How to find a Federal Job.
Now, some targeted advice for folks leaving the military and pursuing a Federal career. How do you find a gig with Uncle Sam?
The first thing I would look for is a Command/Agency with a positive working environment. This is a place where employees feel that they can make a difference and they are not just an insignificant cog in a machine trying to push against a rope. Small commands (or even small detachments of large commands) frequently fit in to this category- In a small command, standout performers are quickly recognized and non-performers have no place to hide.
Another theory I have is that the morale (and therefore effectiveness) of any agency or command is inversely proportional to its percentage of Unionized employees. While I recognize that labor unions have made significant strides in bringing workplace safety and health to the States, nobody works on the factory floor in Upton Sinclair’s ‘Jungle’ anymore. Today, if nearly everyone at a command feels compelled to join a Union it likely means that the workforce does not trust leadership to look out for their best interests. If you take a job in this type of environment, brace yourself to be outflanked by ‘clock punchers’.
Punching the clock is miserable existence- Hopefully in your military career you had the chance to meet or work alongside civilians who enjoy their job and find it rewarding. If you can find a Federal gig like this, I recommend you pursue it.
So how do you find good federal jobs? As you recall from Part One, the three methods to go ‘fishing’ for any job are:
- Blind Squirrel (least recommended)
- Headhunter (recommended)
- Networking (most recommended)
While the Blind Squirrel approach is ineffective when used by itself, pinging the Federal Jobs database CAN be effective if used in concert with networking efforts.
USAJobs is the one-and-only federal jobs database. By law, any non-appointed Federal opportunities MUST be posted here for competition. Just like any other job search engine, you can input your resume, skill sets, certifications, education, and create a search robot/agent. Once again, it is an exercise in futility to use USAJobs by its lonesome to find you a job, but you CAN and SHOULD use USAJobs to track frequent job opportunities in your desired career field and/or geographic region (note that right now Sequestration and perpetual Continuing Resolutions have thrown a wet blanket on the number of federal jobs available- Most regions only have openings for VA nurses, Border Patrol agents, and TSA screeners). Narrow your job search ‘agent’ to a specific job discipline and/or region to make it easy to spot trends, especially in finding the education and skill sets desired (READ: Necessary) to apply for a particular job.
Now that you’re plugged in to USAJobs, NETWORK! While it’s true that I have obtained 2 job offers by applying to postings listed on the USAJobs website, I cheated in both instances.
Both times I received an invitation to interview from USAJobs it was due to intel that I received from a colleague- alerting me to the to the exact position description and USAJobs ID Number. Without networking, the probability of finding the right fit on your own- and ensuring you have the right skills/keywords typed in to the application- is near zero. You therefore also have nearly zero chance to get your application past the ‘Robot Catbert’ resume filter and in to the hands of the hiring manager.
Note that I glossed over Headhunters as a source of Federal Jobs. This is not an omission- In fact, I have extensive experience working with Headhunters (which may be the topic of a future post or eBook). Headhunters are not a significant part of the discussion here because the topic is FEDERAL jobs, and I am not aware of any Headhunting agency performing placements for the federal government. That being said, a Headhunter can place you in the employ of a government contractor, which could be getting your ‘nose under the tent’ and open up the future opportunity of a federal job.
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