How Wounded Warriors Can Overcome Barriers to Federal Jobs

Businessman #121There are advantages for Wounded Warriors in seeking federal employment. They can use veteran’s preference in hiring, and the years they accumulated in the military as well as many benefits carry over. The trick is landing the position. Recently the Resume Place, publisher of the Military to Federal Career Guide, 2nd Ed, interviewed Dennis Eley, Jr., Wounded Warrior Coordinator at the OCHR San Diego Operations Center, about the major barriers these vets face as well as the solutions.

According to the Defense Department, nearly 20,000 Americans were wounded in action in the Afghanistan War. When these injuries result in a 30% disability, service members are deemed “Wounded Warriors.” These warriors, like other vets, face challenges when attempting to land federal employment. For example, as Former President George W. Bush put it at his Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors summit in February, “You don’t see many job postings that say, ‘Wanted: Experience in hunting insurgents and terrorists… What’s a veteran supposed to put down? ‘My last office was a Humvee?’”

Dennis Eley, Jr., MBA is well aware of the barriers Wounded Warriors face in applying for fed positions. Since 2010, his job – as Wounded Warrior Coordinator at the OCHR San Diego Operations Center – has been to help these vets explore employment solutions in the federal government. In addition to prepping them to apply, Eley markets available Wounded Warriors to fed HR through a weekly listing. Recently he shared his job search insights with the Resume Place, publishers of the Military to Federal Career Guide, 2nd Ed and also trainers of fed job counselors. Here are the top five barriers he helps Wounded Warriors confront.

Barrier #1: Not knowing what fed job to go for.

“I see a lot of frustration,” said Eley. “Many Wounded Warriors don’t know how to translate their skills into an actual civil service job title.” He turns them to The website crosswalks their skills with possible civil service titles, based on their Military Occupation Specialty. For instance, one Wounded Warrior received 10 possible job titles with his MOS of Rifleman. Then Eley helped him review his experience to see which jobs he would actually qualify for based on his strongest skills. They determined that Small Arms Repairer was his best target, and the man did get this position at the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar.

Barrier #2: Assuming that their military pay rate is a good guide for fed wages.

“When Wounded Warriors look at civil service job announcements, they start with jobs at the pay they made in the military,” Eley noted. “That’s a false assumption. Federal pay rank is based on their skill level. I’ve coined a term for this. I call it their ‘civilian rank.’” In civilian federal employment, there are primarily two pay bands: Wage Grades (WG) for blue collar and General Schedule (GS) for white collar. In determining the Rifleman’s “civilian rank” in the Wage Grades schedule, Eley read off the duties at the 08 level, and the Rifleman said that he didn’t have those skills. But at the 06 level, he did. The Rifleman’s resume was then tailored for the 06 level. The job series for Small Arms Repairer is WG-6610. When you type in this job series or job title into, current openings appear for that position across the US.

Barrier #3: Not getting certifications in your targeted area.

“Certifications can definitely help them land a job,” pointed out Eley. Service members may get the certification before they separate from the military or go to school afterwards to become certified in a knowledge area. Eley used Information Technology as an example. A certification in one of the IT areas tells a hiring manager that the person completed a certain number of hours of study and practice, and also passed a written test in that specialty. Other certifications include logistics or contracts. Some hires get up to two years to complete class requirements. Eley shared that there will be more emphasis on encouraging separating service members to get certifications in the future.

Barrier #4: Writing resumes too full of military jargon.

“Wounded Warriors need to understand that the military is a different culture than civil service,” said Eley. “So you’ll want to avoid acronyms and military jargon in your resume.” To prevent this, he recommended letting your spouse or friend read the resume. If they can’t understand something, then you need to break it down, and change the language. Wounded Warriors also need to realize that fed resumes are longer than private industry resumes, usually three to five pages. The Military to Federal Career Guide, 2nd Edition, is a comprehensive handbook for vets who need to write a fed resume, and it features six sample resumes and case studies.

Barrier #5: Going for money, rather than passion.

Eley was working with a Marine who wanted to go into Information Technology. He had a feeling the young man was just “chasing the dollar.” He asked him about his passions and work experience. Turns out that the Wounded Warrior had a dozen years of dog training experience in the service, and it was something he enjoyed doing. He just didn’t think there would be future work in it. With Eley’s help, he got such a civilian position on a military base. “To me, it’s better for the Wounded Warrior’s happiness to go for something they really enjoy,” observed Eley. “They can stay in the occupation for years to come because they have a passion for it.”

The Wounded Warrior Coordinator feels blessed to be able to help these vets. His work echoes a need that retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Justine Constantine noted at the Bush summit earlier this year. “Today’s vets don’t need a handout, but a hand up,” Constantine said. “Some of us are facing very tough obstacles right now, but we all want to be productive members of society.”


JSGuide6_cover_final_180pxwide_reflect_front_043014The Jobseeker’s Guide 6th Edition by federal jobs guru Kathryn Troutman is available in paperback and eBook (PDF), and it’s sold at The Resume Place website and Find info on her federal job search training at


Dennis Bio photo with glass

Mr. Dennis Eley Jr. is a 26 year Navy Veteran from the U.S. Navy.  He retired in 2006 at the rank of Chief Warrant Officer (W3).  His career with Human Resource Service Center-Southwest (HRSC-SW) started in January 2010 as a HR Specialist assigned to staffing.  Two months later, he was asked to be the full-time Wounded Warrior Coordinator, a new position within the organization and the region.

In this role that he still performs today, he provides federal employment support to wounded warriors, veterans, and spouses at career fairs, federal resume writing and federal employment process workshops, and during one-on-one interviews.  He also participates in various forums around the nation as a strong advocate for our Wounded Warriors.  Dennis and his WW team were recognized for their stellar support of the Wounded Warrior program in the southwest region by the Dept of the Navy, Civilian Human Resources which awarded them the “Community Award for Excellence 2011.”

Dennis’ background outside of the military and the HRSC includes time with the Employment Development Department (EDD) in various capacities, including as a Career Advisor and Workshop Facilitator.  As a facilitator, he developed and implemented a team building workshop titled, “Workplace Success.”  The foundational resource for this workshop was based on the book titled, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.  He also gained private sector experience as a Human Resource Generalist with Target Retail.

He resides in San Diego with his wife and four children and 8 grandchildren.  He holds a B.S. in Human Development from Christian Heritage College, an MBA focus in Leadership from Walden University, and is currently a doctoral student at University of Phoenix.

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