5 Do’s for Federal Jobseekers
1. Make a commitment. A successful fedjob search could increase the opportunities available to you over the remainder of your career. Keep this in mind and commit to putting in the effort that’s needed to be hired. Whether you’re unemployed or just want a better situation, having your goal (the new position and the benefits it will bring) in focus will help motivate you. One guideline is to dedicate at least one and a half hours of prep time to each application.
2. Get to know the rules. The rules for applying for federal jobs are unique and different from the private sector’s. Get the know-how by studying the “rules book” -Troutman’s insightful Ten Steps to a Federal Job. Then be aware that you’ll come across additional rules-some undisclosed-as you jobhunt. For instance, the procedures for the automated e-resume systems, such as Resumix and Quick Hire, change periodically. The way to be aware of the hidden changes is by “being in the game” and learning through trial and error.
3. Become acquainted with the playing field. Like athletes who are intimately familiar with their field of play, you’ll need to know your targeted federal agencies inside and out. To research them, link to the agency websites from usajobs.opm.gov. Check out each agency’s mission, current programs, customers, and new initiatives. Read their press releases. Also, stop by Washingtonpost.com to get up to date on related news. In addition, visit whitehouse.gov and scan the President’s Agenda to see how it may be affecting the agencies you’ve selected.
4. Determine your best position on the team. Job titles are worded differently in government. Let’s say you’re an office manager in the private sector. This position, in the federal arena, could be labeled an “administrative manager,” “quality assurance manager,” or “production control manager,” etc. How can you translate your job title into federal language? One option is to read through the vacancy announcements for an agency that interests you; you’ll find the announcements thru the usajobs.opm.gov site by searching by agency. Analyze the job duties in the announcements, asking yourself which openings you’re qualified for. What grade or salary level is appropriate for you? Once you’ve explored the possibilities, pick some jobs and go for it.
5. Gather the right equipment. In the fedjob search game, your “bat, ball and mitt” will take the shape of superb federal resumes, KSAs, and cover letters. Using the right approach for these will be critical to your success. Examples of the correct formats are found in Troutman’s all-new Federal Resume Guidebook, 3rd edition. To further strengthen the resumes and KSAs, select keywords from your vacancy announcements. If a particular announcement is sparse, refer to a similar, but longer announcement from a different agency to get more keywords. Throughout your application, be sure to highlight your best accomplishments in previous jobs.
1. Don’t allow fear to cause you to strike out. Following up on your applications will be key to learning from practice. After all the effort you’ve made, you don’t want to compromise your chances, or lose valuable feedback, because of hesitancy to call and check on your application. Expect to get voicemail, but know this isn’t a dead end. If you leave a detailed and interesting voicemail message, you’ll usually get a call back. In your voicemail, include your name, the date your application was submitted, the vacancy announcement number, and your phone number. Speak slowly and clearly, using an upbeat and professional tone.
2. Don’t stick with the same old approach if it isn’t working. If you’ve created a strong application package and are applying for the right openings, you should be getting calls and interviews and your federal jobhunt will be exciting. On the other hand, if you’ve been applying for months and there’s been no response, something is wrong. Often the problem is with the resume-perhaps it’s unconvincing or the format isn’t right. Maybe it’s time to get professional help with re-working it. Or your background and the openings you’ve chosen may not be matching up well. Make the necessary adjustments, continue viewing your efforts as practice, and look for further improvements in your technique along the way. Soon you’ll be in the swing of the intense “sport” of federal jobhunting!