Yes or No: Disclose Your Military or Foreign Service Affiliation

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You may have been asked or heard of friends being asked questions in an interview such as "What does your husband/wife do?" or "Why did you move here?" or "How long will you live here?" 

These questions are borderline illegal yet they are asked all the time. The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 protects federal civilian employees from discrimination based on marital status. Veterans are protected from discrimination, but military and foreign service spouses are not. However, your spouse's or partner's employment status - particularly when serving the country - should not affect your ability to be hired and you should feel empowered to say so. Many employers are not even aware of the bias they are exercising when refusing to hire a spouse. 

So, when you interview, should you tell an employer that you are a military or foreign service spouse. Yes, yes, yes!

There are several reasons why you shouldn't be afraid to do so. 

1. It speaks to your value. Once you've been affiliated with the military or foreign service for a while it begins to feel like what we do is normal. But it is not normal. What you go through is not normal compared to the average citizen. You've overcome the challenges of living through deployments and in other countries without formal support. You have a diverse perspective from your experiences. You've built relationships from nothing and you know how to ask for help. These soft skills are difficult, if not impossible, to teach. 

2. You should be comfortable and happy where you work. Do you really want to work for an employer who bases a hiring decision on the fact you may move and/or does not appreciate your service? When you interview for a job, you should be doing your due diligence to figure out if it's the right place for you. Would you like to work in a place where your qualifications, background, potential, and service to our country isn't fully valued? 

3. 35% of U.S. workers change jobs within 3 years. We move on average every 3 years. Where's the problem in hiring spouses then? In fact, you may want to stress that you'd like to stay on if possible for the long-term should you perform well and it's mutually agreeable down the road, working from your next post in another office or remotely. This is not something they will automatically get from the average employee. By giving you a bit of trust and flexibility, they will get loyalty from you, and that's priceless.

It's not easy to build awareness of the lifestyle we lead and convince employers of the value we bring to the table. But if we all stand up and give voice to our value, we'll continue to educate and change minds and create more opportunities for ourselves, our friends, and partners/spouses of the future. 

Two Quick Ways to Boost Your Resume

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Don’t forget about your resume when you’re in spring cleaning mode.
Recruiters spend six seconds scanning a resume to decide if they want
to read further or invite you for an interview, so your resume needs
to be clear and well organized.

Here are two easy ways to upgrade your resume to get it into the “yes” pile.

1. Write a brief career summary. This goes at the top of your resume
underneath your contact information. It should be several lines or
bullets that answer the following questions:

- what is your title or specialty? (e.g., engineer, marketing
professional, medical researcher)
- what are 3-5 of your key skills? (e.g., presentations, operations,
interpersonal skills)
- what are you known for/what do your colleagues say about you? (e.g.,
attentive to detail, quick learner, motivator)

2. Group your bullets under each job. Categorize your bullets based on
the skill they demonstrate. For example, if you’re in communications
you may have “crisis management,” “written communications,” and
“social media,” among others. Use those terms as subheadings under
each job you’ve held and list the bullets that demonstrate each skill
under the appropriate subheading. Make sure your bullets speak to
examples of work you’ve done and include numbers, results, or the
purpose of each task. Simply listing duties will not help you stand
out. Be as specific as possible.

These two strategies will go a long way in helping you refine and
better organize your resume so recruiters can get to know you quickly
and easily. From there, it’s more likely you’ll end up in the
interview stack.

Three Ways to Keep Your Skills Up to Date

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This week on Facebook we are discussing career breaks - how to come back from them, but also how to stay up to date while you are away from your job. This is an important topic for military and foreign service spouses, so we're diving in deeper on the blog this week.

The best thing you can do during your break is to remain engaged professionally. This is important for a number of reasons, including your mental health. Faced with a long bout of unemployment after working for some time can easily lead to an unhealthy rut. You must take care of yourself and simultaneously ensure that you are not falling behind while away from the workplace. This will help you tremendously when the time comes to return to work both because you will be and feel connected. If you emerge from the break with a negative or desperate perspective, employers will sense that, and you'll have a more difficult time finding a job.

Here are some ways to avoid this and stay engaged professionally.

1. Strengthen your online presence. Use any time that you have, even if it's only in small bursts, to create or overhaul your LinkedIn profile. In general, you need to keep your profile current, so the first thing to do is update it if it's outdated. And it is a good idea to put a current entry that reflects what you are up to now. If you've thought of becoming more active on social media or building a website, this may be a good time for it. These activities keep you current and you'll have products that show other facets of your professional and personal life for your next professional move.

2. Flex your expertise. A great way to keep your mind active and knowledge fresh is to blog. You can create a blog on sites, such as Tumblr or on your own website. Other platforms include LinkedIn Pulse, which you can find under the "Interests" drop-down tab at the top of the main page once you log in. While it's not guaranteed that many people will view it, you will create a stock of your expertise there that can be viewed by former colleagues and future employers. Another way to engage on LinkedIn effectively is to join groups in your field and comment on discussions that you find interesting. Again, this is a way to offer and showcase your expertise. And it's also a way recruiters sometimes find their next employees.

3. Volunteer your time. You may not have much time depending on the reason for your being out of work. But if you've been let go and are figuring out what you want to be when you "grow up" or job searching day in and day out, think about volunteering some of your time to an organization that you believe in. It could as simple as reading to children for an hour once a week at the local library or walking dogs at your local shelter. It will make you feel good to help others and bring joy to those you are working with. And the bonus is that it gives you something for your resume and to talk about if an employer asks, "What do you do in your free time?" or "How have you spent your time out of work?"

Being away from work can be mentally trying. And facing the prospect of going back to work, even if you've been lucky enough to keep the same job, can be tough, too. The best thing you can do is to stay in touch as much as possible with your former colleagues and with your field. Be proactive and decide if there are things you want to learn about and how to maintain your professional presence online during the time you're off. There may not be a lot of time you can allot to it, but whatever you can manage is vital for your future.

How to Sell Remote Work to An Employer

Our topic for this week is remote work - how to find it and the benefits of it to diplomat and military spouses. But what if you already have a job you love? Chances are, you can transition it to a remote position if you can make a compelling argument to your employer.

Eighty to 90 percent of the U.S. workforce is interested in teleworking at least part-time, according to Global Workplace Analytics. This is not only a demand among younger workers – seasoned employees are seeking to work from home two or three days a week. 

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Requesting to work remotely is a hard sell for a company where you’re interviewing for an office-based role, but there’s no harm in trying. It’s easier to sell the idea if you’ve already worked for an employer for a year or more and want to make the shift. Employers can’t always see the benefit that it can bring them and it’s your job to tell them how. The bottom line: you can leverage your location to bring more value to the company.

Events. Check out local networking and marketing opportunities in your current or future location on Eventbrite. Think broadly. There may be applicable conferences or workshops within or complementary to your area of expertise where you can gain contacts and exposure for the firm. By allowing you to reach beyond your normal duties, you're building capabilities which ultimately contribute more to your team.

Access to partners. Ask your boss to consider strategic partners that may be an asset to the business in your current or future location. Perhaps there are existing partners in your location, or you may be in a good place to develop new partnerships.

Access to clients. The same is true for current or prospective clients. Can you help to maintain or strengthen existing client relationships? Can you develop new business contacts in your local area? Technology cannot replace face-to-face interaction, and you can save your company travel costs.

Public relations. If your company is looking to gain exposure to new markets, you can help by virtue of your new location. Your media department can focus their outreach on those locations and enable the company to expand its reach.

The more specific benefits that you can identify for your particular employer, the better. It’s not a guaranteed “yes”, but taking this approach will get them thinking about your proposal in a constructive way.

ServingTalent Founder Marcelle Yeager Quoted in Foreign Service Journal

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U.S. foreign service (diplomat) spouses/partners have been given little help when it comes to embassy opportunities, from a long hiring freeze to unrealistic qualifications (e.g., a Ph.D. in business).

They are required to have higher qualifications than diplomats for some positions (note: diplomat pay is roughly equivalent to basic military officer pay, however, housing is not covered for diplomat families when posted in DC), yet spouses are paid significantly less. 

ServingTalent will continue to find rewarding jobs for our spouses/partners around the world: you simply cannot find this type of talent anywhere else. These are people who live in almost 300 locations around the world, handling challenges every day without the support of a relocation agency while their spouse works insane hours - buying groceries, a car, and registering children for school in a foreign language in a country they've never been to before.

Then add to all that, the qualifications of our military/diplomat spouse pool look like this:

  • 75% possess a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 43% hold a master’s, Ph.D., or JD
  • 20% are bilingual or trilingual
  • 11% are veterans 

We continue to work hard to support these valuable candidates from both the military and diplomat communities, but more needs to be done. You can find the full article from The Foreign Service Journal here.

Preparing for The Interview, Including Your Own Questions

It’s hard to know what to expect walking in to an interview. There are lots of horror stories out there about bad interviews and interviewers. The best you can do is to prepare, suggestions for which are outlined below.

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Ask for the names and positions of people you will be meeting. This allows you to look on the company website beforehand and do a Google search to find out about these folks. If you can get a biography or view a LinkedIn profile, it will give you a better shot at determining the kinds of questions the person might ask you based on their position and background. However, don’t go into the interview spouting off how much you learned about everyone in the room! You will likely scare them off. Use it as a reference only to help you prepare, and if you’re lucky, the interview discussion may turn to commonly-shared interests which would be the time to share that you run marathons or love to bake too.

Brainstorm two sets of questions. The first set of questions you should think about are tough ones the interviewers may ask you. We've covered these this week on our Facebook page so make sure to check it out.

The second set of questions you should brainstorm are those you can ask the interviewer during or after the formal interview. You always need to ask a question, preferably two or three. This shows you are prepared, engaged, and truly interested in the job. Examples are:

·      Is this a new position or did someone occupy it before? If so, why did they leave?

·      In your opinion, what are the best and worst parts about working here?

·      Do you have any reservations about hiring me for this position?

The first two questions will give you a good grasp of the company culture and whether it’s a good fit for you. The third question can be risky but it’s a good one, especially if you’re concerned the interview did not go as well as you hoped. If you do ask it, you need to be prepared to follow-up to the interviewer’s answer. If they say “no, we don’t have any reservations” you’re in luck and should briefly emphasize how excited you are about the role and why you think the company would benefit from hiring you. If they say “yes, we’re not sure you have the right amount or type of experience,” that’s your chance to tell them why you do. When you prepare ahead for this response, think in terms of selling yourself to the company. They don’t want to hear that the company is a good fit for you; they’ll want to be convinced that you’re the right choice for them because of what you’ll bring to their organization. This is your chance to convince them!

Write down some quick notes on a notepad to bring with you to the interview. If you get nervous and can’t think of that one example you wanted to give, or questions to ask, you’ll have hints in front of you. Don’t be afraid to jot down some notes during the interview if you feel it’s appropriate.

Planning questions ahead of time for an interview goes a long way. You will come across as more confident and be able to speak clearly and concisely about your experience. In addition, the interviewers will note your thorough preparation, which shows that you are serious about the job and leaves a lasting impression.

5 Steps to Put Keywords in Your Resume

We’re always hearing about using keywords, but what are they and how can you incorporate them painlessly? Here’s a step-by-step approach.

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1.      If you don't already have a job description that intrigues you, go to Indeed and type in your former or current title to find a posting. Copy the entire job description.

2.      Open Wordle, which creates word clouds from text. Paste the job description into the empty box, and hit "go"! It will generate a cluster of words. Words that are larger appear more frequently in the job description, so the cloud tells you what phrases and words are most important. You can print or save the word cloud. 

3.      Now you know which skills and qualifications you need to highlight in your job application. But how do you do it? Come up with examples of projects where you've demonstrated those skills. For example, is "presentations" a prominent word? Think about presentations you've given at work, school, or while volunteering. What was the topic? How many people did you present to? Did it lead to positive compliments or outcomes?

4.      Write a bullet that answers those questions in your resume and bonus. If you have more you want to say about that skill, use additional experiences in your cover letter to supplement the information in your resume. 

5.      Continue to do this for each of the larger terms appearing in your word cloud. When you feel comfortable with it, you may not even need to use Wordle. Simply focus on the section of a job description that says "minimum required qualifications" or "job requirements," and pull out key skills to match against your background.

 

Proving You're Qualified for Your Flexible Dream Job - FlexJobs

“As far as presenting yourself in the best way possible for a stretch job, you have to prove that the gaps in your experience or work history are not an issue,” says Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet. “For example, if the dream job you’re looking at requires knowledge of WordPress and you haven’t worked with it, take an online course and put it on your resume marked ‘in progress’ if you haven’t yet completed it.”

Read the article here.