Applying for a Government Job as a U.S. Military Veteran

Applying for a Government Job as a US Military Veteran: Image of Richard Baskas, EdD
Guest Blogger: Richard Baskas, EdD

Dr. Richard Baskas is a 2021 Doctor of Education (EdD) alumnus with a specialization in Higher Education and Adult Learning.  He is currently employed as an Education Specialist and GED Instructor at the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  His prior experience includes many years as a 911 Dispatcher (Civilian), Firefighter (Active Duty), and Station Captain (Active Duty), all in the U.S. Air Force. 

Working for the government can have its advantages, as well as its disadvantages.  As a military veteran who has been employed at two government agencies for a combined 20+ years, I would like to share advice with those potential applicants who are interested in applying for a government position.  I provide my perspectives on what it takes to apply for government positions and get that interview.  

Set Realistic Expectations
Applying for a government job can be competitive. It is advantageous to have the specific skills, experience, and education that are required.  The problem with government jobs is that it is virtually impossible to know who else is applying for the same positions and what their qualifications are.  In other words, there may be many other qualified applicants who are applying for the same role.  Therefore, it is important to stand out from your competition as much as possible and set realistic expectations for yourself regarding the process.

Highlight Your Military Experience
One item that would look great on your resume and can help you stand out is being a military veteran with an honorable discharge. Many government jobs consider veterans first before interviewing and hiring nonveterans. If you are a veteran, make sure you have your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214) and scan it in your computer files; it will come in handy when applying for federal jobs.  Volunteering in the military is another way of setting yourself apart.  For example, I volunteered as a tutor at local elementary schools and engaged in other activities within our squadrons, including helping students with math problems and concepts.  This experience was very rewarding for me as the kids were very grateful for my support and wrote me many thank you cards at the end of the year.  When I applied for the Education Specialist position at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I included this relevant volunteer experience on my resume.

Showcase Your Education and Achievements
Nowadays, the trend for government employment is the more education you have, the better.  However, not many people have a master’s degree, let alone a doctorate. Along with your education, you should also share other achievements such as leadership roles at work or through professional organizations, presentations you delivered, articles you have written, committees or groups you participated in, and other academic and professional activities that can set you apart. The more achievements you list, the better; they show that you have valuable leadership, communications, writing, analytical, and research skills that are needed for many government jobs.

Update Your Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Before you apply for a government position, make sure your resume is updated. If you are going into the education or research field, you should also have a curriculum vitae (CV), as I did. On your CV, list all of your education, including all graduate certificates.  If you are a doctoral student, remember to also add your dissertation to your CV after you graduate. You may also want to list specific trainings you received and relevant professional development events you attended. These activities show that you are a lifelong learner who is up to date on trends and best practices in your field. If you have published works, including papers or books, also add them to your CV.

Engage in Self-Improvement
It is always best to keep track of your experiences and education and update your resume or CV regularly. Practice your interview skills so you can build confidence, provide clear examples of your skills and accomplishments, answer challenging questions, and present your best self.  Always try to improve yourself by gaining new knowledge and polishing your skills; you should be doing this for yourself, not for anyone else.  You will almost always run into individuals who will try to knock you off your trail; ignore them and stay grounded on your chosen path.  This is the only way you will be able to reach your goals.

Are you getting ready to apply for federal job opportunities?  Take advantage of these resources from the Career Planning and Development website:

 Written by Dr. Richard Baskas, ‘21 Walden Alum

Edited by Dina Bergren, ManagerCareer Planning and Development