Sunday, November 5, 2017

Making Sense of The Military Spouse Employment Preference Programs


Disclaimer: I am not an expert in Military Spouse Preference programs or the federal job hunting process in any way. This is only to provide a brief overview of what the program entails. It is important to ensure that understand these programs as not all military spouses qualify. 

Trying to navigate the job market while being a military spouse is like navigating a bike on a four-lane highway in LA during rush hour...really freaking hard. BUT the DOD/Congress has been kind enough to make some legislation to make it a bit easier to navigate the federal job market.

You can thank Executive Order 13473 for making the job hunt just a bit easier for a military spouse. Executive orders make for some pretty boring reading material, I read it so you don't have to!

Federal jobs are awesome for spouses. The private sector is not always a friendly place for spouses. While no one is going to just give you a job because you are a military spouse, these programs have helped spouses immensely on their search for federal jobs.

Getting Started

When applying for jobs on USAjobs.gov, in order to be recognized as a military spouse you will need to send in some documents. For EACH AND EVERY APPLICATION you will have to include a copy of your spouse's PCS orders with your name included on it (black out the social security numbers), and a copy of your marriage certificate. This will let the hr employee know that you are a military spouse covered under EO 13473.

You will know that a job is open to military spouses on USAjobs by seeing the military spouse symbol listed under the job listing. It looks like two wedding rings....I know it looks a bit lame.

Photo Credit: USAjobs.gov
Photo Credit: USAjobs.gov

Some military spouses will simply send these documents and not bother applying for Program S. However, I highly recommend you look deeper into the Priority Preference Program as well. It wouldn't hurt to use all the resources available to you, especially on the job hunt.

Program S / Priority Preference Program

My Army Benefits is a fantastic resource about this program and describes Program S as, "a subprogram of the Priority Placement Program (PPP) - provides statutory employment preference to military spouses. By giving military spouses priority in the employment selection process, Program S works to reduce the impact of frequent relocations on spouse's careers."

The reason why this program is so vital to spouses is because federal jobs are highly competitive and have a rigorous application process. This gives you priority placement over people who are from a civilian background or are not married to a service member. An important thing to note, NO ONE HAS TO HIRE YOU IF YOU ARE NOT BEST QUALIFIED FOR THE JOB, even with this program. 

According to MilitaryOneSource, in order to be eligible you must have/be the following:
1. A spouse of an active duty service member (Coast Guard and full-time National Guard Included)
2. Moving with your spouse to a new duty station
3. Married and on PCS orders before your spouse's reporting date
4. Apply for jobs within a "reasonable" commuting distance from spouse's duty station
5. Be considered one of the "best qualified" candidates for the job

How Do I Register?
You will schedule a meeting with your post's Civilian Personnel Office. You will have to bring a copy of your federal resume (different from a private sector resume), a copy of orders, and your marriage certificate. 

From this point, you will work with the CPO to discover what types of federal jobs are the best fit for you. They will have you fill out a Program S checklist to make sure you understand the whole process easier. You'll be entered into the PPP/system, given a registration form that will show you what job types you are matched and placed in your GS Salary Rate (pay level). 

How Do I Get Hired?
You will be notified when a job could be a good fit for you and your qualifications. While you might receive this email, this does not mean you automatically get the job. You still need to follow the application process. If you choose to not apply to the job, you could be removed from Program S. There are no guarantees that this program will get you a job.

I'm sure you have MANY more questions. I highly recommend you do a search on USAjobs.gov for yourself and contact the Employment Readiness Program Manager on your post. I've only scratched the surface with this post, but don't be discouraged. There have been so many success stories of military spouses in government jobs, it is absolutely worth the effort to further your career or start a career you'll love!

**It is extremely important that you have a federal resume for this meeting. If you do not, I would suggest meeting with an employment counselor on post. I also recommend attending any federal resume classes that might be available. I used them and it helped me a ton.








Tuesday, September 19, 2017

So You're Waiting For PCS Orders....

  


 If you want to learn a lot about accepting the things you cannot change...marry someone in the military.

   I don't want this to seem like waiting to find out where in the world you are going next can feel like a thousand years, but sometimes it does. In a world where Uber can deliver your food (but not where you're stationed obviously) and Amazon can overnight bed sheets and cereal to you if need be, we've become accustomed to convenience. We expect results and answers faster than ever before and if that doesn't happen....we panic.

   I used to make the excuse that I grew up in the New York Metropolitan area where everyone moved a thousand miles a second. If you were five minutes early you were late and I have definitely nearly mowed people down trying to make a train. However, I now realize my excuses are useless and there is no way everyone I grew up with is running around like their hair is on fire. 

  We have currently been waiting for my husband's orders to our next post since the end of July. We are scheduled to leave at the end of October....and there is no timeline in place. Would I call this a lack of communication and organization among those in charge? I mean sure, I could probably call them many things but will it change the outcome? Not one bit.

   Not only will it make me look like a fool to continue whining and complaining but, to put it bluntly, the Army does not care what I think at all. I am a dependent, I am not a necessary component of the mission. Do I support my husband? Yes. But can a shoot a howitzer if the enemy is coming near while in Afghanistan? No...also I'd be terrified. It doesn't matter where I want to be, it matters where they need my husband. 

   Instead of looking at how other people are causing these problems in my life, I need to realize that the ONLY thing I can control is how I react. In a way, I am relinquishing the burden of staying up at night wondering the ifs and whens of what will happen next for us. There are no guarantees that I will know his orders tomorrow, next week or even next month. We have precious time left where we currently are and there is so much we still have left to see and do. I don't want to remember my final fleeting moments here being sad, scared and anxious. 

   My power and control will have nothing to do with where we go next or when we find out. I can make a conscious decision to allow myself to acknowledge what I'm feeling, but not let it control me. We will all eventually leave where we are now and odds are will not return. We cannot allow the stress of this life around us to hinder our joy and stop us from enjoying where we are. 

   The orders will come and with it the stress of moving again. But it will happen and until then, enjoy what time you do have left.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"What Do I Wear To This Thing?!" How to Dress for Any Military Event


I want to preface this by saying that you don't need to sacrifice your personal style just to make sure you are properly dressed or an event. Unless you walk around in a bikini or a barely-there dress all the time, you don't need to look like a cookie cutter version of everyone else.

I did not have a clue how to dress for any function when it came to the military at first. To be honest, sometimes I still feel like what I have in my closet may not work. However, you may be surprised that you can wear essentials (or things more than once) and look polished and comfy.


Military Balls
 With the exception of balls with a theme, most attire for balls is pretty predictable. The expectation is a floor length dress or suit. WEAR WHAT YOU LIKE. I personally like to think as long as the boobs and butt are covered, you are good to go. Some people have worn dresses with a train but people can get VERY drunk and these balls and might step on it. I would recommend wearing comfy heels, nice flats or sandals depending how comfy you want to be.
Military Ball Attire


Promotion/Graduation Ceremonies
 I like to think that promotion and graduation ceremonies are important events...but it is important for your spouse...not you. You don't need to wear anything extremely fancy to pin your spouse. Keep the weather in mind since some ceremonies are outside. I wore a dress from Target and a jacket while others wore nice jeans and a nice top. I have seen other spouses wear their scrubs since they had come from work and that is OKAY. 
Promotion Ceremony


FRG Meetings/Events
  As long as it looks like you didn't roll out of bed (even if you did) you're good to go.


                                 

Spouse Coffee
   Spouse coffee is usually an event that is for E-6 and above spouses that is hosted by an Officer or Higher-Enlisted spouse's home. I would recommend wearing a nice top with pants or a casual dress. You will probably be eating and having refreshments but it is not some fancy event that you need to buy a special outfit for.

Military Spouse Coffee

Welcome Home Ceremonies  
  I won't include guidelines to this since welcome home ceremonies usually consist of waiting around for sometimes over an hour in the middle of the night. Then after waiting for what feels like forever they suddenly appear and it is mass chaos among with a bunch of people dressed in red white and blue. If I can give one piece of advice it would be to wear clothing that is comfortable and DO NOT wear heels! I learned the hard way.

Deployment Send Off
  I'm gonna be honest. You will probably be a bit of an emotional wreck so the last thing you should think about is looking like a million bucks. I mean wear what you want but I never cry and I sobbed when my husband left. Then went home ate Sonic and watched Frozen.

                       

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The 5 Commandments of OPSEC


I recently came across a Facebook post where a woman posted the exact date her spouse would be deploying. My initial thought was, "Why on earth would you think that is okay to post?" But to be honest it can be easy to not know what is okay to post about deployments or trainings on social media. The military only makes up about 1% of the US population and has so many different rules and regulations it can be hard to keep track.

In an age where you can find wifi almost anywhere, OPSEC is probably the most important thing to understand in regards to keeping your spouse, friend or family member's safety in mind while they are overseas or training. It is also vitally important for YOU.

  1. Think of who is out there
    The odds that someone in the Taliban is simply sitting around looking through your Instagram feed isn't extremely high but people are out there specifically to gain intel from spouses and military members online. 
    Finding out the where and when of troop movements, deployments or training is their goal. I'm not trying to make this sound dramatic or scary but there are people who want to hurt your spouse and might use you as a way to get that information...and you wouldn't even know it.

  2. Take it seriously
     If there is one person who has trouble taking things seriously....it would be me. I couldn't sit through an episode of Army Wives without cracking up at the most inappropriate time, which is probably why I stopped watching it. 
     OPSEC is absolutely something to take seriously and understand thoroughly for the safety of not only your spouse but everyone they are deployed with. Social media wields so much power these days that we often forget that what we post or say can have a bigger impact than we originally thought.

  3. DO NOT TRUST STRANGERS ON THE INTERNET
    Just because they are in a military spouse support group doesn't mean anything. I could probably make an entirely fake fb profile and get into most groups no problem. Someone may want to make friends or meet people and that is totally fine BUT you better really make sure you know this person is actually who they say they are.

  4. Don't Make Yourself a Target
     A few years ago, there were some rumors going around of thieves targeting women who had "army wife" or "half my heart is deployed" stickers on their cars....it was complete BS. However, I'm not entirely sure why you would want to openly announce that your spouse is deployed or that you are home alone. I'm sure you can handle yourself just fine....but no reason to make it blatantly obvious that you are the only one home for months. 

    This isn't technically OPSEC but I feel like it is something that needs to be said.

   5. Your story matters...at the right time
      Having a spouse be gone for months or even years is extremely difficult and can be one of the hardest things you will deal with. All of us have a story of how we handled the distance or how we overcame the challenges of reintegration and they all matter. Sometimes, people take OPSEC as sometimes meaning that you should NEVER talk about deployments ever which is not the case. Your story matters and but it doesn't need to include details that the could threaten the safety of your spouse and others.