Archive for the 'Career' Category

Snagging a Federal Job

Jun 29 2015

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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 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.

Big mistake.

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.


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Unsolicited Advice for Milkids Off to College (Part I)

Jun 27 2015

By: Tom Wahl



It seems like yesterday tossing the old pigskin for a glorious touchdown as the sideline crowd roared. Okay, so it was flag football and all we had on the sidelines was a keg and a couple of guys’ girlfriends. And maybe the throw ended up being intercepted and then run back for a touchdown. Actually, I might not have been the quarterback either. In any event, college and all it offered does seem like just yesterday to me. And now my oldest son Joe is about to take off for Boston U and Air Force ROTC (he and Mary Claire are coincidentally in Boston this week at the school’s new student/parent orientation).

I have to admit that I’m envious of this upcoming stage of Joe’s life. College is a great experience – so much knowledge to explore, questions to discuss, people to meet, great thinkers to read (yes, I’m a Humanities major from a Jesuit University). And, college is also the last time in life to have so much independence with only a little responsibility.

With college departure fast approaching, I thought I’d offer some advice for my departing college kid as well as any other milkid(s) preparing to embark on this exciting and important part of their lives. Some of this advice comes as a parent and some comes from my perspective as a college faculty member.

First and foremost – this is not high school!
Here’s the great news: you’re not in school 6 hours/5 days a week with the same collection of students – you’ll most likely spend a few hours every other day in class with completely different classmates.

And, there’s now independence and less structure:
You can roam hallways without a pass. If you decide to skip a class, you and your parents are not notified. There are no parent/teacher conferences (nor should your parents be communicating to your teachers about your grades). If you get an F or are flunking, parents aren’t called in for a conference.

But (you knew this was coming), with all this independence in mind, there are some things to be aware of:

  • In college the teacher just leads you to the knowledge – you are responsible for learning. For instance, teachers won’t require rough drafts and then return those with editing suggestions. Any suggestions will be in the final grading comments.
  • If you have a question about a lesson, class, or your major, then you need to see your teacher or academic advisor (they won’t send you a note asking to see you).
  • If you choose to skip class, you need to find the teacher to ask what was covered.
  • And if you skip too many classes, your final grade probably will be docked (your teachers will not warn you that you are missing too many lessons, lectures, or classes).

Finally, the procrastination or some of the lax study habits that were okay in high school will get your rear-end kicked in college. And don’t wait until the last minute to complete projects – due dates are set and things like the Internet being out or your printer not working will not extend the due date when you’ve had 2 weeks to do the project.

Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek advice. Be proactive and seek out a teacher or advisor when you need help or have a question. I see too many students who don’t ask for help, and it’s too late to ask once the assignment is turned in. But, as I mentioned above with teachers not requiring rough drafts and then offering edit suggestions, teachers will sit with you and go over a rough draft or initial work if you ask. We faculty members get paid to have office hours and we’d dearly love to have someone to talk to during these times (or outside the office hours if asked).

And remember that professors like to get to know their students, so take advantages of opportunities to meet them – be it office hours or extracurricular activities. Knowing your teachers will help too with access to internships, research projects, jobs, study abroad, etc.

Intellectual exploration
Broaden your knowledge – take a class on music of the 60s, the great artists, or classic films.

The little things:

  • Be on time, help others, and speak up in class. The last item will pay off when the teacher is calculating final grades.
  • Don’t be afraid of the beliefs and values you bring with you. People will have opposite beliefs and different values, and you will be tested. But be confident in yourself. In particular, as a milkid, you will have had different experiences than most students – be proud of that experience.
  • Be open to new ideas, but do have a dose of skepticism.
  • If you think you will want to go to grad school, apply for study abroad programs, get interesting internships, etc. Then remember that grades do count.
  • Get involved at school – senate, intramural sports teams, clubs, etc. You’ll have the time.
  • Sleep, eat healthy, and exercise (ROTC will take care of the last item though).
  • When you email or address a teacher, use statements like: “Dear Professor X” or “Dear Dr. X” – not, “Hey” or “Yo Tom” (actual examples).
  • Laugh at your mistakes and and be accepting of the mistakes of others.

Stay tuned for Part II of “Unsolicited Advice for Milkids Off to College” to be published soon!

And for options on MOAA’s financial aid, scholarship and loan opportunities and other resources, check out MOAA’s Educational Assistance Center at

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