Changing Shirts: How to Approach a Federal Career or Series Change

Let’s assume you’ve decided the time is right for a change and have determined you may qualify for a different federal occupational series. You’re tired of your current job’s winter doldrums and wish to move to a warmer career climate. Congratulations on the successful soul-searching and necessary research/consultation. Now it is time to set your plan in motion and land a fresh job with a new set of challenges in the different series you’ve chosen. At The Resume Place, we refer to your discrete job duties and competencies as the “hats” you wear at work. Switching occupational series is analogous to changing the shirt on your back. We can help you ditch the old duds and move into some new threads.


Recombining what you need…

A degree of overlap between your previous experience and the requirements of the job you seek will be necessary. In crafting your most effective resume—your ticket to an interview—you must bring this overlap to the forefront while minimizing or outright eliminating content that does not overlap. This may sound trivial, but it is actually a difficult task for many series-switchers. Finding and articulating relevant overlap is not as easy as it may seem. Years of experience in a given federal occupational series can impart significant knowledge and skills, but it also can create process, procedural, and linguistic blinders. You have likely grown accustomed to doing certain things a certain way and relating to them using certain words and phrases. No matter how current and complete your resume may be, series-specific words/phrases/structure have a tendency to ossify your apparent qualifications and make referrals to a different series hard to achieve. Overlap between the job you have and the job you want must be found and leveraged to the maximum extent. This will likely involve rethinking, rephrasing, and generalizing specificity and jargon. This can be very difficult, especially if it has been a while since you have thought outside your “series box”. Resume Place writers and consultants excel at approaching your career change with the necessary clean slate thinking. We’re experts at matching existing experience. We’re experts on specific requirements within federal job series you seek. And we approach your project with clean slate thinking, detached from lingo baggage. You’re heading toward something new and it requires a new resume “wardrobe”.

And leaving behind what you don’t.

But there is a finite space in your resume “closet”: the other difficult part of writing the most effective and best read resume for a series switch is letting go of irrelevance. Most people are rightfully proud of their experience and its reflection in their resume. Experience takes years to develop, and documenting it all within a resume can be arduous. And with lengthiness accepted and even encouraged in federal resumes, it can be tremendously difficult to trim and feel unnecessary to leave out experience. You certainly need to impart experience and tenure. But irrelevance is irrelevance. The truly unnecessary should be trimmed as it hurts readability. It can be difficult to part with that hard-won experience on paper. It’s like the hesitation of donating your favorite old sweater when you have set your sights on moving to the tropics. The old sweater is the unnecessary, dated stuff in your resume that doesn’t apply to your future (tropical) job. Tailor your wardrobe, combining exiting and new pieces, with an eye to where you are going—not from where you came.


My Shirt-Changing Story

I have a good example of a series change which is near and dear to me: my own. Newly married and facing a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) situation complete with an entirely undesirable “relocation”, I made the leap in 2010 from a very narrow, technical, specialized occupational series (0855 Electronics Engineer) to a slightly more general acquisition/business series with its own unique requirements and qualifications. The locations and agencies I shopped suited me better than BRAC’s forced option. This involved much unraveling of old sweaters and sewing of new clothes. Previously, my resume prominently featured jargon-y technical experience that would have substantially limited me even in the 0855 series. But after the help offered through an on-site Resume Place course, I filtered out and recombined my experience with an eye toward specific positions I had in mind. For example:

These old wooly yarns:

  • Served as section lead for contract actions and micropurchases involving in-service engineering support for Mk 45 Gun Weapons System.
  • Maintained Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) configuration matrices for componentry included within the Mk 45 Gun Weapons System, Mk 119 Gun Computer System Cabinet and Mk 46 Optical Sight System.
  • Contracting Officer’s Representative for gun computer system hardware contracts.
  • Developed engineering diagrams and configuration lists to be published in engineering technical manuals.

Were re-knitted into these snazzy Hawaiian shirts:

ACQUISITION ANALYSIS AND PROCUREMENT: Procurement expert for code/branch with extensive knowledge of management processes, organizational structures, and funding guidelines. Knowledge of and adherence to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Procurement experience with standalone contracts as well as larger, omnibus contract vehicles. Developed expertise in federal stock system, micropurchase, task order authorship, budgetary documentation, and financial functions. As technical representative on numerous contracts, monitored progress from requirements formulation through post-award. Compared and validated contractor performance and deliverables.

TECHNICAL PROCUREMENT OVERSIGHT:  Planned and executed highly technical life-cycle and end-of-life technology procurements. Made critical acquisition decisions concerning technology obsolescence and Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS), end-of-life procurements. Helped implement new ideas, procedures, and processes for organizational-level program operations in ad hoc COTS working group. Managed contracts from requirements definition to post-award with special attention to technical specification as well as strategic budget planning. Prepared Statements of Work (SOWs) and evaluated contractor proposals. Developed innovative procurement strategy for a system test and evaluation facility utilizing an efficient mix of government furnished material (GFM) and local contractor services to meet time, urgency, and budget constraints. Advised contractors in obtaining Data Universal Number System (DUNS) numbers and registering with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR). Experience with Wide-Area Work Flow (WAWF) as certifying official.

CONFIGURATION MANAGEMENT: Identified obsolescence issues and hardware conflicts in order to maintain highest system capability and prevent incompatibilities. Utilized Integrated Product Data Management (iPDM) software suite to maintain documentation, logistics, and revision information and assure its availability to all necessary stakeholders for a joint Army-Navy program. Assisted with lifecycle management processes and helped align organization to the complexities of COTS hardware.

They became less technical and narrowly focused—generalized enough for better applicability to my desired series/jobs and yet targeted in Outline Format to the requirements listed in announcements.

We can help you ditch the threadbare sweater and root through your closet of experience to find some Hawaiian shirts. You’ll need them, figuratively speaking, at your new job. The Resume Place, Inc., CFJST/CFCC Federal Resume Writers specialize in career change challenges for current federal employees, first-time private sector, government contractor professionals, and transitioning veterans wishing to start a new career with new missions, organizations, and daily responsibilities. We can help you rethread your resume and leave behind old skills for new. Send your request for help here.

About the Author

Jeremy Mott is an experienced technical writer with significant analytical and organizational expertise, ideally suited for federal resume writing. Jeremy changed his agency, occupational series, country and mission — with his USAJOBS federal resume and application! With 12 years in the federal government serving as a Management and Program Analyst, Contract Manager, and Electronics Engineer, his diverse experience is reflective of—and a great asset to—the broad range of Resume Place clients. Now as a Management Analyst within a Programs and Manpower division, he has benefited from much exposure to the inner workings of OPM occupational standards, the tailoring of interview questions, applicant selection, and the critical importance of quality recruitment.

Jeremy has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s of Public Administration, both from the University of Louisville. He also received a Graduate Certificate in Public Management from a NAVSEA-sponsored program with Indiana University. He lives in Germany with his wife, son, and daughter.

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