Today we have a Guest Post from Tre Stokes, an MM1 Navy Nuke in the NNJF Community. Tre writes about his experience with the job finding website USAJobs.gov
So, I’m sure almost every Nuke who is transitioning into the civilian sector, or has already, has thought about going to work for the government. I have also had these same thoughts. But how to get to the interview is a difficult and long process. I am writing this so that everyone who applies has the best chance to get that interview, and in doing so, the job.
First, if you haven’t already done so, register at www.usajobs.gov. After going to the website, the upper right corner has a link to “Create an account.” You’ll want to start there. Enter your information. Next, you’ll be given the choice to either upload an existing resume, or create one with the resume builder. I suggest both, and you’ll find out why soon.
Skipping Ahead to the Resume Builder
Unlike some places, where less is more with the resume, usajobs.gov allows you to input up to 5000 characters in each employment history block. I suggest that you attempt to fill each one up, with everything you’ve ever done. I personally broke up my time in the navy with each major job title I held (student, technician, WCS, LPO, etc.). You should Google the term “military pay scale to GS equivalent” and determine the GS scale you were most closely related to in each of the employment blocks you filled in, at least the most current one, and put that somewhere at the top of each block.
Don’t use your actual pay grade, but the pay grade of the individual expected to complete that duty. For example, I myself perform the duties of a Technical Assistant on a CVN, which is usually filled by an LDO LT, so as my actual pay grade was GS-7 (senior E-6) I was filling a GS-11 (senior O-3) spot. This is how the government determines your ability to take a higher pay scale within it.
Next you will want to create one more employment block and use the dates from the day you went to boot camp until current, or your EAOS depending if you’re still in or not. Leave the body blank. After you have filled out all the required information to build your resume, and uploaded every piece of documentation you have (college transcripts, DD-214, last 3 evals, etc.) you’re ready to get the fun stuff.
When you enter the site at the home screen, you will want to choose “Advanced Search.” First thing to do is scroll all the way to the bottom and click on “Federal Employee.” Although technically not a federal employee, this will open up around 150% more positions and allow you to see the ones that your basic civilian can not (if you are a previous military person, you can click it, too).
Now, choose your filters. The nice thing about this site is you can filter out by salary range. So if you, like most, have a certain monetary need, you can choose that. For the purposes of this article, I am choosing $100K minimum and leaving the max blank ($100K+). You MUST choose at least one keyword, location, agency, or occupational category. If you just want to see what the government is willing to pay $100K a year for, use the keyword “the” as it is in every posting.
The first posting that came up for me is “Contract Specialist” out of Reston, VA with the Department of the Interior. So we’ll look at that.
Scroll down to the area titled “Basic Qualifications.” Now, this is tricky, you MUST meet ALL of them in order to qualify. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. This posting says first thing any 4 year bachelor’s degree, which included at least 24 semester hours in certain courses. If you can’t meet the basic requirements, don’t even bother, the program will kick your application back first.
If you do meet all the basic qualifications, you’re in luck, the rest of this will almost guarantee your application will get past the programming in the Application Manager (the name of the program used to scrub all the applications coming in for a certain position). Open a blank Word document. Scroll back up to the “Duties” section and copy and paste the whole thing over.
Next, scroll down to the “How you will be evaluated” section and look for the KSA’s (Knowledge, skills, and abilities) and look for a list of things looking like “Ability to communicate orally and in writing…” and copy and paste all that to the blank document, too. Now scroll down to the “How to apply” section and look for a hyperlink (blue text) that says “View Occupational Questionnaire” and open it.
You’re looking for the section that starts with “For each task in the following…” as depicted here, it’s around the bottom of the page. You are going to copy everything from that point to the end and place it on you open Word document. Now go to your Word document and take out all the stuff that really shouldn’t be there (the numbers, bullets, etc.) and take out anything that doesn’t apply to you. If you’ve never performed cost and price analysis, then you shouldn’t have it in your resume and take it out. If you don’t and you get your application to a person, they WILL figure it out and kick it back anyway. And they remember the names that do it, too.
Then you’re going to make one long list, separating everything using the “;” between each question. It’s not required to do it that way, but that’s how I did it. Select everything and take out the Italics, Bolds, resize to 10 o 12 font, and change the color to Auto or black. Next you will want to add a brief blurb in front of it all.
I use: “-This is a condensed overall view of my responsibilities while in the Navy. -I am considered a technical expert or I independently perform with little or no supervision, and I am consulted by supervisors, peers, and subordinates in difficult situations regarding the following duties:…”
And then you’re ready. Copy and paste the whole thing to the body of your blank employment block in the resume builder. And now the reason The entirety of the Federal Government, with the exceptions of a very few organizations, use USAJobs to find their talent. With the Equal Opportunity laws, the website allows them to keep a digital record of all their applications. So in the event of an audit, they can prove they followed all the laws. The Application Manager scrubs every application looking for “Buzz Words.” These words are taken directly from the job posting and questionnaire and the program then systematically searches each application for occurrences of these words.
Then it assigns points to each application and forwards the top ‘X’ amount onto the HR Rep, who then scrubs further, getting rid of the ones who aren’t the best candidates and forwarding 5-20 or so onto the hiring authority. That person scrubs further down no more than 10 or less and contacts those people for interviews. So if you ensure you have all the buzz words in your USAJobs resume and you meet all the Basic Requirements, you should at least get to the HR Rep.
I like to attach a copy of my actual resume to the application as a cover letter, so the HR Rep can look at a two page document instead of the 15 page resume that my USAJobs resume prints out to. A few more tips and tricks If you are currently Active Duty, do NOT apply as a veteran. Doing so requires a DD-214 and if you don’t upload one, your application will be kicked back. I’ve heard tale that there is a form your command can fill out for you to act as a DD-214 that says when you will get out and what discharge type you are expected to get, but you know how Personnel is and you’re likely to have an actual DD-214 before you get them to do anything.
Same goes with disability. As far as I know, you can apply for disability up to 180 days prior to your EAOS, but with the 10+ year back log at the VA, the chances of getting that done before you retire from a second career may be unlikely. I am not saying don’t try, I’m saying I wouldn’t as I am still being utilized at max capacity, and I am having to write this at home in the middle of the night. Basically I don’t have the time to.
The process for hiring with the federal government, as much as they won’t admit to it, is still 3-6 months. After4 months of waiting, I just got back 3 responses that I have been forwarded to a hiring manager. So don’t give up just because you don’t hear back right away. Don’t put all your eggs in the federal basket, as you might be fending for yourself until they call you for an interview, especially if you are close to separating.
If you want to work for 2340 (STE’s) and you don’t have a degree, don’t try. They used to hire to Nukes because of the experience we have doing the job, but they stopped that. I actually got a phone call from an HR Rep to ask me to stop putting my application in because she saw 2 or 3 every week from me. She explained why, the degree. However; they will transfer a 246 person into 2340 without a degree, so if your dream is to work as an STE, go the 246 route first then after a year apply to 2340.
Remember that your skills and experience as a Nuke are not only highly regarded with the Navy, but ALL branches of the federal government. You would be surprised how many government entities have their own steam plants, heavy machinery, I&C, and HVAC components. It all needs work and maintenance and QA. So if you limit your search to “Nuclear,” “Reactor,” “Navy,” etc., you are just allowing someone else less qualified to take the job.
I hope this article has helped some of you. I look forward to meeting you in the civilian side, and wish you all the best of luck in your search for a career.
Navy Nuke Job Finder would like to thank Tre Stokes for his Guest Post Submission. If you would like to write a post for NNJF, contact firstname.lastname@example.org