Throughout the United States, many civilian employees of the military are undergoing a BRAC (Base Realignment and Closing). This means that either their commands are leaving their present areas or entire bases are closing. For those whose commands are moving from their present locations, a choice by the individuals involved is being made not to accept a transfer with their position to the new area; therefore, within a few months or a year, they will be displaced. For those whose bases are closing altogether, the situation is also the same. They too will be out of work within a relatively short period of time. Career coaches and counselors involved with BRAC affected employees need to understand both the personal and career oriented dilemmas that these workers face, and help them organize, prepare and write the most effective resumes possible. Nowhere can this issue be better seen then in the Washington, D.C. area.
What are the characteristics of BRAC affected individuals?
BRAC affected civilian military employees share the following characteristics and face the following issues:
Many are former military who retired from active duty and were hired as civilian employees of various commands. Although many have been separated from the military for a long time, they never really left the "industry".
Because of personal or family reasons, the possibility of relocating with their jobs is not viable for many of these individuals. Even more are "hedging their bets" until the last possible moment when a truly final decision has to be given.
Skills needed to prepare, write and then edit outstanding federal and/or private sectors resumes may not be strong in these workers. Therefore, much individual coaching may be necessary.
Procrastination reigns! Many such employees have lived through BRACs before and believe that a reprieve will arrive at the last moment. Reality may not set in until the date of transition is upon them.
Individuals need to understand what a generic resume is, and how to tweak their resume as they apply for new positions.
Besides understanding the uniqueness of these workers as described above, career coaches and counselors must help BRAC workers take charge! Some ways of doing so include:
Listening to them articulate how they see their situations and encouraging true self- awareness and understanding of what is coming. Help them identify their selling points.
Assisting them in identifying their transferable skills. How would the skills that they already possess fit into the rest of the current federal sector and/or the private sector?
Understanding that many of these clients have never worked in the private sector and would prefer to remain "federal" because of time in and other factors. However, that may not be possible. I recently worked with a client who is a graphic designer for a branch of the military and undergoing BRAC. She is not a veteran. She has already applied for other military positions before coming to see me and was told by one federal hiring manager that veterans and especially disabled veterans were first choices for any open positions in her field.
Encouraging them to prepare either a generic "federal" or "private' resume or both and bring those resumes to their first resume review session. A wonderful source for understanding generic federal resumes is www.usajob.gov . Having recently undergone a facelift, usajobs.com offers help to both beginning and experienced federal resume preparers. Making sure that the client understands the differences between federal and private resumes is also important.
Working closely with them on editing and revision of draft resumes.
Offering assistance on KSA (knowledge, skills and abilities) preparation as needed. (The Federal government has announced that KSA requirements will be gone by April, 2010 or shortly thereafter; however, it is possible that some hiring managers will still require them.)
Being prepared to assist with avenues of retraining, if necessary.
BRAC affected military employees are special individuals, many of whom have served their country both as active duty and/or for many years as civilian employees within the military system. In order to help them successfully transition into new roles perhaps in other parts of the federal system, or even the private system, career coaches and counselors need to understand and appreciate their unique situations, encourage them to accept the challenges of preparation for transitioning into the rest of the federal system and/ or the private sector, and to accept and acknowledge the need for new skills, if necessary. As with other displaced workers, the pain of separation from former professional lives may be sharp, but with the understanding and encouragement of the career coaches and counselors working with them, a successful transition can be achieved.
Patricia A. Van Haste, MA, GCDF, MCDP, is a global career development facilitator in private practice in the Washington, D.C. area. She is presently working with BRAC affected civilian military employees, especially in the areas of resume and KSA preparation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is www.vanhaste.com