Over the past month, I have been exchanging e-mails with Lauren Swanson, a civilian applying for USCG Officer Candidate School (OCS), who found my blog during her research. She recently completed and submitted her application and is waiting to hear the board’s selections. I invited her to guest blog about the experience. This is what she has to say…
From one hopeful Coastie to another, I know the OCS application process can seem stressful, vague, and endless. However, I am here to say that you CAN get through it! Recently, I completed the process and am now waiting for a panel to make a decision that could change my life forever. Joining the USCG as an officer is something I have wanted for a long time, and applying was half the battle. I made it through with flying colors, according to my OCS interview board members, and I am here to offer some helpful tips so you can too!
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Preparation is essential to ensure your application package is completed properly and in accordance with USCG expectations. The paperwork is only a part of the overall process. A formal interview is the last step before the final package is submitted. Preparation is key and will pay off in your interview. My panel was very impressed with my knowledge of the Coast Guard and my studies helped me answer their questions effortlessly.
There are many avenues to explore to prepare for the process. Books about the Coast Guard, leadership, and job application processes are a great source to start with. Also, research on websites and blogs, ask everyone you know if they know a Coastie, and don’t be afraid to ask questions so you know what you are getting into! Your OCS panel wants to know that you are well aware of the responsibility and life style of the Coast Guard. Don’t forget about the Coast Guard Personnel Manual, it has great information about CG history and protocol- info critical to know about any company you are interviewing for. The book I found most helpful is Character in Action: The US Coast Guard on Leadership. I used information I read in this book several times during my interview. Also, go to your local base and ask about touring a cutter so that you can get a first hand look at CG life!
2. Go back to the basics on resumes’ and interviewing.
Two books that the Coast Guard recommends you read before applying are What Color Is Your Parachute? and 10 Insider Secrets to a Winning Job Search. Both books are great sources for how to conduct a flawless interview and how to make a solid resume. The information in these books is priceless and helped me tremendously! They teach you everything school forgot to mention…
3. Do not rely solely on your recruiter.
While recruiters are wonderful sources of information, seek information from other places as well. By networking and asking questions (such as on the OCS foundation’s website and connecting with bloggers like Connie), I found a tremendous amount of useful information my recruiter didn’t even know I needed to know! I found many other people asking the same questions and getting help from Coasties and other applicants. Remember recruiters are very busy people, and if you are feeling a little neglected by your recruiter, do not take it to heart! They are also there to weed you out, so try to be a little self-sufficient and explore all avenues of information!
4. Read what they read and know what they know.
As obvious as it sounds, people often forget to read Chapter 1.B.9 of the Coast Guard Personnel Manual. It outlines the guidelines for conducting an OCS panel interview. This interview is the only ‘face time’ you will get and the only chance you have to make a lasting impression. Also, study the form they complete during the interview so you know how they are grading you.
5. Finally, look sharp for the interview. Appearance is everything.
Some of the best advice given to me during this process was to look the part of an officer. You should always look the part for whatever job you are applying for and this is certainly no exception! An officer is confident, comfortable in his/her own skin, and needs to be an effective communicator. The board members notice EVERY detail, and they may comment on it! Posture and eye contact are very important during your interview- make sure you look at all the officers while you are answering their questions, not just the one who directed the question to you! Check out this site for interviewing tips.
Stay tuned to hear if Lauren is selected to attend OCS!