With the weighty fist of the current economy enjoying its grip around the necks of many Atlanta area residents, military service members may find their career options rather bleak and choices few. Transitioning military veterans, whether retiring or deciding to leave their service before their full 20, may want to consider federal job employment.
A large percentage of federal employers and agencies are housed right here in the Atlanta area and are taking applications as we speak. But the application process and resume for a federal position will vary so it is important to begin your resume and hiring process well before your final date of separation. Ideally, this should begin 6-12 months prior.
Begin by making some hard realizations. These will include moving your family from areas that you may prefer to those that you may not have readily chosen. When your career path is on the line, you must go where the jobs are and not where your preferences may lay. If you prefer warm weather, Atlanta is a good spot for federal job employment with warm weather. However, this may simply be a lucky strike. A federal job, in your search, may send you across the country to Seattle, Washington where it is not as warm. But, you’ll have a paycheck and job security.
You may look to www.usajobs.gov for a full listing of federal career options from medical, to law enforcement to teaching. The Office of Personnel Management handles all far-reaching guidelines for hiring within federal agencies while each agency has its own human resources department.
After finding a job that fits your preference, you must design a resume around it. With the basics such as experience, education and training listed, create a rough resume that can be changed to fit each career option. For example, if your military career was in aviation ordnance, you would not want to write, “I loaded bombs onto aircraft.”
Think bigger. You most likely would have dealt with large scale logistics, quality assurance, industrial and production management as well as leadership of those under you. These are skills that are highly sought after in the federal job market. The phrasing for such an example would be something like; ”Verified personnel-performed tasks in accordance with required manuals or technical publications; witnessed mandatory inspection points (be exact);performed audits (be exact on quantity and type)…”
All military jobs, no matter their supposed minority, hold large-scale responsibilities that are very attractive to federal employers. There are some key things to remember when designing your federal resume:
1. Use the maximum space allowed on the format. When copying and pasting your resume into the online application block, there is an expected amount of wording; use all of it to express your experiences and educational background. If you are too wordy, the site will let you know and you can trim it down a bit being careful not to extract important information.
2. Most employers are civilian and may not understand military acronyms. A civilian may not know what an “NCO” is, for example. These acronyms must be spelled out and explained so that a civilian will have a clear understanding of the translation.
3. Read the job announcement clearly. All federal resumes are scanned by a computer program prior to ever hitting the seeking eye of a human employer. This program seeks out key words and grades you on a predetermined scale of eligibility based on the words your resume contains. These words are relative to the job and what the job will entail. For example, if the job announcement is for a Program Integrator, the announcement may read something like: Interacts with diverse workforce; oversees plans and interprets data; adept at giving presentations to senior personnel. Because of this, your resume should contain key words such as, diverse, interpret, program, senior...etc. However, these keywords can vary. The rule of thumb should be to follow the words in the announcement that seem integral to the job and then incorporate these into the resume body itself, staying within the guidelines of your experiences and education.
4. Make sure of the job you are applying for. Read the announcement carefully. Some federal positions require degrees or specialized training or even security eligibility. If you do not have a degree or are not eligible for a security clearance, avoid these careers and opt for something fitting your immediate abilities and know-how. Education is key in federal employment. Any schooling you had should be listed, no matter who minor you may consider it to be.
5. Check your spelling again and again. If need be, hire a professional writer to check your grammar and spelling. Professional writers who specialize in proofreading can be found online at many sites and charge per word- a few cents, or per page- a few dollars, which can be very low for a beneficial service. Unless you're married to one, then it's free... apparently.
Professional writers and proofreaders can be found here: http://www.theproofreaders.com/pricing.htm
For more information on how to write, and a sample of, a federal resume, go here: http://www.sec.gov/jobs/jobs_sampleres.shtml
When going for an on-site interview or when attending a federal job fair, DO NOT wear street clothes. This is an enormous mistake. Wear a suit and tie for a man, and a dress, skirt or pants suit for a woman; business attire only. Be confident and introduce yourself with a handshake and a smile. Be sure that they know you are eager to work for them and are willing to advance in any programs they may require you to take. Be open with your availability and accommodate their needs.
Note: I have been told that KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) normally required in a federal resume, will possibly be phased out this coming November. Until then, use KSAs in your federal resume. For guidelines on how to use KSAs, go to http://www.usajobs.gov/EI/resumeandapplicationtips.asp