

For your Personal Narratives, it’s a bit different. The Department wants you to answer three questions under each of these rubrics:

— Why do you want to be a Foreign Service Officer (FSO);
— What do you bring to the Foreign Service; and,
— What will you bring to your chosen Career Track or Cone.

You MUST answer these in all of the six categories listed above; if you don’t, you will graded low and your Foreign Service application will be “terminated.”

I have a couple of tips for writing your Personal Narratives. First, understand that this is the first time the examiners will see you as a whole person. Therefore, this is the opportunity for you to provide the best examples in the six areas. Remember that the examiners will be reading hundreds of Personal Narratives so you need your writing to be clear, in the active voice, and stylistically flawless. Skip “acadamese” or “jargon-filled” language. Write like a reporter — sharp and on point.

Besides those language suggestions, provide good examples of your work history, education, and personal experiences. For example, if you’re a military veteran competing for the consular cone, use your service experience to show that you know what it’s like to be on the frontline of national security. Today’s consular officers in issuing visas serve the same frontline role.

In addition, if you can show teamwork, a Department favorite, then do so and underline the importance of your team to accomplish your goal. Likewise, a little self deprecatory never hurts. You need to show you’re human, professional to be sure, but also someone with a sense of humor and engaging personality. In short, you want to come across as someone your reviewer would like to work with.

I know it’s easy for me to say all of these things, but you’re the ones who have to put words to paper. Along those lines, show your drafts to family members, trusted friends and colleagues at work. Explain the questions, that you’re trying to explain why you want to be an FSO, what you bring to the Foreign Service, and what you will bring to your Career Track. And let them mark it up and give you feedback.

Finally, the Department gives you just two (2) weeks to complete your PNs. Each area is limited to 1,300 characters, say 260 words or a page. (Sorry, I buried my lead)






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