Federal Job Search Archive

Helping Veterans Ride the Wave of Hiring by Uncle Sam

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 8.40.04 AM

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, USAJobs.com, 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.

To Choose the Best College Majors, Veterans Need Early Career Counseling, Data Shows

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 7.25.13 AM

It’s a hard truth: Nearly half of recent veterans who use their GI Bill benefits to further their post-secondary education are failing to obtain a diploma or certificate within a decade, says a study released this year. And according to an analysis by The Resume Place, a major cause of this shortfall is veteran students’ uninformed choice of college majors, which leads to underemployment, unemployment or just plain dissatisfaction.

The details of the study: Some 51.7 percent of post-9/11 veterans using GI Bill education benefits completed an associates, bachelors or graduate degree or a vocational certificate program within 10 years, according to a 2014 report by Student Veterans of America and partner organizations. This compares to a four-year graduation rate of 59 percent for young non-veterans in 2011, says a USA Today analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

But there is plenty of hope for better outcomes, especially for veterans who seek advice early on in their college careers. “If we can get student veterans talking early on in college, they can avoid mistakes in the choice of a major – and a career,” says Lisa Andrews, Ph.D., director of The Office of Career Services at University of Maryland University College. “It’s ideal to make a career choice before you choose your major.”

Career Counseling Should Help Steer Veterans’ Path Through College

Veterans are wise to choose a college major carefully and early, so that they get the maximum return on the GI Bill money and all the hard work they put into their higher education. Career counseling can enable that.

“Veteran students should select courses, projects, professors and internships that will support their post-graduation careers,” says Kathryn Troutman, author of Military to Federal Career Guide, Second Edition and president of The Resume Place.

Student Veterans Face Barriers to Making Good Career Choices

Student veterans need advice because many don’t know enough about which college majors will be the most marketable when they graduate. Nor do they necessarily understand how their military experience can help them build a civilian career.

“Veterans are a little reluctant about choosing what they want to do,” says Andrews. “In the military, they were always just told what their work assignments would be.” So Andrews and her colleagues endeavor to help students express or discover what they like to do.

Here are six steps that veteran students can take to steer their post-secondary studies toward a successful and rewarding career.

Step 1: Examine How Military Experience Can Translate to a Civilian Career

“Student veterans who have done a certain job in the military need to analyze how it can translate to the world of civilian work,” says Troutman. A college career counselor can translate military occupational jargon into language that will make sense to civilian hiring managers and human resources departments.

As they begin their higher education, veterans should also find out if they can “CLEP” any of their military training or experience, which gives them a head start on the course credits they will need for graduation.

Step 2: Take Assessments for Aptitudes and Interests

Veteran students can ask their college career counselors for testing to help them understand their own personality types, interests and skills. Assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory are commonly given to college students. “Assessments give you information about yourself that can help you make a career decision — but they don’t make that decision for you,” says Andrews.

Step 3: Explore Other Personal and Labor-Market Factors in the Career Decision

Veteran students should also look at their own talents, skills, experience and interests – beyond their military service – to see what careers might be a good match. College career counselors can help veteran students research the marketability of various majors and the projected demand for the corresponding career fields. “While earning potential is a critical consideration for most college students, it shouldn’t be the sole basis for a career choice,” says Troutman.

Step 4: Choose a College Major As Soon As Possible

Next, student veterans should work with their counselors – as early in their post-secondary education as possible – to settle on the optimal college major, given their choice of careers. The earlier veterans elect a major, the sooner they’ll be able to graduate and get on with their careers, family life, and other aspirations.

Step 5: Find Student Internships Relevant to College Major and Choice of Occupation

With their numerous connections to employers and alumni, college career counselors can help veteran students line up internships, which are so often the best launch pad for the desired career. Counselors can help students write the resumes that may be required for internship applications.

Step 6: Start Early on the Search for That First Post-Graduation  Career Position

Early in the final year of their post-secondary education, veteran students should begin working with their counselors to line up a well-chosen post-graduation job. Career counselors can help with resume, interview and job-fair preparation. They can also point soon-to-be-grads to the people, jobs databases and other resources that will be critical to finding an employment opportunity that aligns with their college major and career choice.


Lisa Andrews has over 19 years of experience in higher education. As the Director of Career Services, her office services the over 93,000 students enrolled at University of Maryland University Center (UMUC), 50% of which are veterans. In 2012, she was selected as a Fulbright Scholar in Germany as a part of the International Education Administrators Program, where she created connections with higher education systems around the world.

During her career, she has serviced students at The George Washington University, University of Arizona, and Stetson University in addition to her work at UMUC. She earned a PhD in Higher Education at the University of Arizona, a Master’s in Counseling and Human Relations at Villanova University, and Bachelor’s in Psychology at Elizabethtown College.

Ms. Andrew’s passion is guiding and coaching students at all stages in their education to choose and succeed in the right career. She is also currently the President-Elect for the Maryland Career Consortium and is a member of the Maryland Career Development Association, the Mid-Atlantic Career Counseling Association, and National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).


Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 7.30.54 AM

Kathryn 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.