There are some of you that are bored with your job or there’s little opportunity for growth; worse yet, you’re in a dead-end job. And there are those of you who have been furloughed or let go due to the pandemic, while some are working in a toxic team environment or for a difficult boss. Yet, there may be some of you reading this blog thinking that it is finally time for a career change.
Despite your current situation and the realization that you have to make a change (and rather soon) ‒ the #1 mistake that most individuals unintentionally make is impulsively surfing the Web for job postings and frantically shooting off their resume from the hip, so to speak, and all the while hoping that someone will respond back with a job offer!
I truly get what you’re feeling: you want your situation to change now!
After graduating from college at age 29 (I spent six years in the U.S. Marine Corps before college) I felt anxious about competing for entry-level jobs with other candidates younger than me. My goal was to send out at least 50 resumes a week to any job ad that I thought I qualified for – e.g., job announcements in sales, marketing, project management, recruiting, public relations, insurance sales, event planning, managing, etc. Even though this aimless job search approach helped me land a job within three months, I soon realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me.
And I don’t want that to happen to you.
You should be running towards an opportunity that is a good fit for you rather than running away from something uncomfortable at the moment. In fact, when you’re trying to run away impulsively from something – a bad boss, a dead-end job, or from being unemployed – you may find yourself landing a job that you may later regret.
So, to help you pivot and move forward, you need a job search strategy. And don’t just take my word for it. According to LiveCareer, “Every job-seeker needs a strategy; it is the foundation of any effective job search” (LiveCareer, Job Targeting: A Better Way (than Job Boards) to Create Opportunity for Yourself).
There are so many articles (and I’ve provided some at the end of this blog) about how to create an effective job search strategy. Still, let me give you four tips that will help you better plan for your job search, particularly focused on Federal careers.
Tip #1 – Know Where to Look for Federal careers
There are approximately 2 million federal civilians – under the Federal Executive Branch – who are employed in more than 500 different occupations in the Federal government, ranging from administrative, professional, technical to blue-collar and other positions. And many of these occupations are located overseas. To learn more about the many opportunities in the Federal government, start with the Office of Personnel Management’s Classification & Qualification directory. You can also check out Go Government’s Career Guides, an online digital resource to help job seekers learn about the various career fields in the Federal government.
Tip #2 – Identify and Target a Specific Federal Career Field
As I mentioned, there are more than 500 different occupations in the Federal government. And each one has its own required critical knowledge, skills, and abilities. It is impossible to use just one resume to apply randomly to various Federal job announcements. You will most likely miss the rating qualification every time. So, my advice is to target a Federal career field that you would not only meet the basic qualifications, but also the specialized experience as well.
And when it comes to the Federal resume, if you plan to target and apply for more than one Federal career field – e.g., program management and policy analyst – then you will need to use two Federal resumes. Yes! You read that right. When you target more than one Federal career field, you will need more than one Federal resume.
Tip #3 – Network. Network. Network!
The old, but true maxim, “It’s all about who you know and who they know” is still valid today when looking for a job. More widely known as networking, this approach is the best tool you have in your job search arsenal. So, when you hear someone say, “I guess it is who you know,” politely tell them, “Yes, it is who you know, and it is best to learn how to enlist them into your job search.”
When it comes to looking for a Federal job, networking is very effective especially when you cast a large net to enlist as many individuals and groups as possible. You must keep in mind that when networking with someone who is a Federal employee you must adjust your approach somewhat. For example, the Partnership for Public Service advises that you focus your networking efforts directly with those who work in government or those who know someone who does. These people will be able to help you by providing information about the hiring process, the position’s core competencies, and what it’s like working for the Federal government.
Also, the benefit of knowing a Federal employee in an agency where you would like to work is that this individual can let you know what positions are currently being advertised.
However, keep in mind that a hiring manager cannot just bring you in for an interview. The hiring manager must avoid any probability of nepotism, partisan politics, favoritism, or other non-merit factors. Therefore, when you are talking with someone who works for the government, just remember they cannot directly hire you. You will have to apply competitively along with other candidates.
And according to How to Get a Federal Job by Networking: The Ultimate Guide, you can leverage the following to learn about Federal job opportunities: LinkedIn, federal directories, online resources, professional associations and groups, federal government networking events, industry days, etc.
Tip #4 – Research Agency Websites
Even though USAJOBS® is the Federal government’s primary location to look for a civil service job, you should also look at individual agency Web sites to check on career opportunities. You should be able to find a ‘Career’ or ‘Opportunities’ link on the home web page. Most, if not all, agency Web sites will have information about their current vacancies and internship opportunities, fellowships, and co-op programs. However, just remember that some agencies do not update their Web sites on the same day they submit to USAJOBS®.
There you have it. Before you submit that next application on USAJOBS®, be sure to learn and identify a Federal career field that you can crosswalk your experiences into, build and engage your network, and check out Agencies’ websites for potential job openings.
You can also check out the following articles on how to proactively look for a federal job:
And check out these organizations to build your networking circles:
- American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council
- Senior Executives Association
- AFCEA International
- Center for Leadership Development – Federal Executive Institute
- Blacks in Government
- Partnership for Public Service
- The Association for Federal Information Resources Management
- Federally Employed Women
- National Federation of Federal Employees
- American Society for Public Administration
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To get updates on upcoming workshops and career coaching sessions, visit https://federalcareerconnection.org/2021-fcc-calendar/
Author: Alex Harrington is currently a Federal civil servant and a Certified Career Services Provider and Global Career Development Facilitator. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a Persian Gulf War veteran.