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The Gov Gurus - Gov't Career Advice That Works » Hiring Process http://thegovgurus.com government career advice that works Mon, 10 Aug 2009 22:19:14 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.6.5 en Federal Jobs for Generalists http://thegovgurus.com/?p=246 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=246#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2009 20:27:46 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=246
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    ARE YOU A GENERALIST?

    You may be a generalist if you have:

    • A liberal arts degree and/or an advanced degree in law, business, international relations, public administration, public policy, environmental policy, public health or a variety of other fields.
    • Excellent writing and oral communication skills.
    • An ability to synthesize information from various sources into compelling, reader-friendly communications.
    • A natural curiosity about varied topics, instead of a passion for one or two highly technical, esoteric topics that only about five people in the world really care about.
    • A willingness to stay current on the news.

    TYPES OF FEDERAL JOBS FOR GENERALISTS

    Federal agencies offer fantastic employment opportunities for generalists at all levels –  from entry level to management level.  These positions usually require developing some substantive knowledge about the issues addressed by the agency and then:

    • Producing educational materials for large audiences, including the public, stakeholder groups and Congress.  These materials may include, for example, fact sheets, web content, PowerPoint presentations, reports, videos, blogs and podcasts.
    • Answering questions about federal programs from the public, the press and Congress
    • Managing fact-finding hearings on hot-button issues and press conferences to announce new regulations, the results of investigations, legal actions and other regulatory activities.
    • Delivering briefings to the employees of federal agencies and/or to senior staffers
    • Pitching news stories to the press.
    • Serving as a liaison between a federal agency’s headquarters office  –  which generates policies and regulations  –  and field offices throughout the U.S. that implement those policies and regulations.

    FINDING OPENINGS

    Common job titles for federal jobs for generalists include public affairs specialist, writer/editor, web content specialist, communications specialist, outreach coordinator, Congressional affairs specialist, legislative affairs specialist, policy analyst and program analyst. You may find openings for generalists by searching for these job titles on:

    • The career sections of agency websites.  (A hyperlinked, A-to-Z list of agency websites is posted at http://www.firstgov.gov.)

    You may also find federal openings for generalists by:

    • Attending federal job fairs.

      Note that federal internship programs are only rarely advertised on USAJOBS; they are usually only advertised on agency websites.

    TARGET AGENCIES FOR GENERALISTS

    Although generalists are hired by virtually all federal agencies, several federal organizations are particularly popular among generalists because they offer “think tanky” environments and manage studies, reports and programs on multi-disciplinary topics, including foreign affairs, education, information technology social issues, economics, environmental issues, public health and the sciences.  These agencies include The Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Office of Management and Budget.

    Other popular destinations for generalists include the Smithsonian; the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency; Foreign Service agencies and intelligence agencies.  In addition, the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.nas.edu), which advises the federal government on scientific and technical issues, also employs a large cadre of generalists.

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    Well-Paying, Dynamic Federal Internships and Special Recruitment Programs for Young Professionals http://thegovgurus.com/?p=214 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=214#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2009 02:00:46 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=214
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    One of the best kept secrets in government is that federal employers sponsor hundreds of well-paying, dynamic internship programs for students and young professionals.  That’s right, even if you’re just starting your career, you don’t have to slave for free.

    Federal internships are based all over the U.S. and available in virtually every field.  The timing and duration of federal internships vary from program to program: some internships are held during the summer; some internships extend throughout the academic year; and some special management programs for young professionals last one or more years.

    Here is a sample of programs:

    • The Commission and Security and Cooperation in Europe: Students and recent grads spend one semester researching human rights, religious liberties, corruption and law, and free media; communicating with House and Senate offices about pending foreign policy initiatives; and assisting staff advisors with hearings and briefings; see http://www.csce.gov.
    • Congressional Budget Office Internships: Summer positions in Washington, DC, available to undergrads and graduates of advanced degree programs in policy, economics, health analysis, and public administration. See http://cbo.gov
    • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Corporate Employee Program: College grads participate in a three-year internship program, which includes an orientation, rotations, on-the-job training, opportunities to earn certifications, and other activities to become Financial Institution Specialists. Financial Institution Specialists evaluate the practices, international controls, and management of financial institutions and their compliance with consumer protection, fair lending, and civil rights laws. For more info, type the program name into the search window at http://www.fdic.gov.
    • Federal Trade Commission: Entry-level lawyers, economists, and PhDs conduct research, educate consumers, and the business community and enforce laws in a fast-paced and challenging environment. See http://ftc.gov.
    • FBI Programs: Undergrads and grad students work with special agents on important cases in DC or forensics labs in Quantico, Virginia. One prestigious program recruits language students. See http://fbi.gov.
    • Global Change Education Programs: Undergrads in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience spend multiple summers researching global change in U.S. labs and universities, and participate in professional development activities. The Graduate Research Environmental Fellowship Program supports grad students studying global change. See http://www.atmos.anl.gov/GCEP.
    • John A. Volpe Transportation Internships: Grad students in engineering, science, and social science alternate periods of work and study, or continuously work part-time in a world-class lab in Cambridge, MA. Interns work side-by-side with transportation leaders and receive a salary plus travel and up to $10,000 for tuition. See http://www.volpe.dot.gov/.
    • Justice Department Programs for Lawyers: A highly competitive summer program recruits law students. The Attorney General’s Honors Program recruits entry-level attorneys. See http://www.usdoj.gov.
    • National Cancer Institute Health Communications Internships: Grad students work on health communications projects for six months near Washington, DC. See http://internship.cancer.gov
    • National Gallery of Art Internships: Summer and year-round positions as curators, lecturers, and other positions in Washington, DC for college grads and grad students. See http://www.nga.gov.


    INTERNATIONAL INTERNSHIPS

    Federal internships that are based overseas internships provide unparalleled opportunities to earn substantive, career-boosting experience addressing hot-button issues such as global warming, trade, and disaster relief.


    All four Foreign Service agencies sponsor overseas internships for students and recent grads during the academic year and summer. These four agencies are 1) The State Department; 2) the United States Agency for International Development; 3) The Department of Agriculture; and 4) the U.S. Commercial Service.  In addition, the Association of Schools of Public Health also places interns in international positions in federal agencies.


    Other agencies that sponsor U.S.-based internships addressing international issues include the African Development Foundation; agencies in the intelligence community including the CIA; the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, the Department of Health & Human Services, the FBI, the Federal Communications Commission, the Government Accountability Office, the Library of Congress, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and the Voice of America.

    INTERNSHIPS FOR minorities, women AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

    Many federal internship programs are specially recruiting for minorities, women and people with disabilities.  In addition to paying excellent salaries, many of these programs cover travel and housing.  Here is a sample of such programs:

    • CIA Programs: Interns work with highly-skilled professionals and observe how the CIA contributes to foreign policy. Summer and year-round internships and scholarship/internship packages are available for undergrads and grad students who are minorities or have disabilities.  See http://www.intelligence.gov.
    • Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., Programs: Undergrads work for Congressional Black Caucus Members in the summer.  See http://cbcfinc.org.
    • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Internships: Undergrads spend the summer and college grads spend nine months working for Congress in positions that offer dynamic assignments, interaction with high-level official, and professional development activities. See http://chci.org.
    • Defense Intelligence Agency: Minorities, women, and people with disabilities who are undergrads and grad students are in demand for summer and year-round internships.  See See http://www.dia.mil.
    • Energy Department Programs for Minorities: 1) The Minority Education Institution Student Partnership Program: Undergrads and grad students conduct research and work on policy, business, and communications issues in nationwide labs and offices. They work side-by-side with leading scientists, engineers, and other top professionals to develop professional and leadership skills. See http://doeminorityinternships.org. 2) The College Student Summer Internships for Native Americans at Sandia National Laboratories is discussed at http://www.eere.energy.gov/tribalenergy/internships.cfm. 3) The Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship provides summer internships for minority students in science and engineering throughout the U.S. See http://fossil.energy.gov/education/lelandfellowships.
    • National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO): Students from historically and predominantly black colleges and universities are placed in federal offices during the summer and school year. Stipends, travel expenses, and housing are covered. See http://nafeo.org/.
    • Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS): Does it get any better than this? Interns work in state-of-the-art labs in beautiful, groovy Boulder, CO, on fascinating scientific projects, are mentored by top scientists, and live in modern group housing. Activities include conducting research and attending science writing workshops and other trainings. This is a multi-summer program and salaries increase each year of participation.  See http://ucar.edu/soars/index.html.
    • Women’s Research and Education Institute for Women and Public Policy Fellowship: Grad students and recent grads who are committed to women’s issues work for 8 months in Washington, DC as Congressional aids. See http://wrei.org.
    • Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities: This program serves as a pipeline for undergrads, grad students, and law students who have disabilities into summer and full-time jobs throughout the federal government and private organizations.  See http://opm.gov; type Workforce Recruitment Program into the search window.

    Finding MORE Internship PROGRAMS

    Almost every federal agency sponsors an internship program.  But unfortunately, most of these programs are not advertised on USAJOBS.gov, and the federal government has not created a consolidated directory of its internship programs.

    Find federal internships by using these resources:

    • How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job (Amacom Books) by Lily Whiteman features a comprehensive, hyperlinked directory of internships and special recruitment programs for students and recent graduates as well as a directory of programs that are specially recruiting minorities, women and people with disabilities. The book is on sale on Amazon.com here.
    • Check the career sections of the websites of your target agencies.  A hyperlinked A-to-Z directory of agency websites is posted here. Also check the career sections of national parks, forests and marine sanctuaries and federal libraries, museums and federal research laboratories.
    • A list of science-based opportunities for students of all levels, recent grads, and post-docs is posted here.
    • More internship programs are listed on these sites:

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    Part 2: How To Ride the Federal Hiring Wave http://thegovgurus.com/?p=201 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=201#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2009 03:11:20 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=201
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    Part 2 of a Series (Check out Part 1)

    There is one  –  and only one  –   nationwide employer that will continue to annually fill hundreds of thousands of high-paying, secure, dynamic jobs no matter how bad the economy may get.  Who is this employer?  The federal government, which will annually hire more than 200,000 new employees throughout the U.S.  –  including tens of thousands of interns and recent graduates.

    The massive federal hiring wave will continue despite the ongoing national recession.

    What’s more, U.S News & World Report described government jobs as a terrific deal and included “government manager” on its list of best careers  –  and that was even before various factors converged to make federal jobs particularly hot, hot properties.  These factors include:

    •    A hiring wave in the federal government  –  the nation’s largest employer  –  generated by record numbers of retiring baby boomers.

    •    Spiking unemployment rates in the private sector, which have increased the appeal of secure federal jobs.   (Feds are rarely laid off and rarely fired.)

    •    Increased appreciation for public service, which began after 9/11.

    If you want to start a federal career, here’s how to find federal openings:

    •    Regularly surf http://www.USAJOBS.gov:  Every day, tens of thousands of openings are advertised on this website  –  the main website for federal jobs.

    •    Check the career sections of agency websites: Every federal agency has its own website, and every agency website has an employment section.  These employment sections frequently advertise job openings, internships and special recruitment programs that are never advertised on http://www.USAJOBS.gov.  A link to an A-to-Z directory of agency websites appears under “Government Agencies” at http://www.firstgov.gov.

    •    Attend job fairs:  Many federal agencies use job fairs to fill unadvertised openings – sometimes through fast-track hiring procedures or even on-the-spot offers.  Some federal agencies sponsor their own job fairs at college campuses and other locations; other federal agencies co-sponsor job fairs that are also attended by private sector employers.

    You can find job fairs that are sponsored or co-sponsored by federal agencies by looking for ads in the media and by checking agency websites. In particular, be sure to check the career sites of agencies that regularly sponsor job fairs, which include agencies in the intelligence community (intelligence.gov), the State Department (state.gov), the FBI (FBI.gov) and some agencies that address banking and corporate finance, including the FDIC and agencies in the Treasury Department (Treasury.gov).

    •    Join the Foreign Service:  The Foreign Service  –  which represents the U.S.’s interests overseas  –  is composed of employees from four federal agencies: 1) the Department of State (state.gov); 2) the Department of Agriculture (USDA.gov); 3) the International Trade Administration (trade.gov); and 4) the U.S. Agency for International Development USAID.gov).  Check each Foreign Service agency’s website for its requirements for applying to its branch of the Foreign Service.

    •    Apply for temporary jobs and contract jobs:  Temporary jobs in federal agencies and federal contracting jobs often segue almost seamlessly into permanent federal jobs and generate experience and contacts that may lead to permanent jobs.

    Because temp agencies and contractors frequently hire faster than federal agencies do, working for federal contactors or temp agencies are particularly good options for unemployed job-hunters who need to start working quickly and for job-seekers who want to work part-time during their job searches.

    You may find federal contract jobs by surfing through the websites of federal contractors; a hyperlinked list of the nation’s top 100 contractors is posted at http://www.usaspending.gov.  You may find temporary agencies that help federal agencies staff up by surfing through the list of temp agencies posted at http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21666.htm.

    •    Land a federal internship:  Federal employers have recently rolled out dozens and dozens of new, well-paying internship programs for students and special fast-track management training programs for recent grads all over the U.S.  Some of these programs are recruiting young professionals of all backgrounds and some of these programs are specially recruiting minorities, women and people with disabilities.  You can find information about internships on agency websites.  (Most internships are not advertised on USAJOBS.)

    •    Contact selective placement coordinators at federal agencies:  Each agency has a selective placement coordinator who provides information to job seekers about unadvertised openings for people with disabilities and for veterans.  A directory of selective placement coordinators is posted at http://www.apps.opm.gov/sppc_directory.

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    How to Ride the Federal Hiring Wave http://thegovgurus.com/?p=193 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=193#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2009 01:29:24 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=193
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    There is one  –  and only one  –   nationwide employer that will continue to annually fill hundreds of thousands of high-paying, secure, dynamic jobs no matter how bad the economy may get.  Who is this employer?  The federal government, which will annually hire more than 200,000 new employees throughout the U.S.  –  including tens of thousands of interns and recent graduates.

    The massive federal hiring wave will continue despite the ongoing national recession.

    What’s more, U.S News & World Report described government jobs as a terrific deal and included “government manager” on its list of best careers  –  and that was even before various factors converged to make federal jobs particularly hot, hot properties.  These factors include:

    •    A hiring wave in the federal government  –  the nation’s largest employer  –  generated by record numbers of retiring baby boomers.

    •    Spiking unemployment rates in the private sector, which have increased the appeal of secure federal jobs.   (Feds are rarely laid off and rarely fired.)

    •    Increased appreciation for public service, which began after 9/11.

    If you want to start a federal career, here’s how to find federal openings:

    •    Regularly surf http://www.USAJOBS.gov:  Every day, tens of thousands of openings are advertised on this website  –  the main website for federal jobs.

    •    Check the career sections of agency websites: Every federal agency has its own website, and every agency website has an employment section.  These employment sections frequently advertise job openings, internships and special recruitment programs that are never advertised on http://www.USAJOBS.gov.  A link to an A-to-Z directory of agency websites appears under “Government Agencies” at http://www.firstgov.gov.

    •    Attend job fairs:  Many federal agencies use job fairs to fill unadvertised openings – sometimes through fast-track hiring procedures or even on-the-spot offers.  Some federal agencies sponsor their own job fairs at college campuses and other locations; other federal agencies co-sponsor job fairs that are also attended by private sector employers.

    You can find job fairs that are sponsored or co-sponsored by federal agencies by looking for ads in the media and by checking agency websites. In particular, be sure to check the career sites of agencies that regularly sponsor job fairs, which include agencies in the intelligence community (intelligence.gov), the State Department (state.gov), the FBI (FBI.gov) and some agencies that address banking and corporate finance, including the FDIC and agencies in the Treasury Department (Treasury.gov).

    •    Join the Foreign Service:  The Foreign Service  –  which represents the U.S.’s interests overseas  –  is composed of employees from four federal agencies: 1) the Department of State (state.gov); 2) the Department of Agriculture (USDA.gov); 3) the International Trade Administration (trade.gov); and 4) the U.S. Agency for International Development USAID.gov).  Check each Foreign Service agency’s website for its requirements for applying to its branch of the Foreign Service.

    •    Apply for temporary jobs and contract jobs:  Temporary jobs in federal agencies and federal contracting jobs often segue almost seamlessly into permanent federal jobs and generate experience and contacts that may lead to permanent jobs.

    Because temp agencies and contractors frequently hire faster than federal agencies do, working for federal contactors or temp agencies are particularly good options for unemployed job-hunters who need to start working quickly and for job-seekers who want to work part-time during their job searches.

    You may find federal contract jobs by surfing through the websites of federal contractors; a hyperlinked list of the nation’s top 100 contractors is posted at http://www.usaspending.gov.  You may find temporary agencies that help federal agencies staff up by surfing through the list of temp agencies posted at http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21666.htm.

    •    Land a federal internship:  Federal employers have recently rolled out dozens and dozens of new, well-paying internship programs for students and special fast-track management training programs for recent grads all over the U.S.  Some of these programs are recruiting young professionals of all backgrounds and some of these programs are specially recruiting minorities, women and people with disabilities.  You can find information about internships on agency websites.  (Most internships are not advertised on USAJOBS.)

    •    Contact selective placement coordinators at federal agencies:  Each agency has a selective placement coordinator who provides information to job seekers about unadvertised openings for people with disabilities and for veterans.  A directory of selective placement coordinators is posted at http://www.apps.opm.gov/sppc_directory.

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    The Basics of Boosting Your Salary Offer http://thegovgurus.com/?p=171 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=171#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2009 03:12:47 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=171
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    THE BASICS OF BOOSTING YOUR SALARY OFFER

    By Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job and Federal Times Columnist

    So you’ve received an offer for a federal job.  This means that you probably beat out dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, of competitors to rank as the hiring agency’s number one pick.  Congratulations! You should feel great about your success.

    But even though you have bagged your target job, the application process is still not over.  Why not?  Because you have one final chore to complete:  negotiating you salary.

    How should you kick off your salary negotiations? Simply by asking your agency contact person, “Is this salary negotiable?” There is a good chance that those four little words may be enough to compel your hiring agency to increase its salary offer.

    THE IMPORTANCE OF SALARY NEGOTIATIONS

    Granted:  Few people enjoy negotiating salaries.  The process feels uncomfortable and undignified  –  disturbingly similar to haggling over the price of a used car.  But odious though salary negotiations are, they are important because:

    • Contrary to popular believe, federal salaries are often negotiable. I know this from my own experience:  by negotiating my first federal salary for a job at the Environmental Protection Agency 17 years ago, and by campaigning for numerous raises and promotions since then, I increased my own total federal take-home pay by more than $200,000.

      What’s more, I have coached dozens and dozens of other professionals on successful negotiations for federal jobs.  These clients include a military transitioner who raised his offer by about $30,000 annually and an Information Technology project manager who raised his offer by about $10,000 annually, to name just a few examples.

    • Like most private sector employers, most federal employers lowball job applicants: they offer them the lowest acceptable salary.  Why?  Because most applicants  –  relieved that their job search is finally over and unaware that federal salaries are frequently negotiable  — lunge at the bait and take lowball offers.  But for only a few short minutes of negotiating discomfort, you may increase your salary by thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per year.
    • You won’t get what you don’t ask for. You owe it to yourself to advocate for what you really deserve.  Remember: if you don’t advocate for yourself, no one else will.

    NEGOTIATING TIPS

    • Understand your hiring agency’s limits: Each announcement for a federal opening identifies a salary range for the opening.  Although you probably can’t raise your offer beyond the ceiling of your opening’s salary range, you have a good chance of negotiating a higher salary offer within your opening’s range.
    • Justify your request: Explain to your hiring agency why you deserve a higher salary than you have been offered.  Your explanation may be based on: 1) a description of your outstanding qualifications and an explanation of how they exceed the basic qualifications of the opening; 2) the fact that the offer is below your current salary or below a competing offer; 3) the fact that accepting the job would require you to move to a city that has a higher cost of living than your present job; 4) any additional sacrifices that accepting the job would require of you.
    • Don’t give ultimatums if you really want the job: Instead of threatening to reject the offer if your demands are not met, use a soft-sell approach.  Phrase your negotiations in gentle statements, such as:

      I am excited about the possibility of contributing to this organization.  But is there any additional wiggle room in your offer?

    • Bump up your negotiations: If you receive your job offer from a staffer from your target agency’s human resources office and s/he declines to negotiate, request a meeting with your opening’s selecting official.  (The selecting official is probably the same person who interviewed you for the job.)  This is important because federal selecting officials usually have significant more power to increase salary offers than do human resources officials.
    • Use good timing: Initiate and complete your salary negotiations before you respond to your hiring agency’s offer.  Why?  Because once you respond to the hiring agency’s offer, you lose your bargaining power. Indeed, the time between your receipt of an offer and your response to it is the only tine during the selection process, and perhaps the only time during your career, when you get to call the shots and an employer twists in the wind, awaiting your decision.

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    Quick Tip: Resume Trick http://thegovgurus.com/?p=159 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=159#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2009 03:52:53 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=159
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    Whenever you email your resume to your networking contacts or hiring managers, email it as a PDF attachment.  That way, its formatting won’t get fouled up during its electronic journey.  You can quickly convert your resume (or any other document) into a PDF document for free at http://66.89.113.16/doc2pdf.

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    10 Secrets for Landing A Federal Job http://thegovgurus.com/?p=124 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=124#comments Sat, 10 Jan 2009 22:30:14 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=124
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  • Unofficial Guide to Getting a Federal Job The Gov Gurus present the Unofficial Guide to Getting a...
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  • KNOCK ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S FRONT DOOR AND BACK DOOR: Most job seekers look for federal openings only on USAJOBS (usajobs.opm.gov), the federal government’s official jobs website. But there are plenty of other ways to land federal jobs.For example, employment agencies and consulting firms frequently place employees on contract jobs in federal agencies. Such contract jobs — which are available to professionals in many fields — often segue seamlessly into permanent federal jobs, or yield networking contacts that provide inside tracks to permanent federal jobs.

    Employment agencies and consulting firms commonly recruit for federal contract jobs by advertising on Internet jobs sites and newspapers.

  • THINK LIKE A HIRING MANAGER: Most federal openings draw dozens or even hundreds of applications. These applications get skimmed FAST by harried hiring managers — not read word for word, as if they were suspenseful John Grisham novels. So to keep the attention of hiring managers, you must craft your application for a fast, easy read.Instead of aiming for a specific resume length, aim to describe your most impressive credentials as succinctly as possible. Format the names of your employers, your job titles and degrees to STAND OUT. Confine each job description to a few quick-read, achievement-oriented bullets. And break up your answers to essay questions by writing in short paragraphs and using bullets and headings.Show your application to a friend or colleague and ask him/her to identify your best credentials in one minute. If s/he can’t do so, format and phrase your best credentials to stand out more.

  • VALIDATE YOUR SUCCESS: How can you prove in your applications and interviews that you are an action-oriented producer rather than just a self-promoting talker? By describing specific achievements, such as goals you reached and problems you solved.If you were one of the first or fastest in your organization to complete a task, say so. Remember: you don’t have to be the first person up Mt. Everest to be a record-holder. Even innovating a time-saving filing system warrants mentioning. Likewise, if you ran a program, produced a document or created a web site that reached large numbers of people, say so — and approximate how many people your work impacted.Crown explanations of your achievements with descriptions of associated positive feedback that you received, including your high grades, academic honors, individual and team awards, promotions, assignments to special teams or task forces and special requests made by management for your services. Quote written and oral praise from professors, supervisors, managers, colleagues, clients and customers. Cite flattering e-mails, comments on performance evaluations, bonuses, awards, letters of commendation and positive evaluations from attendees of your trainings or other presentations. Also mention any awards, positive press coverage or other recognition that you helped your employer earn.

  • CONVEY ZEST: Most applicants believe that applications for federal jobs should read as dryly and bureaucratically as the tax code. Wrong! A job application that exudes LIFE will WAKE UP hiring managers, STAND OUT FROM THE PACK, and show that you are an energetic go-getter who requires minimal supervision. (Look ma, no cattle prodder!) So mention in your cover letters and application why your work is important or inspiring.
  • PURGE MISTAKES: Most applications for federal jobs are tarnished by typos, grammatical errors and other careless errors; error-free applications stand out from the pack.Beware that most online application systems do not feature spellcheckers and printing functions that are essential for thorough quality control. Therefore, online applications are particularly prone to careless errors.So instead of keyboarding your application directly into an online application system, create save, spell-check, and print your application in a WORD file. Then, review and edit it several times. (Many types of errors are easier to spot on hard-copy documents than on screen displays.) Finally, solicit feedback on your application from friends or colleagues. Once your application is error-free, cut and paste it into the online application.

    Be sure to save a copy of your application so that you will be able to review it before interviews as well as recycle appropriate sections of it into other, similar applications. Likewise, save all job announcements that you answer so that you will have necessary contact information and job descriptions even after announcements are pulled from the Internet.

  • MAKE THE DEADLINE: The window of opportunity for submitting most online applications slams shut at midnight Eastern Standard Time of the job’s closing date. This means that applications must be received by midnight of the closing date to be considered.But many applicants assume that if they log onto the hiring agency’s online application system by midnight of the closing date, they will be able to slip their application in under the wire. Wrong assumption. Most online application systems automatically nix applications that miss the midnight deadline.

  • RESUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION IF IT HAS ERRORS: What should you do if, after you click the “submit” button on an online application, you realize that your application contains a mistake or omits important information? (Oh, that sinking feeling!)Here’s the fix: Submit another application for the job before it closes. Your latest submission will override a previously submitted application for a job that is still open.

  • PREPARE FOR INTERVIEWS: Hiring managers look for applicants who are knowledgeable about their agencies — not applicants who act like “if it’s Tuesday, it must be the Transportation Department.” So before each interview, educate yourself about your target agency by reviewing its website. Be sure to peruse the agency’s mission statement, annual report and recent press release. And please, don’t say “who is that?” when the interviewer mentions the name of the director of your target agency or target office during the interview; memorize these key names. Don’t be shy about mentioning your research of your target agency in your interview.
  • SEND A STAND-OUT THANK YOU LETTER: Immediately after you get home from your interview — even before you take off your uncomfortable interview outfit — write a thank you letter to your interviewer. Your letter should confirm your interest in the position, cite several ways that you could contribute to the organization and mention several impressive characteristics of the position/organization that were covered in the interview. Proofread your letter several times, and then send it overnight delivery. (Yes, a thank you letter that arrives right away will score higher than one that arrives even one day later.)
  • NEGOTIATE YOUR SALARY: Don’t buy into the myth that federal salaries are non-negotiable. One of the best kept federal jobs secrets is that salaries and other benefits — such as recruitment bonuses as well as access to student loan repayment programs that are worth up to $60,000, telecommuting programs and alternative work schedules — are frequently negotiable. So whenever you receive an offer, ask: “Is this offer negotiable?” And justify why your stellar credentials warrant a higher salary.
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    How To Deal With KSAs? http://thegovgurus.com/?p=74 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=74#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2008 17:04:31 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=74
  • Unofficial Guide to Getting a Federal Job The Gov Gurus present the Unofficial Guide to Getting a...
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    Is there anything more dreadful than writing KSAs? It was only last November where I remembered writing 9 KSAs over a weekend (for two openings) and feeling like I just ran a marathon.

    The only good thing about KSAs is that they are so painful that it limits the number of people that apply. With the rise of online applications, it is very easy to write a quick cover letter and apply to 3-5 private sector jobs in an evening. With KSAs, it takes a weekend to apply to a job.

    In order to make it easier for someone out there, I’ll list my top 5 KSA tips:

    1) Keep it to a page. Each essay should be about one page.

    2) Key words. This is not rocket science. Reiterate the key words mentioned in the KSA question as well as the words sprinkled throughout the job application and description.

    3) Vary your experiences. You need clear examples to demonstrate your skills. Do not describe at a high level what you’ve done. Give concrete example and make sure you do not duplicate too much. Feel free to use examples from outside of work such as running a volunteer organization or school projects.

    4) Give the process a few days. Pace yourself and do a couple KSAs a day. Let your brain have time to think of good examples.

    5) Outside eyes. After writing, give yourself a day or two to relax before looking at the KSAs again. There is nothing worse than a misspelling or incorrect grammar. Better yet get an outside set of eyes to review your application.

    What are your tips for surviving the KSA process? Join the conversation below.

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    Unofficial Guide to Getting a Federal Job http://thegovgurus.com/?p=15 http://thegovgurus.com/?p=15#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2008 03:14:56 +0000 admin http://thegovgurus.com/?p=15
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    Approximately once a month, I get an email from a family member or friend that goes something like “My cousin/neighbor/babysitter is really interested in federal jobs. S/he can’t figure out the process. Can you give her some inside guidance?”

    Whether OPM wants to admit it or not, the process is still way too confusing for outsiders. They don’t know what job series they qualify for, can’t figure out what grade they could qualify as, and sure don’t understand KSAs. Most of the job application advice is written in bureaucratic-speak or so vague that it is not really helpful.

    I’ve written these job searchers dozens of emails (and phone calls) with my advice. Rather than repeat myself, I thought I would publish my guide in one place and offer it to all individuals looking for a federal job. I’d love to hear your comments and I’ll continue to revise the piece to provide the most comprehensive “Unofficial Guide to Landing a Federal Job”

    1) Start with USAJOBS.gov

    You’ve probably been here but almost all government jobs are posted here. The trick is learning to navigate the system and its filters to find the job you want. There are too many jobs there so you need to do a good job filtering to find the jobs you want.

    -Job Series - First, you have to find what job series you qualify for. If you are an engineer, you shouldn’t be applying for jobs as an auditor. Use series search and browse through all the occupatinal series to find the ones you are most interested in. If you are a generalist, you probably want to search for Management and Program Analyst positions (343) as it is a large category. Other key series are 2210 (IT Specialist), 511 (Auditor), 1811 (Criminal Investigator), and 1102 (Contract Specialist). One good way to find what you qualify for is USAJOBS list of job series by college major.

    - Grade Series - Second, you have to figure out what grade you qualify for. Federal grades range from 1 to 15 (highest) with a special series for senior executives. Read the specifics of each job announcement but here’s some general guidance on what grades to apply for. Entry-level college graduates should apply for GS-5 or GS-7 (if you have over a 3.0 GPA). Recent master’s graduates should apply for GS-9 positions. PhDs and Lawyers should apply for GS-11s. If you are coming to the government with experience, it is difficult to gauge what specific grade you would come in at.

    -Promotion Potential - Make sure to pay attention to the promotion potential for the job. It should say in the job announcement and the higher the promotion potential the higher your potential salary can be in the future. For example, in a GS-9 job with a promotion potential of GS-13, you can move from making $45,000/yr to $80,000/yr in three years if you perform well.

    -City Search - If you are a geographically restricted, make sure you refine your job search by city. Make sure you include the names of surrounding towns and cities. For example, when I was searching for jobs in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, I forget to include the city Bay Pines which is nearby and had a ton of federal jobs.

    -Agency search - It is helpful if you have any ideas on specific agencies or work you want to do. The gov’t is big (2.8 million employees) so obviously there is variation and thre may be a better fit based on your interests - environment, homeland security, foreign affiars, etc. If you are pretty flexible, that is good as well as some agencies are harder to get into (such as Department of State, EPA) and you may find other agencies just as rewarding.

    -Write Good KSAs - I’ve written a whole post here about writing good KSAs. The short takeaway - spend time on them, use keywords, specific examples, and keep to about a page each.

    -Have Realistic Expectations - You will not get the one job you apply for and it will take awhile. Here’s my experience. I graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a Master’s degree funded by a government fellowship and I had a previous government internship. Still, I applied for 40 federal jobs (GS-7 and GS-9 job) and I got 4 interviews and 3 job offers. The timeline also varies by agency. I heard back from agencies in a range from 3 weeks to 4 months. There can be a variety of factors affecting this ranging from ineffecient HR processes to competing priorities and budget freezes. While I used to complain about this time lag and black hole, I applied for a number of private sector jobs approximately a year ago and I have to say it wasn’t much better and had just as much variety. One consulting firm put me through about 8 interviews over a 4 month period before pulling the job due to funding issues. And there were many more similar stories.

    -Learn How to Read USAJOBS - There’s a real art to reading USAJOBS announcements. By law, agencies must post their opportunities on USAJOBS even if they really have an inside candidate they want to hire. A couple tips….make sure the job is even opening to outside candidates. It should say on the job posting whether it is open to all citizens, only current feds, or only employees at that current agency. Additionally, check to see the number of positions they are hiring for. Generally, I do not like to apply for a job unless they have multiple vacancies. If they only have one opening, they may have an inside candidate. This changes a little as you get to the higher grades but is still somewhat true. Additionally, look how long the job is open for. If it is too short (7 days), they normally have an inside candidate. If it is continuous and open, I find they are often black holes and may not be even hiring, just collecting resumes. I personally prefer 2 to 4 week openings. A dream opening for me would be multiple positions and open 3 weeks.

    2) Entry-Level Leadership Programs

    There are a number of good sites to look at outside of USAJOBS. One of the best opportunities are the 2-year entry-level leadership development programs created by federal agencies. The Presidential Management Fellows program is the most well-known and is for recent graduates with advanced degrees to work at a range of federal agencies. However, many agencies have started their own programs either based on agency or career field. I’ve listed a number of them at GovLoop.com under Resources/Recruitment Programs. These programs often start recruiting in fall/winter for individuals to start after graduation in May so they may not be a good fit if you missed their application dates.

    3) Networking is Key

    The truth with any job search is networking is important. Contact any federal employees you know whether through neighbors, alumni associations, previous co-workers, etc. Take them out for a cup of coffee for an information interview to explain your situation. By law, these individuals can’t directly give you a job but they can let you know about opportunities and guide you through the process.

    A key part of networking is joining groups that help your case. Join Young Government Leaders, a young professional organization for feds, as they send a newsletter with great info and advertise openings. Join GovLoop.com, a social network for govies, and look for openings and reach out to relevant members for their guidance.

    4) Other Key Resources

    There is a whole industry around appying for government jobs. Most of it is useless information that you can find on USAJOBS.gov so it is not worth much more than a perusal at a bookstore. At GovLoop.com, I’ve listed a ton of free resources that can help you in your job search. Start reading the government trade magazines to get an idea of the latest trends in gov’t and hiring. Check out the various government organizations. Finally, if there is a government conference in your area, try to go (maybe if you volunteer you can go for free) and network.

    Here are some particularly good websites:
    www.makingthedifference.org -Good site that guides you through the application process
    www.bestplacestowork.org
    - Lists best government agencies to work for
    www.publicservicecareers.org - Put on by three good non-profits, this provides guidance to public service careers. Not extremely federal focused but good.

    Other personal favorites:
    Lily Whiteman’s columns at Federal Times and Washington Post. She actually has a book coming out called “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.” It’s not out yet but I’m hopeful this provides a great resource to the process.

    Derrick Dortch hosts an online chat at Washington Post and a separate series on Federal News Radio that are quite informative about the government hiring process.

    6) Picking a career field

    As mentioned earlier look around at the various job series to see which ones you qualify for. Many articles have been written about where the government jobs are but I think three great fields that will continue to rise are acquisitions, IT, and finance. The government has trouble recruiting and retaining in these career fields which are becoming rapidly important. These career files have some special hiring exemptions and pay structures so it may be quicker to get in and easier to advance.

    7-Consulting

    If you are interested in federal service, you don’t necessarily have to contribute as a federal employee. The federal government contracts out most of its work. A good way to get into the government industry is to work for one of these consulting companies. They can be quicker to hire and may pay a little more (although there are trade-offs). Plus, you often work on-site with other gov employees so it is common to eventually get hired by the federal government. There is a lot of variety in the consulting companies both in terms of size, specialities, and pay so do your homework. Here is one list of the top 200 government contractors. I’ve also used Vault to research consulting companies.

    Hope this helps and good luck in landing a federal job. Federal service is a great way to serve your country, learn great new skills, make a good paycheck, and advance in your career.

    I would love to hear any comments from any current feds (or searchers) on the article. I’ll continue to add and make edits based on your comments. My idea is to create a good article that follows the 80/20 rule (80% of the key info is in 20% of the space) and provide a good starting point when searching for a federal job.

    Photo Published Courtesy of Creative Commons License by Flickr user “James Gordon”

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