Helping Veterans Ride the Wave of Hiring by Uncle Sam

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The July jobs report from the Department of Labor was a little bit of a letdown after strong jobs growth in June. More encouraging to exiting military in particular is a wave of hiring of vets by the feds. However, the federal application process itself remains daunting and off-putting. A certification in federal jobs coaching is available that teaches ways to explain the application process so it is not so overwhelming. A three-time attendee shares some secrets behind her 70-80% success rate with vets she coaches who are leaving the Coast Guard, as well as tips for other federal jobseekers.

The tepid July jobs report released August 1st was somewhat disappointing compared to a robust June. According to the Department of Labor, just 209,000 jobs were added in July, down from 298,000 in June. Even so, the economy remains in recovery, and the report noted that June’s 6.1% unemployment was unchanged in July. Meanwhile our nation’s second largest employer – the federal government – exhibited steady numbers in July. Uncle Sam continues to employ 2% of American workers. A factor in the shadows of the employment landscape is a boost in hiring of vets by the feds. President Obama has made this a priority. For instance, of the 162,839 new hires the Executive Branch of Government brought in during FY 2013, 50,502 were veterans – 31%. In general, unemployment of veterans dropped .9% from 06/2013 to 06/2014 to 5.4%.

While vets are being hired by the feds, the application process itself remains confusing, daunting and off-putting. Recognizing this, Kathryn Troutman, a leading federal jobs expert, saw the need back in 2002 to establish a “train the trainer” program for those who coach people seeking federal jobs. Her Ten Steps to a Federal Job™ Certification program is one of a kind, and it covers her proven step-by-step application process, how to write federal resumes that clearly showcase applicant’s qualifications, and the ins and outs of the various government hiring programs. To date, it has trained over one thousand job counselors – including university counselors of students and graduates, state employment center job advisors, coaches of disabled applicants such as Wounded Warriors, and transition specialists for separating military and their spouses around the world.

“People are having trouble figuring out the federal application process for themselves,” says Troutman. “Federal jobs are so desirable, and applying is so complicated, that professionals really do need to get specialized training if they’re going to give advice on getting federal jobs.”

CJ Johnson, a civilian federal employee, has worked as an Exit Strategist and TAP (Transition Assistance Program) specialist for the US Coast Guard in Alameda, CA since 1996. She has taken Troutman’s certification training three times and co-taught it once. Her reasoning for returning? “Laws and federal job applications processes change, and I’ve wanted to make sure that I’m up-to-date,” Johnson explains. And her outstanding success rate shows she’s a woman who thoroughly understands what she teaches. It’s an amazing 70-80%.

What’s her secret? “Hard work, long hours and a lot of coffee,” she responds, only partly in jest. Beyond that, she attributes the framework of Troutman’s step-by-step process and the book Ten Steps to a Federal Job. She also emphasizes her own unique “performance-based” training, where separating Coast Guard work through assignments for each of the Ten Steps in class on computers. For instance, when Johnson walks them through how she set up an account in the federal jobs site,, her students set up their own. Her three-day class takes students through modules that cover the entire federal application process.

Here are tips for vets and other fed jobseekers from Johnson’s approach:

Tip #1: Highlight everything you’ve done on the job announcement and the USAJobs questionnaire.

“If the highlighting of both is 80% or more, then you’re the perfect candidate,” Johnson advises. Her students delete anything not highlighted, and the leftover wording is used as a basis for a resume that proves they can do the job.

Tip #2: Attach your resume, rather than using the resume builder in USAJobs.

“The process of entering your resume into the builder can get very convoluted,” Johnson notes. “I recommend attaching it unless the job announcement requires use of the builder.”

Tip #3: In your resume, be sure to include the results and impact of the work you did.

Look for numbers, dollars, percentages of increase/decrease, results, and the impact that the result caused.

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to blend your personality into your resume.

In her classes, Johnson gives each student a personality assessment. The result gives them a stronger sense of their strengths, adds color to resumes, and provides a framework for answering interview questions.

Tip #5: Prepare 10 good stories to tell during the interview.

They should relate to the duties of the targeted job. Stories may come to you as you’re writing the resume and adding results and impact. Basically, you’re preparing to give the interviewer what they need.

Tip #6: Know your worth and learn how to negotiate.

In the classes, Johnson spends a lot of time looking at the money angle and the best ways to negotiate salary. It comes down to seeing and showing that your knowledge, skills and abilities match the salary you’re asking for. “Know what you bring to the table,” she urges.

Johnson shares that students tell her she makes the process fun. This goes well with Troutman’s goal for the Certification program. “Applying for a federal job is very, very complicated,” says Troutman. “We teach how to coach someone on the federal application process so that it’s not so intimidating.”

The Certification training is provided through three-day in-person workshops or seven 90-minute webinars. It is in-demand training that has been given to every military base in the Navy, Army and Coast Guard worldwide. For more information, go to the Federal Career Training Institute.


Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 7.30.54 AMKathryn Troutman is known as the Federal Resume Guru and is the developer of the Ten Steps to a Federal Job®. She teaches hundreds of career counselors each year about her highly acclaimed methods of federal job search and has published dozens of titles, including the recent award-winning Student’s Federal Career Guide 3rd Edition.
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