If you’re stationed at an Army post and looking for a job, there’s only one place you need to go – your post’s Army Community Services (ACS) office.
Located in a stand-alone building on most posts, ACS is designed to be a one-stop-shop for any issue or problem that may impact military families. And while ACS also offer programs on things like financial health and surviving military life, employment assistance is a central focus.
An Army Program Just for Spouses
Because everything in the military has its own acronym, job help at ACS is known as the “Employment Readiness Program” (ERP).
“It’s a program that’s designated to assist our spouses with all of their employment needs,” said Sharon Edwards, an ERP team leader at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. “We assist with you jobs on and off post – whatever a spouse needs.”
ERP is designed to be a one-stop-shop for job help, Edwards said. Staffers at every ACS Army-wide give one-on-one job counseling, resume help, assistance with applying for federal jobs on post, help searching for jobs off post and can even give a spouse a mock job interview. They also provide a computer resource room where a spouse can work on job searches without ACS help, send faxes, copy resumes and make phone calls.
The ERP staffers will also know how to help you best use any federal job hiring preferences you may be entitled to. Edwards said. Spouses, for example, qualify for a federal hiring preference up to two years after a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move.
Depending on the size of the Army post, your ERP office may be staffed with as many as four advisors. Even though Edwards said they take walk-ins, the number of spouses ERP serves fluctuates by season -- making an appointment may be your best bet.
Regardless of when you plan to visit the office, if you have a resume, make sure to bring a copy with you, Edward said. Depending on what kind of help you need your meeting there will likely run between a half hour and an hour and a half, so plan accordingly.
If one-on-one assistance is not what you’re looking for, ERPs also offer group classes and workshops. Although they may be given different titles, the offerings are standard across the service, Edwards said. You can take a workshop on resume building, navigating the federal hiring system (USA Jobs), preparing for a job fair, or how to use your hiring preference.
Real Life Army Spouse Job Help Success
While some post ERP staffers may be more helpful than others, spouses who have used the program say taking a chance on it is always a good idea.
"They were so good about just pointing me in the right direction because I kind of felt lost especially with USA Jobs. I kept just getting stuck in this rut with my resume,” said Army spouse Sarah Thompson, who has used both the Fort Benning, Georgia ERP and the Fort Leveanworth, Kansas program.
Danielle Tigue, an Army spouse based in Washington, D.C., used the Fort Belvoir, Virginia ERP to find her current job. She said many local employers personally notify the ERP director there when they have job openings because they are specifically looking to hire military spouses.
“(The director) personally got the job notice from my now employer and contacted me when she saw that I fit what they were looking for and gave me the contact information to send my application,” Tigue said. “Whenever I hear a spouse looking for a job, I tell them right away to go check the program. I would not have a found my job otherwise.”
And while not every post has that level of relationship with employers outside the gate, all ERP sites run periodic job fairs where community based companies have a chance to showcase their businesses to potential employees.
Tigue suggests other spouses take all the classes ERP offers and use every service they provide.
“If you are serious about finding a job, take advantage of everything they have to offer,” she said.”It can only benefit you to get more eyes on your resume and more ears listening out for a job opening that you could fulfill. It is not a waste of time. It would take so much more of your time to personally look for all of the job openings that they may already know about and contact them all.”