Posted by Wendy Witherell
I am happy to report that I finally found a job in the Federal Service. It took six months after we returned from Italy, where I left a job there that I loved, but it was worth the wait. I ended up taking a reduction in grade (from a GS-12 to a GS-09), but am happy with the decision I made. It is a new career path for me, and many elements from my past work experience aligned to make me a good candidate for this new position being stood up at a local command here in Washington.
I have to give my husband credit for spotting the vacancy announcement, because I probably would have overlooked it (I was set on getting back into Human Resources). It was titled “Travel Specialist” and the job description was a little vague. The main experience the successful candidate needed was:
- Expert knowledge of the Defense Travel System (DTS) (I have used DTS as a traveler; I would not call myself an expert, but I have a working knowledge of the system).
- Expert knowledge of the federal travel regulation (I have used them before when I worked in Human Resources while answering questions for my customers).
- Expert knowledge of the government travel charge card regulations (I have a government travel charge card and worked for a credit card company in my first job out of college; I have also worked in banking as a trainer and assistant manager – I figured that might be relevant).
I applied for the position in July and received the automated e-mail saying my resume had been forwarded to the hiring official for consideration in August. I did not hear anything else until October, and had given up on the position by then. I was called for an interview and went in not knowing what to expect. I was really impressed with the hiring manger and we clicked right off the bat. It was more like having a conversation with a friend than a job interview. She told me I was the one interview she had scheduled with someone who had not worked exclusively with DTS as their primary job. She was more interested in my background with analysis, writing, training, and interpreting regulations – DTS was just a computer system that could be learned.
The command was standing up a travel program for the first time and needed a Travel Program Manager and someone to oversee the Government Travel Charge Card program as well. She said there was a lot of room for growth in the position and since it was new I would be able to make it my own. I left the interview extremely excited and feeling like the job was mine. It was! I received the offer a week later and started at the end of October. I am learning so much and absolutely loving the job and the people I work with. I am on a compressed schedule which allows me to have every other Monday off, and I am able to occasionally tele-work.
I guess the main thing I would like to convey here is that if you are interested in federal employment, be open to applying for positions that you may not have considered before. Your experience may not be in that field specifically, but perhaps you have other specialties that would be valuable. Do not rule out a position because you are not an “expert” in that field. I did not have an “in” by knowing anyone at the command, and I did not work in travel before, but I have a diverse working background that caught someone’s eye and she was willing to hire someone who would need a little training. The job hunting process can be long and frustrating, but it can work out if you are patient and willing to go out of your comfort zone – you may discover a whole new career that you had not even considered.