Hiring Borens: A Conversation with Aleia Maculam

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Podcast Transcript


Shabnam:   Welcome to the Boren Around the World podcast, a podcast by the National Security Education Program for Boren awardees, language lovers and public service enthusiasts. For those of you listening who are Boren awardees that have returned from your adventure abroad and are now in the process of applying for federal jobs, you've come to the right place. You’re intelligent, high-achieving, culturally and linguistically capable individuals who have a plethora of opportunity awaiting you and we are here to help you tap into that.

My name is Shabnam, and I am here today with my colleague Aleia. Aleia manages the NSEP exclusive job board and spearheads several hiring fairs. She's joining us today to discuss federal employment and the Boren hiring authorities. Thank you for joining us today!

Aleia:           Absolutely! Thank you for having me.

Shabnam:   Aleia, could you tell us a bit more about what makes Borens competitive in the federal job market from the eyes of a recruiter?

Aleia:          Sure! So, a tremendous benefit of the program are the special authorities afforded to awardees, they really work to streamline the hiring process. So once a Boren awardee returns from their study abroad, they're granted two authorities, schedule A(r) and NDAA 13, the National Defense authorization Act of fiscal year 13. And they’ll have these hiring authorities until they finish the service requirement, and both of the authorities allow hiring managers to non-competitively appoint NSEP awardees to excepted service positions.

Shabnam:   Thank you for giving us that overview. There a few things that may be worth unpacking, like what does it mean to not competitively hire someone? 

Aleia:          Basically, NSEP awardees don't compete against the general public for most federal jobs. Once awardees create their NSEPnet account after returning from studying abroad, they’re added to a list of where they will receive notifications of featured and exclusive jobs. So NSEP exclusive jobs are only for NSEP awardees, and we partner with federal departments and agencies throughout government to solicit special positions for NSEP awardees. If you apply to an NSEP exclusive job, you would only be competing with other Borens as opposed to the general public. Now, on the other hand, the NSEP featured jobs are jobs are open to the public, so even though we're posting them, you'd actually be competing with a larger pool of people and these feature jobs are typically contractor positions. Associates want to check out, you know, the positions that are currently available on the job board, you can do so at nsepnet.org.

Shabnam:   Are there other ways awardees can find jobs outside of the email list so that they could potentially use their non-competitive hiring authorities for?

Aleia:           I recommend that NSEPnet is your first stop, but usajobs.gov is also great resource. So, if you're applying on USAJobs, there's actually a filter for special authorities. You can click on that to filter for positions that use the hiring authorities. However, it’s important to note that just because you have these two hiring authorities doesn't necessarily mean that a hiring official has to use them. At the end of the day, it's up to the hiring officials to determine if they want to hire you and if they want to use those hiring authorities.

Shabnam:   So say I'm applying for a job not on NSEPnet, just in general on a separate government site, how with the hiring officials know about my hiring authorities? How could I explain that to them?

Aleia:          Well, you should definitely list it on your resume, most NSEP awardees list it in the header somewhere at the top, so that it immediately stands out to the hiring manager. I also recommend that people request a letter of certification from the NSPE service team via nsepnet.org, which verifies our hiring authorities and what they mean so that these hiring officials know that you're eligible for noncompetitive positions and you can always include this letter with all of your applications so that it really fast-tracks your candidacy.

Shabnam:   Could you explain the difference between the two hiring authorities that Boren recipients have?

Aleia:          A great question! So, as I mentioned you have two distinct higher authorities. The first is Schedule A(r), which is not to be confused with the general Schedule A. General schedule is usually for disability, while Schedule A(r) leads to temporary term appointment not to exceed four years. Now this means that if you are a Boren recipient who's been hired on through Schedule A(r) you are not a permanent employee of the federal government. So, what this means is once that four year term is up, you then have to reapply for the job through a competitive hiring process. Something important to note is that Schedule A(r) can be used in any federal department or agency. However, with NDAA 13, this is a little bit different.

NDAA 13 leads to an accepted service appointment for two years, after which the hiring manager has the option to non-competitively convert you to career or career conditional status. So, this means is that with NDAA 13 you actually have a path to permanent work with the government. The distinction with this authority is that it can only be used at agencies designated as having National Security responsibilities.

If you're unsure what agency count as having National Security responsibilities, you can check out the full list on nsep.gov, but in general they include the four priority agencies, so of course Department of Defense, State, Homeland security and any element of the Intelligence Community, as well as many others.

Shabnam:   What if your supervisor hires you under Schedule A(r), but then wants to keep you on as a permanent employee?

Aleia:          If that happens your boss can hire you using NDAA 13 as long as you're at a national security designated organization as I mentioned. So you don't just have to use one or the other authority at a given time, and remember NDAA 13 allows you to convert into a permanent employee, while Schedule A(r) doesn't. So if you're currently a federal employee, it may be worth it to have a conversation with your supervisor or HR to verify just how you were appointed, and explore ways that you might be converted.

Shabnam:   So Schedule A(r) can be very helpful in getting a job in government, especially if you need to fulfill your service obligation, but long-term, should you want growth or long-term sustainable path to Federal Service, NDAA 13 is just the better option.

Aleia:          That's exactly right. Now Schedule A(r) is still a really great way for you to get your foot in the door, so definitely don't discount that. However, to the extent that you're able, and as long as you're working at one of the National Security agencies, you should try to use NDAA13. Now sometimes HR won't be familiar with these authorities, so it's really important for you to educate yourself, and advocate for your own career. If you find that HR just doesn't understand the authorities, or that you're running into a wall with them, you can also always ask the NSEP service team for help.

Shabnam:   What are the biggest misconceptions around Boren hiring authorities, both from awardees or the hiring managers?

Aleia:          One of the most common misconceptions amongst both awardees and hiring officials is that these hiring authorities are only good for one time use. For example, if you're hired under Schedule A(r), you know, that's it, you can't use it again. However, that's incorrect. As long as you haven't completed the service requirement in full, you can continue to apply to other noncompetitive positions using the authorities.

Another misconception that I've heard is that the authorities are only good for positions that are somehow related to, you know, language or to the region that you studied. if you're able to find a position that uses your language skills that's great, but it's not required. So, in addition to positions in foreign affairs, diplomacy, those more traditional positions for Boren awardees, we also have folks in cyber, IT, Human Resources, law and medicine. So whatever your background, you should be able to use those authorities to find a federal position.

Shabnam:   What is something that you believe awardees should keep in mind when applying for jobs?

Aleia:          I would say think creatively and broadly about where to apply your skill set. Don't just pigeonhole yourself into a specific type of position. I also recommend that you leverage not just your NSEP networks, but your personal and academic networks as well. The hiring authorities will help you get your foot in the door, but being informed of any new opportunities depends on relationship building an networking.

Shabnam:   Thank you so much for such an informative session Aleia. Do you have any final words of wisdom you'd like to share for individuals who are applying to jobs or will be starting soon?

Aleia:          I just encourage you all to really understand the higher authorities, think strategically about ways to use them. They can be a really powerful tool to help you get into government. Also, if at any time if you are confused, please do reach out to the NSEP service team, we are a resource, we are here to help you out with your job search, and I just want to wish you the best of luck to all of you as you navigate to federal job search.

Shabnam:   Thank you very much and we hope this clears up some of the questions we've all been receiving and opens up opportunities for many of our awardees, so thank you again. You’ve been listening to the Boren Around the World podcast. If you haven't yet, go to Spotify to subscribe, rate and view this podcast. If you're interested in participating in the podcast, email [email protected] with “Boren Podcast” in your subject line. Thank you for listening!

In this episode, our host, Program Officer Shabnam Ahmed, will speak with Aleia Maculam, a Program Officer at the National Security Education Program (NSEP). We discuss federal employment, the Boren hiring authorities, and managing the NSEP exclusive job board.