Friday, July 14, 2006

Jobs! Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs! – Where To Find Opportunities in the Federal Government

From Po and Ash:

We've already gotten some posts and email about just how to go about finding those federal government jobs. Yea!

A friend emailed me that just quit her job this very morning, and she wondered if there were any jobs in her area. Two clicks on a website, I'd found 49 openings, with salaries up as high as 115k+.

Start at – the central-clearinghouse for most federal openings. You can search by job, locality, etc., or you can also search by agency. They have current openings, but they also have a resume-bank you can submit to, as well.

Most of the agencies are supposed to have jobs in the usajobs job bank, but there are some particular programs that aren't yet in there. So you might also want to review this list of federal departments and agencies, and if there's a particular department or agency that interests you, check out its own website for job opportunity information, just to make sure you've found everything.

If you have no idea how you could apply your skills to the federal workforce, have no fear: they even have info on how to translate your skills into the things Uncle Sam needs. And don't doubt that your skills aren't in there somewhere. They've currently got over 20,000 openings listed – everything from an auto mechanic at the Albany's FBI office to an attorneys in Illinois and Canada to a master black belt instructor in San Diego (The salary for a black belt instructor? 74K to 141K.)

I'd suggest taking a look at the usajobs' pages on beginning the search: they explain some of the different federal hiring practices, define some of the terms, etc. The Office of Personnel Management also has a lot of information on things like salaries and benefits, explanations of how much a "GS-11" makes (in the mid 40s).

Beyond the specific jobs, they've got information on other types of programs as well. If you have (or are pursuing) a college degree or higher, don't miss their eScholars page – a list of federal training programs and fellowships.

If you're switching careers, or haven't had that many years' experience, you might consider the Federal Career Intern Program - where you work for two years at an agency (salary ranging from about 20k-40k depending). For these positions, I'm sure there's a range in responsibilities depending on the post, but think more on the level of "surgical intern" rather than "fetch coffee intern."

If you are "mid-career," have a post-graduate degree or more, and are interested in the executive ranks, you might also consider taking a look at the U.S. Presidential Management Fellows Program. And, if you're a real rock star, go for the gold: the White House Fellows.

If you're an IT professional considering a change of pace, but you're not sure you want to commit, how's this: they've got a program where you can get a temporary assignment just for a few months or so.

But here's a warning. Be patient, and don't give up.

That may not sound different than you'd hear in any job search, but it's more important in the federal workforce for two reasons.

First, most of the jobs that we wrote about are coming, but they aren't open just yet. They probably should, but they aren't hiring to replace the person who might soon retire, but hasn't yet said he's going. So today, there might not be anything for you, but six-months or a year from now, there may be dozens of openings.

Second, it depends on the agency, but the hiring process can be incredibly slow going. Be patient, and don't give up. And if even if you aren't looking for a job right now, you might want to consider putting in an application for the future. For example, if you dream of being a Foreign Service Officer in a sweet embassy in the Bahamas, well, you have to take a test first . . . and that test is only given once a year. So register with State, start studying and then go on with your life for a year. (See what we mean about their needing to revamp their hiring? Especially because foreign language speakers are desperately needed.)

In other words, be patient. Really. Eventually, you will be called.

We also wrote in our essay that in the next five years, employees will be able to move up the ladder faster - maybe even faster than in the private sector. For instance, a 3rd year lawyer working for the government is often running their own cases, while a 3rd year lawyer at a law firm is still working hard for partners. But I don't want to mislead you here about the level of excitement and upside in government work. I don't want to oversell you. It's not going to be the dot com boom all over again.

When I wrote WSIDWML, I wrote about the danger of expecting Brain Candy from our jobs. You don't find your purpose above your neck, in your head; you find it below the neck, in your heart. I tell people to let their brain be their heart's soldier. It's not what you do, it's what you're working towards. All jobs have shit work, grunt work, some aspect that's unpleasant. Rather than avoiding such unpleasantness, find work that you believe in, such that you're willing to put up with the unpleasant elements. This is the right attitude to have, when going to work for organizations notorious for bureaucracy.

91% of federal workers feel they do important work, and 83% like what they do, and 71% feel a sense of personal accomplishment. However, it's not all rosy. Only 40% polled said that high-performers are recognized appropriately, and only 25% said that poor-performers are dealt with appropriately. I can't compare that to the private sector, and many corporations are just as bureaucratic as any government agency. But those scores could be a lot higher.

One of the great benefits of these jobs is the work culture allows you to have a very balanced life outside of work. If you have a copy of WSIDWML around, go back and look at the chapter near the middle of the book, "Guidance, Navigation, and Control." It tells the story of Russell Carpenter, a GS-14 aerospace engineer at NASA Goddard. That chapter really captures the benefits of working for the feds. Meaningful work, not always in a rush, and a balanced life.

Uncle Sam really does want you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the referral to the USA Jobs website! It's really helpful.

One thing I've noticed is that their "store your resume" online feature doesn't allow you to upload your own resume. You have to use the build-online feature, and it's strict chronological only - not so great for those of us changing careers. I'd recommend searching jobs and applying separately.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Ashley Merryman said...

Glad to hear it! Re your frustration on the resume formatting – I have never sent one in the .gov, but I have in past suffered through other engine-driven resumes, so I know what you mean. But I do know that usually, government jobs require you to fill out the standard form, regardless your resume and the position: you just attach the resume to the form and hope they look at that one.

Best of luck on your search.

9:29 AM  

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