I had been employed full-time prior to coming to DC, and wanted full-time employment again, so I knew I needed to start a job search. There was just one major hindrance as I started my search…I was afraid to drive off the base. Even though I was raised in a large city, and even though I had lived in a foreign country halfway across the world, Washington DC’s traffic reputation had preceded itself. I had witnessed the maze of the “mixing bowl,” where I-395 and I-495 converge and witnessed the aggressive driving displayed by some drivers during peak commuting hours. Each time, I would think about venturing out my heart would begin to skip a beat, but little by little, I did begin making small trips to places like Target and Wal-Mart. Eventually I came to realize I was not crazy when it dawned on me that to go north you had to first go east or west on the “beltway.” Fortunately, I remembered I was in the 21st century, and could use my computer for much of my job search, and learned how to get to Old Town, Alexandria, so that if I couldn't find a job there, I could certainly go shopping.

Of course, nowadays, even if you live in a small town, a great deal of the initial phase of a job search and the application process is done online. DC is the land of federal employment (or so I thought) and I am somewhat of an optimist when it comes to job searches. I calculated that since I had years of administrative experience, and a varied background, I would land a job fairly quickly. Also, often times during an interview I am asked why my background is so varied. I explain during interviews that since I became a military wife I have been forced to “morph” my varied experiences into whatever “superhero” is needed at the time for whatever job I am assigned. Military spouses learn the skills of adaptability and resilience because our personal and professional lives demand it. Each time we move and we begin our job search for the umpteenth time we know we can always claim this adaptability as a job asset. Our resumes easily inform would-be employers of how capable we are of learning new job skills during the proverbial “trial by fire” indoctrination with sparse direction, much like we have all learned to setup and pack up our lives and households at moment’s notice.  

The first step I took at trying to gain federal employment was attending a class offered by the Military and Family Support Center office that specializes in that topic. I did learn some interesting points such as reviewing the job qualifications and responsibilities list closely and including any of those qualifications you truly possess on your resume with almost the same verbiage as the ad details. The reason being is a computer will make the first sweep of your paperwork, and if that verbiage is not included you will receive an automatically generated email, stating you are not qualified, even when you may be ideally suited for the job. Also, look for jobs listed with solicitation windows lasting at least two weeks because if the opening is only listed for few days it may reflect their intent to fill in-house thus the job posting may only be a cursory listing. Navigating the maze of on-line Federal Employment vacancies will require tremendous strength and patience. I’m pretty quick at ascertaining whether or not I possess the requisite qualifications for a job vacancy however in this instance the Federal Employment application experience was overwhelming. Striving for but lacking the patience of Job in the Bible, I eventually got fed up with the process after several hours of numerous submission attempts. My frustration finally came to a head after I applied for a file clerk job also requiring one’s ability to lift 30 pounds. I enthusiastically checked all the boxes and diligently matched my qualifications with the job requirements only to receive the unfriendly automatically generated email of “we find you are not qualified for this position.”

A few weeks had passed since my frustrating experience with the Federal employment process when I remembered how I was once offered a permanent job by a company after starting there as a “temp”. The proverbial “light” went on in my head and I knew I had found the solution to my problem especially since I really didn’t know the DC area. I contacted Office Team, a subsidiary company of Robert Half International, and they sent me to two interviews. I did not get the first job I interviewed for, but the second job interview allowed me to start work the following day, and I was offered a permanent position within a few weeks. It was a great way to step out in what to me was a scary environment and also take a look at an employer before I actually accepted a job. All I can say is thank goodness for computers, GPS systems and the ability to find my way out of the mixing bowl of highways and job searches.


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Tags: 395, 495, Alexandria, Bible, Book, DC, Employment, Federal, I, Job, More…Military, Old, Search, Spouse, Target, Town, Trial, Walmart, Washington, by, fire, of

Comment by Mary Burchnell on February 28, 2013 at 11:55pm
You did it again, Kathy, great article! It should be a tremendous source of
enlightenment to anyone new to the area planning a job search.


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