Bobbi Robbins – married to a Marine since 2009, a mother with two small children, and now a graduate student – really needed Program S when she and her husband were transferring to Fort Meade. When couples receive PCS orders, Program S gives military spouses high priority for DoD job openings. But like so many military spouses, it took Bobbi years to even discover that Program S exists.
“When we moved from Okinawa years ago, I had to figure out what to do for work, and I couldn’t get into school,” Bobbi says. Colleges, universities and employers often won’t make exceptions for military spouses on qualifications, entrance requirements and application procedures. Program S, by contract, is all about military spouses and their unique and challenging professional situations.
We recently spoke with Bobbi, who also serves as the Ten Steps to a Federal Job Program Registrar for The Resume Place, to ask her for real-world tips and advice on how to navigate the Program S process. Our framework is the STARS steps, discussed in detail in my book “The Stars Are Lined Up for Military Spouses.”
Star 1: Who Qualifies for Program S?
When active-duty military members receive PCS orders (permanent change of station) to a base in the United States, their spouses becomes eligible for program Program S. “Even on military bases, most people don’t know about Program S. I knew nothing about it until I started to work with Kathryn,” says Bobbi. Although the program has been around for nearly three decades, military spouses are not routinely informed of it.
Star 2: Write Your Federal Resume
“There’s a difference in the amount of content for private-sector versus federal resumes,” says Bobbi. “Most military spouses aren’t thinking about that – they picture a one- or two-page resume. And the little nuances are easily overlooked. They don’t realize all the specific information you must put in, such as the number of hours per week for each job in your work history.”
Star 3: Find Your Documents
Registering for Program S requires military spouses to present a few documents, including a marriage certificate. “You should have the required documents on hand anyway,” says Bobbi. “The only complication could be if you don’t have a copy of the PCS orders. As a spouse, that’s easy enough to get.”
Star 4: Set Up Your Program S Meeting
“The process is presented in different ways on different bases,” says Bobbi. “Believe it or not, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out who the HRO is on your new base – just keep asking around. The first time I registered for Program S, I had to go to an office. But here in San Diego, I did everything electronically, which was actually easier.”
Star 5: Improve Your Program S Registry
After your registration is complete, you’ll learn what occupational codes were assigned to you. “If you’re not quite pleased with codes that the HRO assigned to you, it’s probably because you didn’t include some skills or experience,” Bobbi says. “You should take the opportunity to correct this and resubmit your resume.”
Star 6: PPP Match Notification
With a little luck, you’ll be matched with a DoD opening on base before long. Be aware that you must respond to the notification to maintain your registration in Program S.
Star 7: Apply for Jobs on USAJOBS
“Program S is like Tinder,” the dating app, Bobbi jokes. “You may not immediately find a good match. That’s why we tell spouses that even if you are in Program S, you shouldn’t just sit back and wait. You still need to go out there and apply on USAJOBS.gov.”
Star 8: Save a Search for Job Matches
“I got my registration two weeks after signing up for Program S,” says Bobbi. “They assigned me four job series, and two job announcements came in yesterday via my USAJOBS saved searches for a series I qualified for. Since the agency was not DoD, no match notification came, but the jobs wanted Program S spouses to apply. If I weren’t also keeping up with USAJOBS, I might not have seen these opportunities through my Program S registration until after the positions closed, which would have been too late.”
Star 9: Follow-up on USAJOBS
Fear not: If you’re properly registered for the relevant job series, Program S will kick in for you even if you apply through USAJOBS. So just keep searching on USAJOBS, and apply immediately for appropriate openings.
Star 10: Get Best Qualified and Hired
“Getting ‘Best Qualified’ just means you’re in the running for the job,” says Bobbi. Whether you’re applying on USAJOBS or you’ve been matched via Program S, it’s the best news you can get on your way to landing a rewarding and well-paid federal job with great benefits!!
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