TOPS Corner

UPDATES TO THIS PAGE WILL CEASE ON 1 May 2013 unless I hear from at least five readers. If you have found the information on this page of value to you, and especially if it has helped you find a job, please let me know ( As of 21 Apr 2013, I have heard from ZERO readers.

This page will present timely information from the Maryland Council TOPS Representative, Jim Dittbrenner. TOPS is The Officer Placement Service, a MOAA-provided source of information for those of us entering the Second Career phase of our lives, or those already in the Second Career phase who are interesting in moving on.

Please visit the MOAA TOPS Web Site for more job hunting tips and information from the National MOAA organization.

Here is a link to the State of Maryland Department of Veterans’ Affairs. It has information on State benefits, Federal benefits, and job searches.

You can reach Jim at



What do you bring to the table as a retired officer? See an answer here.


Click here for the latest list of Career Fairs and Open Houses, as of 31 Mar 2013.

Here are some upcoming Job Fairs:



Good hunting!

The question periodically arises about opening some of the listings.  These come to me from a variety of resources.  In the next listing I will provide the several URL sites that provide me with job listings.  There are any number of other resources, individuals, employers sending their notices directly and of course the LinkedIn Groups have their listings that when forwarded do not include the link itself.

An option to open those listings that do not immediately open that sometimes works is to first place the document that they cannot open into a Save File.  I have suggested to several who have indicated they have the problem to set up a Vacancy Announcement folder and “save” the attachment to that file.  Then go in to open the file.  In most cases, the individual’s system will offer several options for opening the file.  I know that for me, using Microsoft Outlook (not Outlook Express), when I save the document in MS XP I can open the document.  Not always.  This is why I suggest to those who cannot open the document that they join the various “boards” and systems that offer vacancy announcement themselves.  The biggest problem item I have found is with the LinkedIn.  I can forward it and check to see that it is legible for me as a secondary recipient but others who receive it as a third tier recipient are unable to open the document.

Below are several of the links that send me vacancy announcements.  Not sure which ones do not open for you.

  1., then click on Jobs in Human Resources.  This comes out every other week.
  3. and register for job listings.
  4. and register for IT Jobs under Management News/Resource Alerts.


Here are some recent Job Postings (links will usually be removed from this page after two weeks):

·         Corporate Gray Job Fair (added 9 Apr 2013)

·         Job Fair - Events - Frederick County Workforce Services (added 21 Apr 2013)

·         Job Fair-Ft Belvoir- 25 April 10AM-2PM (added 21 Apr 2013)


Notes from 16 Mar 2013

Last time I commented that I would like to share a highly effective approach to finding my next role.   Nicholas A. Corcodilos wrote the book, The New Interview instruction Book, where he laid out a 21 step approach to stepping into one’s next role.  Here are his 21 steps in my words:

1.       What do I do currently?                                                                10.  Talk with the hiring manager(s).

2.       What is the value of offer my employer?                                  11.  What are the Manager’s challenges?

3.       Begin my basic research.                                                               12.  Develop plan to do the job.

4.       Identify my target industries & companies.                               13.  Meet again with hiring manager.

5.       Research each for key information on each.                             14.  Do a piece of the job in the interview.

6.       Source and establish contacts in each.                                         15.  Establish dialog, a Q & A, not quid pro quo.

7.       Become knowledgeable so I’m  not a stranger.                          16.  Determine if I want the role.

8.       Identify how my skills will meet employer needs.                      17.  Ask for the position.

9.       Ask & answer the four basic questions found                             18.  Walk manager through approach to job.

in interviews:  Do I understand the job; Can I do it;                   19.  Negotiate both offer and the role.

Can I do it the employer’s way; and Can I do it                          20  Talk with employees of the company.

Profitably?                                                                                            21.  Accept, negotiate for another or find another role.

Yes, this is work, but I am doing the work that I want to do in doing this, and also training myself for more effectively managing my career forward.

Notes from 3 Mar 2013

As the employment picture continues to tighten I hear more and more that the most effective approach is via the Internet, using the social media.    Come on now, I need to be reasonable and logical.  The need is to get me, the job seeker, connected to the decision makers in those organizations I have targeted based on solid research.  I need to get back to the basics of Job Search.  There are four vehicles to connecting with the decision makers.  There is  1.  Advertising, including all Internet job listing,  2. Search Firms, Employment and Placement Agencies, 3.  Networking, and 4.  Other.  Other includes direct mailing, cold calling, walk in and friends referring without my knowledge.

What has not been talked about by many in the search process is that there continues to be both the” Open” and the “Hidden” Job Market.  The majority of opportunities continue to be in the “Hidden” job market, as opposed to the “Open” market.  Of these four approaches Networking addresses all areas of opportunity within an organization.  It does so more directly, more quickly and at less expense and effort on the part of all.   Networking can connect me with the decision maker, can connect me with employees who can place my name and resume in the hands of the decision maker. 

What this says is that all four approaches need to be used, however, the majority of my time needs to be applied to the area of Networking.  The argument that Government contractors need to publicize all openings overlooks the fact that opportunities are established and known prior to any public announcement.  The better employers have Employee Referral Programs.  This tells me two things in particular: 1. This is an employer who values employees and their input; and, 2. This is an employer who recognizes organizational (cost) effectiveness.  With many of those employers the employee is recognized for the referral.  That isn’t bad either.   Isn’t this one of my criterion in looking at employers?

Next time I would like to talk about the 21 logical and reasonable steps in the job search process from what I do to accepting a position.

Notes from 17 Feb 2013

Periodically I am asked why go to a job or career fair.  There are always several reasons to go, depending on where I am in my job search.  The bottom line for attending such as job or career fairs is for information, contacts and practice.  It also expands the social interaction aspect during a critical period of my career.  Now that I have told myself why I should go to a job or career fair, I need to prepare.  After all, the search process is work and I should prepare as I would for any work project.

 Here are some particulars in preparation to attending a career or job fair.  These are actions that can contribute to the value of the attending a job or career fair or an expo:

 1.       Pre-register for ease in visiting the particular employers of interest who are at the career fair.  This will usually entail submitting a resume.  This resume is usually scanned onto a CD of registered attendees and provided to each employer who shows up at the fair and mans a “booth.”  This would be your generic resume focused to the career field of you greatest interest.

2.       Research those employers listed as participating who you have an interest in talking with.

3.       Prepare your “sound bite” (30 seconds) for each employer you want to talk with.  Each sound bite needs to be focused to the needs (job requirements as posted on the employer’s web site) of that particular employer.

4.       Focus each resume for each of those employers.  You can lightly pencil the name of each employer on the back of the resume. This is so you give the right resume to the employer.   Don’t worry about erasing the employer’s name.  It is a compliment as it tells the reviewer of your resume that you focused the resume to the position or career field you are applying to.

5.       Develop your questions, no more than three, preferably two, that you wish to ask the employer, that will give you information you are looking for from that employer.

6.       When registering or getting the floor plan on arriving at the career or job fair take a few moments to locate the employer locations of those companies you want to talk with, draw a line from your first to your last, stopping at each booth.  This way you can avoid waiting  time looking for your employers in the crowd.  If you find that one of the employers who you are interested in has a very long line you can go to your next employer and then check back later to see if the line is shorter. 

7.       While standing in line to talk with the employer’s representative talk with the individuals in front and behind you to find out what companies they have talked with and why.  You may want to visit that employer as well if it is not already on your list or reach out to that employer later.

8.       Begin your “interviews” (think of these as “conversations” not a “quid pro quo”) with one of the employers you are not as interested in when starting your conversation at the fair.  It will make you more comfortable when you then go to the employers you are most interested in.  These should be on your list as #’s 2, #3, #4, etc.

9.       Be there at the beginning, take advantage of any free seminar that is offered prior to the start of the career/job fair.  Try to talk with the presenter of the seminar for information about the presenter’s company. 

No one has ever said that job search is easy.  Good fortune in your efforts at your next job or career fair.

Notes from 6 Jan 2013

In a conversation with a job seeker last week the discussion quickly moved to the resume.  A Generalist with work experience in several areas of Administration that included financial, HR and a bit of Marketing, was using what I felt was a generic resume.  When I challenged the focus, or really the lack of focus, I was told that as a Generalist my friend had a breadth of experience that positioned him well for opportunities in all aspects of Administration.  “After all, Administration is Administration,” I heard.  I was reminded of the cartoon of the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ who sat behind the Interviewer’s Desk that had the sign, “Why should I hire you?”

I felt my friend needed to focus the resume, based on who he was going to talk with.  Budgeting is budgeting.  Program and Project Management is just that.  Administration is just that.  Yet, each employer uses different approaches and techniques.  The employer’s industry uses certain approaches that other industries do not.   An employer looking an Administration professional, particularly a senior professional in Administrative matters, would look for someone who has demonstrated effective experience in the industry, offering specific examples; and only secondly, for someone who has similar but not the same exposures and experiences.  Most of us forget, when we are creating our resumes that they need to tell the potential employer what can be done for that employer in the specific position being sought.  Normally, that is an open position, so how do I meet the potential employer’s specific needs?

I’m not sure my friend “heard” me.  This lesson becomes even more of a challenge when I post my resume and other documentation on my LinkedIn Profile.

Make this new year a quality one for yourself and be sure to take the time to help another.

Notes from 2 Dec 2012

We are now in at that time of the year when we begin making our New Year’s resolutions and here is one that is all too often overlooked, yet makes a world of difference in terms of the rest of our lives.

I need to reassess my goals.  My life goals, my financial ones, and then my career and job goals.  And yes, they begin with my life goals; after all, having life goals makes me develop the financial goals that will allow me to achieve my life goals.  And then to do that I need to have Career goals that will position me to make my financial goals.  And that brings me to my goals in or for my current or about to be current role.

Do I have the skills, experiences and interests to move clearly establish myself in my current position and move forward?  If not, what do I need, not just to position myself at the entry point of the position but into the role so I can comfortably perform quickly the tasks presented, and have time to pick up some of the slack in the organization.  If I don’t have those skills, experiences and interests what do I need to do to obtain them?  Here I need to think outside the box in terms of securing what I need.  What strategies do I need to put in place so that I can move forward with my long terms goals?

And “why bring this up at this point in time?”  It give me the opportunity to take time to look at where I am, where I really want to go and how do I want to get there with my life and my career.  Every study done has shown that those who have goals, and have written them down achieve more long term than those who do not.  The two studies most often quoted, the Harvard and the Cornell studies, point out that after 20 years those with written goals averaged 10 times the earnings over those who did not.  One of the two studies also showed that those with written goals had happier lives and strong marriages.

So I have some time to put my thinking cap, reassess where I am and where I want and need to go, make the resolutions, then the plans and strategies that will move me in those directions.  I also need to remind myself that nothing is permanent, including my plans and goals.


Notes from 4 Nov 2012

We’re entering the best time of the year for Networking.  The social scene truly opens up with get-togethers, parties, office gatherings, professional group informal sessions, and so many other situations.  The population is generally more open to conversation and general warmth not evidenced for much of the rest of the year.  Networking is truly about building long term and permanent relationships.  It is not primarily a job search tool.  Networking is not about asking for a job.

Networking is really about caring for others, what we can do for another.   This is where networking begins, asking how the person is we are talking with, not to.  What are their interests, how can we help them?  Offer any ideas, contacts, suggestions.   Networking is about listening as much as it is about promoting, if not more.  When we truly listen we hear and when we hear we become interested.  The old saying “how you’re perceived depends on what they’ve received” applies here fully.   Body language and tone of voice tell the listener so much more than our words, 93% more.

When it is our turn to talk, we want to have what we want to say come from our heart, not the head, not memorized, but with confidence.  Remember, when we are in social gatherings we are not interviewing and so the “two minute” sound bite is a “no-no.”  Think the 30 second “elevator” bit.  What one piece of information do we want each person to walk away knowing that they did not know before the conversation?  And how do we reinforce that one point of information – with an example or two.

Another way to consider Networking is to look at it as promoting ourselves or Marketing.   And when done effectively it is seen as positive Customer Relations Management.  Personally, I think of Networking as Personal Interaction, and I would like to make each a positive interaction each and every time.  So relax and begin practicing several “elevator” conversations, not speeches or talks.  Remember, this comes from the heart.

Notes from 14 Oct 2012

Earlier we spoke of having an ongoing Board of Directors rather than the always changing References, that depended on when and what the situation was when we found ourselves in the job search mode.

Current and former References and Mentors can be asked to serve as members of your Board.  The Board functions more like “inside” and “outside” consultants.  You are the CEO of your career and its management but, like a corporation, you seek the advice of a “Board” prior to taking certain steps and in developing approaches to individuals and organizations.  Your “Board” offers the most secure “sounding board” and source of information.  In time they also become your most effective references and more importantly, your advocates.

By creating a Board where the members are encouraged to offer support, suggestions, and ideas that are jointly explored, you are creating a team that can be highly effective in whatever it chooses to do together.  These Board members will be part of your inner circle of your ever expanding network and will work with you in identifying, planning and making career choices and moves.  Further, like any real Board, you and existing members will periodically separate, as interests and needs grow more diverse.  Some of your Board members will know you and your capabilities well, while others will know the sector of the market or markets that you are interested in entering.  Their knowledge of you can come from mutual, respected friends as well as personal professional experience.   Once started and operating it is easier to replace members who step away.

You can start the move to creating your own Board by identifying one or more of those you have considered or are using as your References and over a period of a short time expand your composition of the combination of Board and References from one Board and three or four References to a majority as Board.  In a reasonable time you will have a full complement of Board Members.  In your creation of your board do not forget to have some balance between “inside your career field” and “outside” and between male and female.  Your Board should be composed of individuals who hold or held positions of greater authority that that you are seeking.  While this approach may seem new, unreasonable or uncomfortable, it has been in play in Western Europe for decades.  Executive Outplacement firms here in the U.S. began working with outplaced executives on this approach in the 1990s.

Notes from 9 Sep 2012

Last month we spoke to the creation of one’s personal Board of Directors.  Because the September issue of Inc magazine had its annual Inc 500 listing, I felt there was more immediate value in referencing this document and information.

No one knows what will happen with the sequestration process come 1 January 2013, probably it will be extended.   However, some Government agencies and DoD contractors have already begun consolidation and retraction of planned programs and expansion.  What continue to show stability and growth are those businesses that grow as they are able to move forward as they have found their niche in the business world.  Fifty-eight of the 500 are in the triangle of Baltimore-Frederick, MD - Northern Virginia.  Five more are in Richmond.  Of the 58 here in the metro Washington, DC area, 26 are in some aspect of Government Services.  Their growth has been the greatest, ranging from 763% in three years; 2009 thru 2011, to 7331% growth in the same period.  The other 32 employers have grown in that same three year period by from a small growth of 773% to a larger 3500% growth over this same three year period, 2009 through 2011.  Below is the breakout of the number of firms in each of Inc’s list that were headquartered in the triangle referenced above:  Advertising: 4 of 57;  Business Products & Services: 10 of 33;  Construction: 1 of 17Consumer Products & Services: 1 of 36Energy 2 of 23;   Financial Services: 1 of 28;   Government Services: 26 of 38;   Health: 2 of 38;  Human Resources: 2 of 7;  IT Services: 8 of 59;  Media: 1 of 10;  Real Estate:  2 of 13Retail:  2 of 24Telecommunications: 1 of 12.  This listing does not add up to 500 as those categories where there were no employers in the defined geographical area, the category and numbers were not included.

These employers above are well worth researching to see first what they do then where and how my talents and experiences can contribute to the employers’ growth.  The library is a good place to start if a friend does not have a copy of the September issue of Inc that I can borrow.  This also helps reinforce my entrepreneur interests, something all employers are interested in as a part of what new employees bring to the table.  In particular, those employers referenced in the numbers above expect a healthy of entrepreneurism in any new addition to the organization.

We will try for the discussion of the individual Board of Directors with our next distribution.


Notes from 5 Aug 2012

With all of the talk of sequestration and its possible effects the importance of effective networking becomes imperative.   And just what is effective networking, is it not making a large number of contacts and then follow up with them to see what they can and are doing for you?   The answer is a resounding NO!    Contacts with the ensuing connections are what make networking work.    Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon wrote the true book on networking and contacts, Make Your Contacts Count.  Their points are that networking is truly marketing one’s self to another or others.  So, when I am networking I am looking to make connections that will result in connecting with decision-makers in the functional areas of my interests.  Connecting with those individuals who know and manage or lead the business that I am not just good at but truly effective in making the differences that help move the organization to meet the goals it has set for itself.

If I’m a Program or Project Manager, I need to know those employers who use Program and or Project Management and are in the fields that I know and demonstrate that I have contributed to effectively.   The same applies to whatever career field or fields where I am truly proficient.

The other aspect of the effectiveness of my “connections” versus “contacts” is my approach to my search.  I know that I have competition for any role I am going after, and with possible sequestration the need is to find roles where the potential is low or least, and where I have relevant experience.  For me, then, I need to build my list of potential employers based on those two considerations.   The list can and should be at least 100 potential employers.   I can then classify those employers based on my interest, my fit and the probability of opportunity.  This is where Career Fairs can be of obvious value, along with my network.  Additionally, with my network I must give each member of my network a solid, yet brief, picture of my interests, skills and accomplishments as they relate to the chosen employers.  I need to keep in contact with my network, briefing them on my progress.  Because this becomes quite personal, my network needs to consist of those whom I know and trust and who know what I can do with my skills, interests and abilities.  This argues for the creation of establishing my own Board of Directors.  We have spoken to this earlier and will revisit the subject with the September 9 career fair listing and distribution.



Here are several web sites that have been identified locally that can be of assistance to those stepping away from active duty.

Job Central has been around for a while.  It is managed/run by DirectEmployers Association.  DirectEmployers also recently launched two new dot-jobs websites that seem to be getting some positive feedback: and Employers need to pay to be a member of DirectEmployers - but get some really good bang for their buck.  

on behalf of America’s Heroes at Work
U.S. Department of Labor
Veterans' Employment & Training Service and
Office of Disability Employment Policy

Also check this out. It’s connected to all of the state job banks.

Check out the vet jobs link for employment services for returning veterans (



The best way to locate posted openings on LinkedIn is for the job seeker to register his or her own listing, but then to join those groups that interest them, including localities.  Currently one can join USA, regional, state and local LinkedIn groups and checkout the dialog as well as job listing.  The LinkedIn attachments only provide the recipient with the link of the sender.

Additionally I would like to remind all of my earlier suggestion for those in the search mode.  Connect with the various LinkedIn “Job and Career Networks” that are in the geographic areas of your interest.  While most of the messages are not job listings more and more are, from recruiters, third parties and individuals who work at the company.  I am seeing jobs listed in all communities around Washington, DC as well as in the city, and additionally, throughout Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina.  There is no limit to the number of selections one makes.  It is more a matter of looking at the Subject Line to know, in most cases.

Do not ignore the LinkedIn route, more and more the job sourcers are using LinkedIn along with those companies that do not use a Job Sourcer.

Notes from 2 Oct 2011

The challenges continue to grow in my search for challenging opportunities that match my interests as well as my abilities.  If I haven’t reached out to all of the resources available to me now is the time for me to do this.  I need to review my approaches so I can then review my strategies, based on those organizations I find that I am interested in considering.


☺ Review my written goals – Life, Family, Financial, Career and then role I am seeking.

☺ Identify achievements/accomplishments focused to what I can do for each employer.

☺ Focused sound bites for each role.

☺ Resources: Family, Friends, Network connections versus contacts, web conntections.

☺ Organization affiliations I am connected and volunteering with.

☺ Internet sources such as and specific interest groups.

☺ Researched current trends and technologies being used in my selected employers.

☺ Gained experience, training and knowledge in those areas needed to make me competitive.

☺ Identified targets (employers) with priorities and strategies for each.

☺ Incorporating recommendations from those who have critiqued my resumes and bios.

Reaching Out:

☺ Reviews with mentors of my selected employers, documents, and approaches.

Practicing and applying approaches, sound bites, and selling points with friends and professionals, including mentors.

☺ LinkedIn Profile, experience, affiliations, recommendations; Facebook, and other social media I am comfortable with that I have been advised by recruiters as helpful in my job search.


Working to get Employee Referrals, as I know this is the most effective source of hire.

Keeping my network connected with what I am doing and how they can help me.

Updating my social media sites on a weekly basis.

Following up on my contacts and connections inside organizations of interest.

Volunteering where I will gain relevant experience and exposure.

Applying online and following up wherever possible with those applications.

☺ Attending Career Fairs and Expos for exposure, information and contacts that I can turn to connections.

Applying to decision-makers, using a letter resume, and following up with those contacts.

Follow Up:

With each contact, taking appropriate action in each situation.

Continuing to update my connections and expand my contacts making them connections.

Continuing to help others as I learn of information that will be helpful to them.

☺ With interviews, following up with a letter that offers suggestions for improvement in an area discussed or proposing an approach to something that has worked in other similar situations.

Continuing to update, improve my skill sets, insuring that this information is on my social media sites.

Taking some time to renew myself.

There are, of course other actions and activities I can incorporate into my endeavors in seeking a new role.  I can always add and delete as I find what works for me.