NAVIGATING THE FEDERAL HIRING LANDSCAPE: Part I – How to Identify and Target Federal Careers

Editor’s note: There are many career opportunities within the Federal government, and as a job seeker, you cannot take a … “I will just apply for any type of job in the government” … approach. In this blog series, “Navigating the Federal Hiring Landscape,” I write about the importance of identifying those career fields that are of interest to you, determining if your experience meets the basic qualifications of those targeted careers, and building and leveraging your network. 

By Alex Harrington, Executive Director

The Federal government is the nation’s largest employer, a huge enterprise with just over 2 million civil servants (as of March 2019) working within the Executive Departments alone. Apart from the current pandemic with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Federal government continues to offer an unparalleled variety of career opportunities – both white-collar and trade – for those who have a desire to enter public service.

And not only does the Federal government have many career fields to choose from throughout the U.S., but there are also many opportunities located overseas as well (currently, there are Federal employees working in almost 160 countries worldwide).

While the Federal government offers an unparalleled variety of career opportunities, it can still be overwhelming for you to choose a career as a civil servant. So, before you even begin to apply for a federal job, you must first know what type of career you’d like to pursue in the Federal government. Basically, you must know your career field of choice, as well as your transferable skills that can be aligned to it.

Also, keep in mind that there are transferable skills that are in high demand in the federal government. According to the “2018 Federal Workforce Priorities Report”, federal agencies need “management support skills such as performance management, project management, and strategic planning; and soft skills such as critical thinking and professionalism.” I will write more about this topic in my next blog: Part II: How to Determine if Your Work Experience Meets the Basic Qualifications of a Federal Job

Know where to look for Federal Careers

Today, approximately 2 million federal civilians – under the Federal Executive Branch – are employed in more than 500 different occupations in the Federal government, ranging from administrative, professional, technical … to blue-collar, clerical, and other positions. And many of these occupations are located overseas

And where to start looking can pose a challenge to most job seekers.

I know when I first started looking for a federal job, it was like “looking for a needle in a haystack.” However, over time I’ve gained the experience of knowing where to look and how to select those positions that matched my experiences and skills.

And I’d like to share these experiences with you…

The following websites are very helpful for learning about the many occupations in the federal government:

Go Government – This online digital resource, sponsored by Partnership for Public Service, provides helpful information and tips for everyday job seekers who would like to better understand the federal hiring process so they can launch their careers in government. 

OPM’s Classification & Qualifications – This is the grand-daddy of all federal job descriptions that are made available by the Office of Personnel Management. The Classification and Qualification web-page provides information about position classification standards and functional guides. You can find information about varied occupations and their official position titles and levels of work, for both white- and blue-collar careers. 

O*NET Resource Center – This is one of my favorite career sites. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) was developed under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). O*NET is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. If you type “Federal Jobs” in the Occupation Quick Search box (located at the top right of the main site page), it will provide a list of Federal careers. (Find a Federal Government Job) – is an inter-agency online resource administered by USAGov (formerly the Federal Citizen Information Center), a division of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service. This site has a wealth of information about how to find a Federal government job

There you have it!

Before you begin to apply for a federal job, I would first learn about the many opportunities that the Federal government offers.

Be sure to check out:

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Author: Alex Harrington is currently a federal civil servant and a Certified Career Services Provider (CCSP) and Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF). He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a Persian Gulf War veteran.


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Federal Career Connection

A free resource for Americans who want to serve in the federal government, while helping the government recruit individuals who possess high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest.

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