Fed Stories — An Intelligence Analyst’s Journey Around the World

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Fed Stories

Cheryl Barkoczy — St. Augustine, FL
Intelligence, Government Contractor

You started out your career working for the NSA. What brought you to working for the federal government?

While in my 3rd semester of college, I learned from a high school friend that there were language learning opportunities in the United States Air Force (USAF). I did not come from a military family and, therefore, my knowledge of the military came solely from grade school history classes. About a week after speaking with my friend, I walked into the local Air Force recruiter’s office, told him that I was interested in becoming a linguist, took the necessary aptitude tests, and shipped out for basic training a month later. As it turns out, this seemingly impulsive course of action was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

You know both Farsi and Russian – quite a difference! How did you come by learning and understanding these languages and their cultures?

Upon completion of the Air Force Basic Training course, I was sent to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA to learn Russian. This 48-week program was exceedingly intensive and included not only language instruction, but also provided an in-depth look into the Russian culture. Towards the end of my 6-year commitment to the USAF, I decided to reenlist for another 4 years. Under the terms of my reenlistment contract, I was sent back to the Defense Language Institute for another 48-week course, only this time I learned Persian-Farsi.

When you transitioned to the private sector, what obstacles did you experience?

Towards the end of my second enlistment in the USAF, I was deployed to Afghanistan. I ran into former military coworkers of mine who were then working as deployed contractors. These individuals spoke highly of the contracting field and suggested that I put a resume together in the event I decided to separate from the military. A few months later, I had made the decision to leave active duty and got in touch with those same contractor friends. I passed on my resume which soon made it into the hands of the Program Manager for the position I was looking to apply for. The fact that I had friends within the company who were willing and able to vouch for my performance was undoubtedly the reason that my resume was placed towards the top of the potential new-hire list, which resulted in my employment soon thereafter.

Were you prepared for them/were they foreseen, or were you surprised?

Due to the fact that I had friends within the company that I desired to work for, I did not encounter as many obstacles as an individual who was venturing out into the private sector alone.  That being said, I was discouraged by how long it took for me to get an interview for the deployed position.  After nearly a month, I was brought in for an interview but only after a number of follow up phone calls and persistence on my part.

The fact of the matter is that this is not an isolated incident. Almost 4.5 years have passed since my initial pursuit of employment in the private sector and I am again encountering countless delays and disappointments.  I have applied to several positions but the process is still as slow as I remember it being immediately following my separation from the military.  There are times when I receive a phone call from a recruiter within a day of applying for a position but, in other cases, I may not even get a confirmation acknowledging my application for weeks.  That is the nature of the game. In many ways it reminds me of a common phrase I heard throughout my time in the military: “Hurry up and wait.” This mindset is just as true in the private sector.

Despite these setbacks, I am continuing to remain optimistic and am still giving 110% with my current employer.  I believe that the right contracting position is out there for me as long as I remain patient and never stop pursuing my career dreams.

Was your goal always to continue working for the government as a contractor? What was your decision making process?

Originally, I planned on retiring from the USAF but I started to doubt that course of action during the last 6 months of my enlistment.  One of the key factors that influenced my decision to join the public sector was my desire to deploy on a more frequent basis.  In my 10 years on active duty, I deployed only twice for 3 months each.  The limited deployment opportunities were due to the nature of my career field but my strong desire to service my country overseas would not subside.  Another reason for leaving the military was my aspiration to experience other aspects of the Intelligence Community.  As a linguist in the USAF, my cross-training options were limited.  The best chance for me to explore various aspects of intelligence was to try my luck in the private sector.

While deployed I made some lasting friendships and was exposed to a variety of unique situations.  I am thankful for the 3 years I spent in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), but I am now looking forward to spending more time in the United States, closer to family and friends.  Fortunately, there are many opportunities for contractors to work outside of a hazardous duty area that still allow these individuals to provide direct and indirect support to our troops and fellow contractors working on the front lines.  Even so, I understand that, in the intelligence field, deployments are often a necessity.  I will not shy away from future deployed assignments but I hope to limit the duration of these deployments to fewer than 6 months whenever possible.

Whats next for you? What types of opportunities are you looking for currently?

I am currently seeking to progress further into the field of Analysis.  For over ten years I have been conducting various forms of analysis but strive to expand my experience directly in Intelligence Analysis.

The company I currently work for does not have any opportunities for career enhancement in the field of Intelligence Analysis.  This is truly unfortunate because I am a devoted employee who will be saddened to leave such an excellent group of people.

I do not have as much documented analysis experience as many companies would like to have in their candidates, but I am not letting that deter me.  In addition to my 10+ years working directly within the Intelligence Community, I am excellent at conducting research, enjoy compiling and filling out required documentation, have excellent typing skills, and am exceptionally organized and hard-working.

I remain optimistic that among the dozens of Analyst positions I have applied for, there is at least one company that will allow me to demonstrate my strong abilities and desire to excel in Analysis. I have no doubt that I will be an excellent Intelligence Analyst who will continue to be an asset to the defense and security of our great nation and global allies.

Any other advice for those thinking about the contracting realm in this field?

One of the best pieces of advice that I can pass along to prospective contractors is that connections are crucial when venturing out into the private sector.  In my case, I kept in touch with military friends who separated from active duty and went on to work as contractors.  It was the connections I had with these individuals that allowed me to slide somewhat easily into the contracting world.  Even if you leave one job and move onto another, I would highly recommend keeping in touch with former coworkers or managers with whom you had a good working relationship.

It is important to remember that, with few exceptions, the private sector does not come with guaranteed job security.  Contracts come and go, get extended or go into re-bid.  Maintaining open connections from the past and into the present may end up being exactly what you need in the future.

 

Want to learn more about Cheryl or qualified candidates in the Intelligence Analyst field like her? Email us today, or check out our resume database.

Read more stories about members of our database: Fed Stories 

Drawdown of Military – A Great Recruitment Opportunity

On the Today Show this week, Kerry Sanders jumped with the Golden Knights, the Army’s premier jump team to celebrate Hiring our Heroes. Kerry Sanders reported that over the next 10 years more than 1.5M service men and women will be released from the military as the greatest drawdown since the end of World War II.

The military’s loss is a great opportunity to the companies that need to hire well trained and committed employees. The training service men and women receive while serving in the military cannot be compared to anything in the civil workforce. These men and women are a terrific asset to any company.

At Exfederal.com we have been great supporter of the Hiring our Heroes and attend as many of their job fairs as we can.

Bottom Line:

There is about to be a large number of veterans available to join the civil workforce. They are great assets to have on a company’s government contract. We encourage companies to look at the population of veterans available in our database as they fill their jobs.

 

 

Life is Too Short for the Wrong Job

When searching for a job, you want to make sure that you have the right for fit for your talents and expertise. A recent advertising campaign in Europe put this into perspective by placing people in impossible job situations.
 
Life is too short for the wrong job
 
While the visual display is something that is beyond reality, the concept behind the idea is right on. As a job applicant, you don’t want to take any job just to have one.
 
When a job is posted, you need to look at the requirements and make sure that you not only have the requirements, but it’s a job that will provide you with a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Look for jobs that you can not only succeed in, but excel in and look for jobs that are the right fit for you. There are a lot of jobs out there and you need to make sure that when applying its something that is worth your time and the employing company’s time to review your application. There is a lot of time and effort that goes into applying for a job and the employing company will spend hundreds of hours looking at resumes and narrowing down their applicant pool.
 
You can view all of the latest job openings on Exfederal.com here.
 

The pursuit of happiness: Happy 4th of July from Exfederal.com

4th of July

This afternoon I received an email from a job applicant who served in the U.S. Air Force letting us know that his 9 months of job hunting was now over thanks to Exfederal.com.

Anyone who has experienced unemployment can relate to the significance of this moment for this Airman and his family. For those of us who have the privilege to say Happy 4th of July we can appreciate the sacrifice and commitment that it takes for our service men and women to defend our unalienable rights.

As I reflect on the Declaration of Independence on the eve of July 4, 2014 I find a deeper understanding of ‘The pursuit of happiness.’ What I discovered, is the Pursuit of Happiness is not about self-satisfaction or stupefied pleasure, but rather a life lived to its full potential.

For the Airman we celebrate his professional skills being used to the fullest potential through employment. As a Country we honor the sacrifice and commitment this Airman has given so that we all have the privilege to say, “Happy 4th of July.”

Bottom Line: Exfederal.com has made a commitment to help men and women in uniform find government contracting jobs and it makes this 4th meaningful to share in the joy of one of our applicants.

 

 

What’s in a Resume Headline?

We’ve seen some chatter on the Internet asking about what headline should be used in social media and resumes to improve an applicant’s chances in being noticed by companies and recruiters. The question posed on this topic is: should applicants list their current position, job status or promote the their core competencies?

The conventional wisdom we see in responses to this question advise that the headline should reflect core skills and personal brand, rather than a current job title.

Military Officer’s Association recently offered the following opinion on the subject:

“Career transition experts and recruiters in our network agree that a profile headline should reflect core skills and personal brand, rather than a current job title. Additionally, since it’s best to have a job when you’re looking for a job, headlines reflecting your current status in transition are not helpful.”

We’ve offered up some advice on resume headlines in the past, but wanted to add the following thoughts for consideration. If you are looking for a job, you should focus on making your headline the type of position you are seeking. But this headline must match experience and capabilities outlined in the rest of the resume. Recruiters and sites like Exfederal.com that use automated search algorithms will search for terms within a resume that match their job requirements. For example, if you are a Federal Financial Systems Expert, use that description as your headline rather than something like Financial Analyst (a typical standard job title). You can put the Financial Analyst in the body of your experiential narrative description to further your chances of being considered for positions. Additionally, in this case, you should consider putting the names of the financial systems in which you are an expert in the narrative description, because the increased use of different terms to cover your area of expertise will improve the visibility your resume when being searched.

Bottom Line: Resume and social networking headlines should be used to identify your major area of expertise and the area where you are looking for a new job.

Self-Employed Doesn’t Mean Alone: Resources for Independents

Considering an independent career path? You may be surprised to know that you’re far from alone; 17.7 million Americans have already worked independently in their careers, contributing over $1 trillion to our economy in 2013 alone. Flexible schedules, control over your work, being your own boss and doing the work you love are all powerful draws to being an independent consultant.

But it’s difficult to start your own business… right?

Not necessarily. To help you out as you venture further down the path to self-employment, we’ve reached out to MBO Partners, a leading provider of management services for independent professionals to provide some information that we think you will find of value if you are thinking about being an independent consultant.

We recently hosting a webinar with MBO that outlined actionable tips you can use in your path to success, including contracts & SOWs, time tracking, taxation, invoicing, etc. You can view the webinar here.

 

Didn’t make the webinar? MBO has provided the information below on the services they provide independent consultants. We think its a great resource for you, our job seekers, as you learn to navigate the contracting world.

1. State of Independence in America research report: Every year, MBO Partners teams up with independent firm Emergent Research to take a pulse on America’s independents. In the report PDF, you’ll find information on how many independents work in America, their demographics, how they feel about independence and what the future trends indicate. The research has been cited in CNN, Forbes, Huffington Post and Harvard Business Review.

2. The Independent’s Guide: For a more nuts-and-bolts approach to independent consulting, the Independent’s Guide is a collection of how-to’s and tips for every stage of an independent career. Learn how to find your first clients, negotiate contracts, market your solo business and hire on new help. We are constantly updating this knowledge bank, so check in from time to time to see what’s new.

3. Bill Rate Calculator: Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an experienced consultant, creating and updating your bill rate can be confusing. We developed this handy tool to give you a more empirical approach to creating your bill rate; the BRC will ensure that you didn’t leave out any expenses or costs on your way to crafting the right rate for your solo business.

4. Webinars: Got an hour to take a more detailed look into a topic? Well, grab your popcorn and kick back, because MBO has hours of recorded expert webinars on topics ranging from business development to keeping a healthy work-life balance.

5. Meet the Independents: So, you’ve seen the stats and the data, but what do independent professionals actually look like? We have collected profiles of successful independents from across the country, including pictures and interviews in our interactive map. While you’re checking out the resources, you’re bound to come up with one or two questions about what this all means for you. To speak with an expert about your consulting questions, you can email MBO partners at info@mbopartners.com. We’ll have an expert address your concern quickly and accurately.

Bottom Line:

Hey, let’s face it – making a big career move isn’t an easy decision. The more you know, and the more resources you have, the more well-founded your decision will be, no matter what you choose. Just keep this in mind; the independent movement is rapidly becoming mainstream in America. You may be working for yourself, but you are most certainly not working alone. Knowing where to get help and answers to your questions takes some of the uncertainty out of the equation.

 

Challenge.gov Solving Important Challenges with Independent Contractors?

GSA Travel App Challenge.gov

Challenge.gov, the government created website to help “solve important challenges” uses a competition style format to source ideas and products from the public. The website posts challenges from agencies looking for solutions, ideas, or IT apps and systems. A challenge that caught our eye last week in a Federal Times article was posted by the GSA – hosting a competition for the development of an app that would save government travelers money – with the prize for the winning app ringing in at only $35,000.

Because at Exfederal.com our mission is to support independent contractors and help them navigate the world of Federal contracting, we felt we could not ignore the article and the fact that the prize award was well below industry standards.

The average salary for a mobile app developer is $94,000/year. This is a salary, not what a company or an independent contractor should be paid for the work performed, when factoring in taxes, insurance, and other overhead expenses.

Not sure what you should get paid? Monster.com published a very helpful article entitled, “How Much Should IT Contractors Charge?” which can help you estimate what an independent contractor should be receiving for work performed.

While we’re a huge fan of public-private partnerships and bringing in industry talent to help gain fresh perspective into the government’s tech issues, the amount of money offered by this challenge and others posted at Challenge.gov is just too low. (Especially when considering the normal valuation for a product like this would be hundreds of thousands of dollars if submitted as an RFP through traditional channels).

For the amount of time it would take to build this app, most app developers would not even consider it for that little in pay, and rightly so. So if the best in the field won’t take on the challenge – what is left of the the quality of the solution?

Bottom Line:

Challenge.gov is a great platform, in theory, but it should require that government agencies issuing challenges to provide a prize and payout that are commensurate with the work required up to the industry standard. Let’s bring innovation into the government but pay the developers what they should be making so we can have the best products for the government user.

Resume Boost: Spending more time with your resume

Federal Contracting Resume

Creating a resume on Exfederal.com or any other site takes thought and attention to detail – and for good reason. One thing that we hear from our employers is that, while they were impressed with the quality of our database member’s resumes, some of the candidates they’re potentially interested in have incomplete resumes.

Employers want to see an applicant’s entire work, education and credential history.  Just completing the narrative for your current or immediate past won’t get you a job. In this current job environment there are more candidates than there are positions, and companies are not going to take the time to reach out to applicants that haven’t taken the time to post a complete resume on the website.

After completing the background information on your profile, you can cut and paste your work experience narrative into the Exfederal.com form.  We would advise you to take the time and craft a narrative that describes not only what you did but what you accomplished, getting those experience blocks filled are critical.

Need some inspiration? The Federal Times Career Matters blog has some great ideas for resume language boosters, including some words on how job applications require your best efforts. You can also look at some of our past articles, including how best to word your resume.

Bottom Line:

If your resume on Exfederal.com isn’t complete, you are not going to receive a favorable review or consideration by an employer.  Take the time to review your online resume and make sure it’s complete. There is a job out there for you! Make it happen by presenting yourself in the best light.

Login now to review your resume!

Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair – January 10

Hiring+our+HeroesWe’re proud to be attending the Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair on January 10th from 10am-1pm at the Washington D.C. Convention Center as part of the NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo. Finding contracting jobs for veterans is one of our largest goals with Exfederal.com and the Hiring Our Heroes initiative is a great way to participate in the goal.

Job Seekers: Register for the event! It’s free, and there is a workshop before the job fair. We would love to see you there.

Employers: If yo have any immediate positions to fill, please contact us! We’d love to feature your job at the fair and get it in front of as many qualified veterans as possible.

The Words In Your Resume

For many, your New Years resolution may have to do with finding a new job. To help you check that item off your list in 2014, we decided to take a look at some of the basics – the words - in your resume.

The words you choose to use in your resume are important. They speak for you and are the only thing that a prospective employer has to evaluate you without your ability to speak on your behalf.

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LinkedIn recently posted the top 10 buzzwords that appear most often in LinkedIn profiles in 2013:

  1. Responsible
  2. Strategic
  3. Creative
  4. Effective
  5. Patient
  6. Expert
  7. Organizational
  8. Driven
  9. Innovative
  10. Analytical

We’ve highlighted some specific words that probably should be avoided in your Federal Contracting resume unless you are for example describing a job title like, “Creative Director”. Another word, organizational is okay to use a modifier as in, “created the organizational design…” but should not be used without a description.

While there is nothing wrong with using a number of these words, it’s more about what you do with them to describe your accomplishments within the description that is important. For example, “Responsible for the staffing of 125 positions within a 6-month period. Positions were filled in 5 months.”

Bottom Line: Take a look at your resume and match it up against this list. Make sure you have written a resume that is speaking for you by describing your accomplishments and breadth of experience.