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From Uniformed to Civil Servant Landing US Government Jobs

Federal jobs can be an inside path for job seekers with military experience.

By Sean Gallagher
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If you’re considering a job in the public sector, there’s at least some good news: The federal government is hiring, and veterans have a foot in the door for interviews.

“I can tell you that if you’re interested in this type of work, your skills would be very applicable,” said Jim Deimer, a member of TheLadders who’s now a human-resources manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs. “There are over 53,000 jobs posted on USAJobs.gov, and those vary from very entry-level positions that pay $30,000—$40,000 a year to the select executive-service positions that could pay up to $150,000 a year.”

More military retirees are now moving into government service, thanks to a change in laws about dual compensation. Retired service members no longer have their retirement pay reduced when they take a federal job.

“We find more and more people going into the government now,” said Col. Dick Crampton, director of placement services for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). “And that is a very smooth transition. … You just take off the pickle suit and put on a regular suit, and you're ready to work at the Pentagon.”

However, applying and landing a federal job can be a long, arduous process. It can take as long as six months to complete the process of applications, screenings and interviews.

Jim Deimer compared the process of applying for a federal position to applying for college or law school. “The Office of Personnel Management mandates that all applicants go through USAJobs.gov, create a user profile and create an online resume. You have to upload your service record, your discharge documents, submit (college) transcripts … and there’s a federal application for employment that you will fully disclose a variety of personnel related questions. It’s not hard, you just have to put the time into it.”

Much of that time will go into collecting the documentation required by USAJobs.gov’s lengthy online application process. Once that’s complete, you’ll likely need to create multiple online resumes, tailored to each position you apply for. Applications are then screened, and while your veteran’s preference points will boost you in the rating process, they’re not a guarantee of getting the job — they just get you closer to the top of the candidate list.

Sean Gallagher is a former naval officer and freelance journalist. He has spent much of the last 19 years covering defense and technology and is the former editor-in-chief of Defense Systems magazine. Gallagher lives and works in Baltimore, Md.

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