Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

More tips for transitioning vets

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My Dec. 7 column listed some tips to help members of the military and veterans make the transition to federal careers, as the Obama administration launches a program to boost veteran hiring. Here are more tips:

* Start planning your transition early. Take courses in your field that will boost your marketability, and participate in Transition Assistance Programs offered at your base. Also, visit the Labor Department’s www.hirevetsfirst.dol.gov to access various transitioning resources, including advice on how to match your military specialty to civilian jobs, and how to tailor your applications to your target jobs.

As one transitioner and federal hiring manager observed, “Unfortunately, many transitioners never use valuable resources offered by the military that may help them vault ahead of their competition.”

* Stay in touch with colleagues who leave the military before you. Once you join them on the outside, they may provide you with pivotal contacts and job-hunting advice.

* Network via professional organizations in your field and via military-oriented organizations, such as the Military Officers Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.

* Get on Veterans Affairs Department lists of job-seeking veterans. VA provides these lists to hiring agencies. Find your state VA office at www.va.gov.

* Use federal hiring programs for veterans, as appropriate. The programs include veterans preference, veterans’ recruitment appointments, programs for veterans disabled 30 percent or more, reinstatement eligibility, and programs under the 1998 Veterans Employment Opportunity Act. For more information, visit the Office of Personnel Management Web site, www.opm.gov.

Also, visit www.dodveterans.com/video for information on the Defense Department’s Hiring Heroes Program, which sponsors job fairs and other services for veterans. Google “Operation Warfighter” to learn about the DoD placement program.

* Think that your rights under special hiring programs for veterans were violated? If so, consider submitting a written complaint to the head of your target agency and the Labor Department Veterans’ Employment and Training Service — www.dol.gov/VETS — within 60 days of the alleged violation. But while doing so, keep applying for other jobs.

* Remember that federal agencies (and often, federal offices within the same agency) differ as much from one another as do private-sector organizations. Also, each of your federal applications will almost certainly be judged by different hiring managers who know nothing about any of your other federal applications. So don’t let a poor impression of a federal organization or rejections from federal organizations compel you to “forget the whole federal thing” any more than you would let a poor impression of a private-sector organization or rejections from private-sector jobs compel you to “forget the whole private-sector thing.”

* Apply to temporary and contracting staffing firms that place security-cleared professionals in government. Temporary assignments provide ideal opportunities for networking, gaining federal experience, and earning income while you job hunt. Plus, many temporary and contract employees eventually segue into permanent federal jobs. Your target firms may include Kelly FedSecure, ClearanceJobs.com, and ClearedConnections.com.

* Use special federal hiring programs for family members of veterans. These programs include: Ten Points Veterans’ Preference for the mothers of veterans who are disabled or died in active duty and the spouses of certain disabled or deceased veterans; and Military Spouse Preference, which enables the Defense Department and selected other agencies to use streamlined hiring procedures to hire the spouses of military members who are relocating for new assignments, some physically disabled spouses and the spouses of military members killed in the line of duty. Identify on your application which programs you’re using, and provide supporting documentation.

* Seek free resources on how to start and run your own small business from the Small Business Administration. These resources include loans, grants, mentoring and training on varied topics, including writing business plans and winning federal contracts. For more info, type “veterans” into the search window at www.sba.gov.