5 Strategies that Transitioning Military Can Use for the Federal Job Hunt

By James R. Lint

Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University

Reposted from http://inmilitary.com/5-strategies-transitioning-military-can-use-federal-job-hunt/

Since I recently retired from federal service, a lot of people ask me how to get a federal job. I have been both a federal job hunter and a federal hiring manager, so it encourages people to frequently ask me how to be more successful in their job hunting.

Before entering civil service, however, I retired from 21 years of active-duty military service. Like others, I used the skills I acquired from my military service to enhance my job performance. I worked at three different agencies/departments both in the U.S. and overseas, eventually became senior management and retired at that level.

Transitioning military service members are a good fit for federal civil service because, like me, they’ve picked up valuable job skills from their time in the military. They are trained to work as a team, solve problems and accomplish goals.

So how can a transitioning military service member find a job with the federal government? Here are five strategies I’d advise:

  1. Think multiple opportunities.

 According to the Office of Personnel and Management, there are 2.6 million employees in the U.S. federal government’s executive branch as of 2014. Many of these employees are working to get hired in different positions or locations, or striving for a promotion, leaving opportunities available to other job seekers.

Do not submit just one application for a career in the federal government. I often told people that if they have not submitted at least 100 applications, I wouldn’t take them seriously because they hadn’t put in the time and effort necessary to secure a preferred position.

To get a promotion or higher-graded job in civil service, you must apply for a new job. I went through the hunt many times to go from a GS-12 to a GG-15. Getting the job takes effort, time and patience.

  1. Go where the jobs are located.

 As a former hiring manager, I can tell you that location makes a difference. I was once hiring for intelligence and security professionals at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and my referral list was short. The reason was simple; there were not a lot of intelligence and security professionals in that state.

Conversely, when I was hiring intelligence and security professionals at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, we had approximately 20,000 personnel on post at APG. But Fort Meade had many more intelligence and security professionals, just an hour’s drive away.

I would often get over 200 qualified resumes from the Civilian Personnel Office per job vacancy. Sometimes, I would receive 110 resumes with clearance, language and technology skills that exceeded the needs of the current job.

  1. Do not over-inflate your worth compared to your experience.

Often, when college students go on their first interviews, they aim too high and over-estimate the value of their recent, hard-won degree. Degrees are great for job seekers, but a degree with experience is even more valuable to employers.

Consider the grade level of the job for which you’re applying, the salary you’re asking and your competition. Be careful to apply for a job at a level that matches your skills and don’t price yourself out of the market.

Think the qualities and previous experience that make you unique, and be prepared to tell stories that illustrate your expertise and successful results. You’ll stand out from the other 50 applicants who have a degree, experience AND a desire for a lower grade than you.

  1. Know which government departments are expanding.

Watch the news and pay attention to which government agencies have expansion plans, so you’ll know where to apply. For example, the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), the U.S. Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration are currently hiring.

Many people start their civil service by taking one of the less sexy jobs to get their foot into the door. It is much easier to get hired as a current status employee than an outsider.

It’s important to not be the person who thinks the federal government will bring you a tailor-made job just for you or modify everything for a beginner. There are a lot of people applying for these government jobs and willing to take the jobs without modification.

  1. Remember that higher-grade jobs may not be located in your dream location.

Do you care at which location you get hired? If so, you are not really a serious job hunter.

The government does not make a job in your favorite location. For example, if you’re a Department of Defense GG-15 manager looking for a job in Wyoming, you’ll be disappointed because this state may not have many DOD senior management jobs there.

The jobs are where the work is needed and your ultimate goal is to get a job. If you’re fixated on a particular location that doesn’t have the federal job you want, adjust your thinking.

Job-hunting is a full-time job, and you must apply for many jobs at the same time. But with the patience and perseverance you learned in the military, you’ll be better prepared to find the fulfilling federal job that you seek.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded their 43rd scholarship for national security students and professionals. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence within the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, contractor and civil service.

James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. In 2016, he was selected to be an associate member of the Military Writers Guild. He has served in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and at the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office. James had an active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and also served 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” and a new book in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea.”