Jun 29 2015
For professionally minded and mobile military spouses, working for Uncle Sam makes sense. Think about it: You spend years moving from one military community having federal employment opportunities to another one presumably having them as well.
In theory, you might be able to keep the same big-picture employer and perhaps even advance your career under such circumstances.
Of course, theory and reality are often two different concepts in our universe.
Military orders can send us some place where any opportunities, much less skill-appropriate ones, are lacking. And of course, it isn’t exactly easy to land a federal job in the first place, either.
So how can you crack the code that gets you employed by Uncle Sam?
The first step in the process is to create an account on www.usajobs.gov. After that, start pulling together the necessary bits and pieces that will help you create a competitive application packet.
The following important points will help you, too.
No. 1: Target your resume to the job you want.
Having a one-size-fits-all version won’t cut it. Submitting a résumé similar in structure that you would give to a private industry employer won’t do the trick either. You have to read the job vacancy announcement carefully and study the language within it. Familiarize yourself with the skills required for the job. If you have those skills, say so in great detail.
The average length of a federal résumé is four pages. Don’t worry about the length, however. Worry about the content.
No. 2: Think like someone who works in human resources.
A hiring manager might never see your résumé if it doesn’t make it past the staffing specialist working the recruitment action. Convince that person, on paper, you are the best qualified for the job.
How do you do that? Read No. 1 again and then read No. 3.
No. 3: Don’t rush through the occupational questionnaire.
Usually, when you apply for a federal job, you have to do three things: create a focused résumé, provide the correct supporting documentation requested within the job vacancy announcement, and complete an occupational questionnaire.
By the time many jobseekers get to the questionnaire in the application process, they are tired — and understandably so. They have spent more hours than they thought humanly possible tweaking their résumés. They have conducted countless search-and-rescue missions for old transcripts, PCS orders, marriage certificates, and other required paperwork.
As a result, they rush through the questions that pop up on the screen, thinking in the back of their minds they already addressed these points earlier in the profile or on their résumés.
Instead, look on the job vacancy announcement, near the end, where instructions typically are provided for those who cannot apply online. There is often a hyperlink to “View the Occupational Questionnaire.” Access the questionnaire. Print it out, and prep your answers in advance of applying for the job online.
Answer the questions correctly and honestly. Pay close attention to how you rate your skill set when asked, and make sure your expertise is likewise reflected in your résumé.
No. 4: Supply all the required documents.
What is required might vary from job to job. Generally speaking, college transcripts, professional certifications/licensure, and proof of preference eligibilities are requested. Upload them into your USAJOBS account now so all you have to do is attach them when you apply for a job.
You might not have all the forms they require if you weren’t in a job or situation that would end up with you getting one. Don’t stress if they ask you for a DD Form 214 if you’ve never been in the military.
If you are claiming military spouse preference, attach the PCS orders (original and any amended copies) as proof along with anything else requested.
No. 5: Apply before the closing date.
Try to apply one second past the closing date and you are too late regardless of how talented you might be.
No. 6: Network for the job.
You know how important networking, so just do it. Take a hint from the employer of your choice, however. If you get the sense networking is a welcomed activity, go for it. Not all federal employers will think so, however, for fear of raising the specter of pre-selection.
Snagging a federal job isn’t easy. It is, however, possible if you put in the time and effort to make your job application packet a competitive one.
About the author: Janet Farley is a noted workplace and careers strategist and the author of The Military Spouse’s Employment Guide: Smart Job Choices for Mobile Lifestyles, (Impact Pubs, 2013) and Quick Military Transition: Seven Steps for Landing a Civilian Job (Jist Inc., 2013). Follow her @smartjobchoices on Twitter. Read her blog, Life’s Too Short to Hate Your Job.
Copyright Janet Farley and Military Officers Association of America. All rights reserved.