Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Landing a Government Job

By Marty Nemko

Jobs Vacancy, Job Vacancies, Employment Jobs

Which jobs should you apply for?

  1. Because there are so many applicants for most government jobs vacancy, you probably won't stand a chance unless you at least minimally meet most or all the requirements listed in the job announcement. Save your energy for the good fits. There are so many government openings, for everything from chef to chief, you'll likely find plenty.

  2. Federal jobs will be most abundant in areas the Obama administration has listed as priorities: renewable energy, the environment, infrastructure, health care and education. Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job, says jobs are particularly plentiful for contracts and grants managers, procurement officers, financial managers/auditors, IT specialists, intelligence experts, and people with knowledge of the culture and language of Middle East countries.

  3. Don't worry if your first government job isn't perfect -- your priority should probably be just to get into the government. That means applying for jobs you're fully or even overqualified for. Once you're a government employee, you'll find it easier to transfer to something you'll like better.

Landing the job

Finding on-target job openings is the easy part. The challenge is to become the winning candidate -- especially now, with all the publicity around ObamaJobs and the private sector offering so few full-time, long-term positions with benefits.

Applying for a government job is usually cumbersome. That's good news for you. So many people get frustrated with the application process that they do a shoddy job. If you craft a solid application for all the jobs you can, you'll likely prevail. And remember, the pot at the end of the rainbow is quite golden: moderate work hours, unmatched job security, great benefits, and ample vacation and holidays. Thank you, taxpayers.

My job-seeking clients are finding these to be the most potent approaches to beating out the competition:

  • Research your target agency. Whiteman suggests you review its Web site and, particularly, its recent press releases. Then reflect your knowledge of the agency in your application.

  • Call the hiring manager to get application tips. Yes, there's a chance you'll be viewed as pushy, but there's a greater chance you'll get inside information or even develop enough of a relationship to gain an edge against the competition.

  • Use a two-column cover letter. Hiring managers are overwhelmed with applications, so yours should quickly and clearly demonstrate that you're a great fit for the position: On the left side, list the job's major qualifications; on the right, say how you meet each requirement.

  • Tell PAR stories. In interviews and in job-application essays (in federal job applications they're usually called KSAs, which stands for knowledge, skills and abilities), tell one or more anecdotes that demonstrate you have one or more key attributes listed in the job announcement. Each anecdote should usually follow the PAR formula: a problem you faced, how you approached it, and its positive resolution.

  • Create a portfolio. Consider creating a Web site consisting of your work products and resume. Of course, include its URL on your job applications.

  • Make sure your message is clear. Whiteman says that before submitting an application, it must pass the "30-second-test." Ask a person you trust to identify your best attributes from your application in 30 seconds. If he or she can't, it's unlikely a hiring manager will be able to do so.

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