Military Spouse Employment Preference: What I Learned About Getting a Federal Job
As a military spouse, it’s hard to maintain a career PCS after PCS. Not impossible but hard! Anyone who tells you different hasn’t hit that troublesome duty station yet. For this reason military spouses have federal military spouse employment preference.
When you’re a military spouse a federal job looks like a golden ticket. If you can snag a government position, then it can mean federal rehiring preference and job opportunities not available to the public. Federal jobs also offer competitive pay based on locality. And overseas cost of living allowance (COLA) for those stationed abroad.
It’s easy to see the benefit of obtaining a federal job as a military spouse. It’s not so easy to figure out how to use your military spouse employment preference.
But don’t freak out! Guidance from Fleet & Family + the military spouse community pointed me in the right direction. Keep reading to learn how to exercise your federal military spouse employment preference.
9/30/2018 Update: As a result of a law signed in 2016, military spouse registration within the Priority Placement Program (PPP-S) will be coming to an end. However, OCHR will continue to register spouses until a firm end date is received. So register now y’all!
What I knew about federal hiring
Luckily, even before I was a military spouse I was familiar with federal hiring.
I worked as a federal HR consultant for a time while living in DC. A good number of my classmates from graduate school work for the Federal Government. I am familiar with federal resume styles. I’m experienced with the federal employment application website USAJobs. I know about occupational groups and job series. I’m even experienced in OPM job classification standards.
My point is…when I arrived at my overseas duty station, I was confident in my ability to apply for federal jobs. Then I learned it’s not the case that hiring managers follow up on spousal eligibility post application.
The number of federal vacancies on Guam is much smaller than I expected. (Thanks open and continuous job announcements!) Also, there are hoops to jump through in order to use your military spouse preference.
Take it from me, you need to have your shit together before you apply! I went 8 months before receiving a federal job offer.
Related Post: Letter to an Unemployed Milspouse
What Fleet & Family told me about military spouse employment preference
If you think 8 months of unemployment and underemployment is a long time…I agree with you. Given that I sought help from Fleet & Family before our furniture arrived, I expected the period to be much shorter.
My husband being the advocate for power couples that he is, alerted me to the career resources the Navy provides for spouses. Fleet & Family advised me to complete these 4 steps to use my spouse preference:
- Check the military spouse box in your USAjobs profile.
- Upload your PCS orders to USAjobs under other documents.
- Upload the military spouse preference (MSP) form to USAjobs under other documents.
- Look for positions which are aligned with your experience and skill set.
- Submit your PCS orders and the MSP form with each federal job application.
*Note: “Your PCS orders” refers to the requirement that the sponsor’s PCS orders list dependents. If you have relocated on your own accord, (i.e., orders are for an unaccompanied tour) then you do not qualify for spousal employment preference.
I leveraged all my knowledge of federal hiring and followed all the guidance of the Fleet & Family career counselor. Unfortunately, I was still coming up short.
¿Exercising your employment preference… do you need a personal trainer?
4 months into my unemployment, I learned I didn’t have to exercise my spouse preference all by myself. I didn’t have to look for positions to apply for (step 4) and submit spousal documentation (step 5) all on my own.
The above steps are comprehensive if you want to get a Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) job with your military spouse employment preference. But if you want to get a General Schedule (GS) job with your military spouse preference, then there is an additional program that can help you.
You don’t have to search for jobs all on your own!
I am thankful to Fleet & Family for the information they provided to me. However, registering for GS employment was a better fit for me. Given my career experience and the types of vacant positions in Guam that is.
Curious as to whether the NAF or GS military spouse employment preference is better for you? Please sign-up for my mailing list or send me an email. I will be writing more blog posts on military spouse preference in the future!
What a fellow spouse told me about military spouse employment preference
Military spouses also qualify for Program S of the Priority Placement Program (PPP). This DoD program is an “automated registration and referral system that matches eligible participants with DoD job vacancies.” It is through this program that I eventually received a federal job offer.
I caught wind of the Priority Placement Program while completing the Applicant Questionnaire for a position to which I was applying. A question which referenced spousal preference “registration” confused me. I didn’t figure submitting forms and orders with an application qualified as registering. And I was right!
A week or so later, I was at a spouse luncheon when I mentioned my confusion to a spouse who had managed to snag a federal job. I then learned I could register for DoD spousal preference through the Office of Civilian Human Resources (OCHR).
It’s a good thing I went to the spouse luncheon back then, otherwise I’d still be underemployed today.
Related Post: Adulting Miracles of an Unemployed Military Spouse
PPP Program S: the Military Spouse Preference Program
Program S military spouse preference applies when 1) registered in the Priority Placement Program, 2) referred for a job vacancy, and 3) rated among the “best‐qualified” candidates.
This means that a military spouse rated as best‐qualified blocks the selection of other competitive candidates.
This program will help you to obtain a single position within the commuting area of your spouse’s duty station. You can use this spousal employment preference each time you PCS, but only until you receive your first federal job offer.
It is a 5 step process to get a job through the Priority Place Program S:
- Get in contact with your OCHR representative.
- Submit your PCS orders, sponsor’s Page 2, and DoD ID #.
- Provide a consolidated federal resume, and up to 5 federal job series with which you want to be matched.
- Apply to the positions OCHR forwards to you.
- Notify OCHR if you will be unavailable to respond in a timely manner.
If you’re left with a lot of questions, please sign-up for my mailing list or send me an email. I will be writing more blog posts on military spouse preference in the future!
How much did you know about military spouse employment preference programs before reading this post?
Am I the only one that didn’t stumble upon the Priority Placement Program through good old fashioned googling?
Are there more ways to use military spouse employment preference that I don’t know about?