This can be a tough one. Switching jobs and careers is difficult, even if your type of career is in high demand across the world. Start your job search as soon as possible, with job search engines like indeed.com, and monster.com, and update your resume and references.
If you are looking to begin work as a Federal Civilian (GS) or in a Non-appropriated Fund position (NAF), contact your new duty station’s Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC). These people will become your best friends, as they match individuals to federal job openings. You can also apply for the Military Spouse Priority Placement Program through your CPAC office, which allows you to have preference in jobs which you are deemed highly qualified. Open an account with USA Jobs and learn how to navigate and apply for jobs through the site. Even if you are matched through the Placement Program, you will still have to submit an application through USA JOBS. The site can be tricky to navigate, but if you are attentive to the details, the information is there. There are also plenty of tutorials and advice available online about navigating and applying through USA JOBS. Tailor your resume to the job you are applying for, and add key words or phrases that are listed on the job posting. This helps your resume stand out; for example, you are more likely to be matched for a position that requires the incumbent to be a licensed practical nurse if you include the phrase “licensed practical nurse” in your resume-but only if it’s true!
Becoming a Federal Civilian Employee is a long process (it took me nearly 5 months from the time I applied to get an interview, and 9 months from the time I applied to when I started work) but once you’ve gone through the hoops and are in the Federal system, you may find it is easier to transfer to other opportunities when you move. Be prepared for lots of paperwork, background checks, emails, phone calls, and more paperwork. The government system does not move quickly, so don’t give up hope! You just might get the job if you’re patient.
Seek out the Army Community Service center at your new duty station, often located in the same building or near where your soldier will in-process. They offer numerous volunteer opportunities you can take advantage of. You can also list these experiences on your resume to fill in the gaps in your employment history. Sometimes volunteer opportunities can turn into full-time employment as well if you do a good job.
Check out the Army Civilian Service! The federal government employs hundreds of thousands of people, from GS and NAF positions to contractors. There are lots of opportunities available if you know where to look!
Don’t forget the Post Exchange! Your post PX offers employment opportunities as well!
Become involved in your soldier’s unit Family Readiness Group (FRG). These groups get a bad rep and you’ve probably heard horror stories, but they are what you make of them and can offer opportunities to boost your employability and resume as well. Taking a position of leadership in the FRG looks great on a resume, and you may just make a few friends in the process by volunteering for a bake sale or other event. FRG’s also offer training that can be useful in your job as well. I took Food Handler Safety Course through my FRG and used it for my job as a DOD Civilian as I was the only person qualified in Food Safety for our Lab Week Celebration cookout. You never know what may come in useful later!
Don’t give up! It’s tough to find employment, even with advanced degrees. Keep submitting those applications, the right job for you is out there!