How do you land a Job at Veterans Affairs (VA)?

Exterior VA Building DC

The Exterior of DC VAMC Building

I’m proud to say that I recently celebrated three years serving Veterans at VA. I realize how fortunate I am to be able to say that, and I also realize how many people would love to be in my shoes. I spent 20 years in the US Army. After that, I was recruited to lead a Travel Nurse Company, and I spent five years working with them. I have been afforded many opportunities that have given me a unique set of skills in health care recruitment marketing. In fact, it was these skills that led to my job offer at VA.

In 2008 I realized that Nurse staffing was entering troubled times, and it was then that I decided I wanted to be a public servant. Perhaps it was something about serving my country for 20 years that stuck with me, but whatever it was, I decided to get busy preparing myself.

If you’re a Physician and you want to work for the Government, VA is a great place to do so (physicians can learn more here). You will find no better place to utilize your skills than serving the deserving patients that have served our country. I receive most of my care at a VA and I love meeting fellow Veterans and the doctors and staff that take care of us. I continue to be amazed by the impressive degrees on the walls and the caring attitudes of the medical staff at VA. And there are a number of available positions for physicians and health care workers nationwide.

However, most members of the military are not in health care occupations, so it only stands to reason that most Veterans are not qualified for those positions. That is why I mentioned that I “got busy”. Like a good soldier, I had my mission and I would not fail. First, I hit the Internet and learned about the job market, my qualifications and Veterans Preference. I signed up on a leading Job Board for top performers and started to learn the best practices of resume writing, interviewing techniques, following up with contacts, and networking tools and skills; and I thoroughly researched my competition.

Initially, I began my search using what I called a “shotgun approach.” That meant that I was applying to any job. I figured that I could do anything; I just needed a chance to prove myself. But I quickly realized that particular approach didn’t make sense. However, it was when I started spending more time researching and preparing than applying, that I began to get interviews.  That was scary, because at 42 years old, I had never been in the position of interviewee.

So when I finally evaluated my past professional experiences and skill set, I narrowed my choices down to Veterans, Recruitment, Marketing, Training, and Leading. Then, I finely tuned my resume to make sure that I addressed those qualities with real, measurable results and job examples. After that, I began to apply for positions that I knew I was a strong candidate for; and knowing that I had Veterans Preference encouraged me to not give up. I treated my job hunt as a full-time job. I started on time, took breaks, ended my day and stayed focused. My wife provided great encouragement keeping me motivated, demonstrating the need for morale support as well.

I began to receive numerous notices of eligibility and referrals to hiring managers, not just from VA, but from other facets of the government as well. But ultimately, I decided to bring my talent and skills to VA. In fact, my interview for my current position went so well, there was no doubt that I was perfect for the position. 

I chose to share with you my VA hiring insight because I want everyone to have the same experience in applying to VA as I did. VA isn’t a place that only hires Veterans. Yes, Veterans receive preference, but VA also hires qualified professionals from non-military backgrounds as well. And if you need to use your GI Bill to become more marketable, think Health care!

So, how do you get a job with VA? First, identify your skill set and what you are qualified to do.  Second, make it your mission to find out everything you can about available positions; you can do this by checking out our website at www.vacareers.va.gov.  Last, but not least, “get busy” applying for jobs that you are qualified for. Good luck!

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About Darren Sherrard

In May 2008, Darren Sherrard was appointed as the Associate Director of Healthcare Recruitment and Marketing Office (HRM) at Veteran Health Administration (VHA) Workforce Management and Consulting office (WMC). As Associate Director, Mr. Sherrard oversees VHA’s national recruitment marketing campaigns inclusive of television commercials, print and online media, and recruitment marketing sites. He leads a diverse marketing team representing VA Careers Website, Facebook, Twitter and VHA Recruitment Events. Mr. Sherrard coordinates strategies, campaigns and effective approaches to effectively carry out HRM’s mission of “driving qualified candidates to VACareers.va.gov.” Prior to joining VHA, Darren was Chief Operating Officer of a Healthcare Staffing Firm which he modernized from a small regional company into a thriving national corporation. Darren served 20 years in the U.S. Army; 13 of which were spent in Recruiting. During that time, he was known for his ability to transform low performing organizations through training, motivation and ability to develop and provide needed recruitment tools. Darren is devoted to finding the best talent to provide the best care for our Nation’s Veterans.

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