Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to improve opportunities for military spouses looking for jobs within the federal government.
In some locations, federal positions are the best opportunities military spouses have. In some locations, federal jobs are the only option military spouses have. It is important and imperative we support our military spouses on their professional path.
The constant moving plays havoc with the careers of military spouses; military spouses who work, want to work or have established careers. I have talked about the variety of skill sets military spouses bring to the workforce. They are organized and meticulous. They multi-task and are resourceful. They work hard and are resilient.
Within the federal system, there are preferences for military spouses that have been in place for decades. Some of those preferences can be beneficial. Other times, the benefit falls short.
It seems time to improve some of those preferences to make sure they align with our current military and employment climate.
That said, new procedures are coming to the military spouse hiring process.
Basically, you will be able to submit an application directly through USAJobs for a particular job. The procedures are being streamlined.
This is long overdue. In my opinion, there are many necessary changes in the hiring of military spouses.
If you are looking to work as a Department of the Army civilian, you must visit your Civilian Personnel Advisory Center when you arrive at your new duty station. You must register with them. The staff at the center then ranks you at a certain level depending on your job history and educational background. They then assign certain job categories to you from your experience. You then will match to certain jobs that CPAC has deemed you eligible for and you have the opportunity to apply.
I have many gripes with the system from my personal experiences. I have heard the same stories from my friends and neighbors. I have had a unique career — I worked in television news for 15 years. I then worked for a state agency reporting to the governor, two high-level communications jobs. Yet in the eyes of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, I didn’t qualify for much.
In fact, one office wouldn’t rank or rate me at the same level as the previous Civilian Personnel Advisory Center.
There are too many inconsistencies from installation to installation. The other systematic problem is that resumes are being ranked by key words and guidelines. It might be time to re-evaluate some of the processes that are in place. The guidelines and key words may work for some positions, but not all.
Fort Hood is unique in the fact that there is a large civilian workforce on the installation. This workforce stays put as it crucial to the continuity of the operation. That said, it makes it hard for military spouses to find opportunities due to lack of vacancies.
What I learned from my personal journey in exploring a federal position is you have to advocate for yourself. You have to make sure you understand all the rules. You have to be ready for the rules to be interpreted differently from installation to installation.
There are some great federal positions out there and military spouses provide a unique and valuable skill set. This is something the military community must continue to keep striving to improve for the sake of our military families and their professional growth.
Reena O’Brien is a military spouse and Herald Correspondent. She lives on Fort Hood.