Good News for Federal Job Applicants

About 60,000 people are slated to retire from government jobs by the end of this year.

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When planning your job hunt, have you considered targeting public service or government opportunities? Heather Krasna, director of career services at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, is the author of Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service. While tax and revenue shortfalls have affected essential government services, she says about 60,000 people are slated to retire from government jobs by the end of this year. Some agencies are replacing these workers, despite slashes in funding, so there continue to be jobs in the pipeline.

Krasna says the following specialties are in high demand:

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•    Cybersecurity

•    Acquisitions/finance

•    Engineers

•    Doctors and nurses (to work in Veterans’ Affairs)

•    Arabic speakers

If a federal government job interests you, there is some good news.

A November 2010 Executive Order from the President makes it slightly easier to apply for government positions via USAJOBS.gov. The special resume format, including what was known as “KSAs” (which stands for knowledge, skills, and abilities) is no longer required, which should make applying for federal positions less cumbersome for job seekers.

However, Krasna noted, it’s still important to specifically address your qualifications as they relate to the job and to include keywords in your resume to have a chance to pass an initial screening process. (This is similar to most jobs.) A difference, she explained, is federal resumes may be six pages long or more. “While the reform has done a little bit to simplify things, there are still a lot of differences to take into consideration when applying for a federal job compared to the private sector,” she says.

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The executive order also requires job descriptions to be written in plain, understandable language, and it cuts targeted turnaround time for a hire from six months on average (from posting to hire) to two months. Finally, federal hiring managers are required to communicate with applicants to keep them informed about where they stand in the process.

Another reform helps students access opportunities working for the federal government. The Pathways Program addresses the fact that the competitive hiring process via USAJOBS highly values work experience, especially internal (federal) experience and also gives preference to veterans and Peace Corp volunteers, for example. It was difficult for new graduates without work experience to enter federal ranks at anything but entry-level positions. The new program provides a pathway and a pipeline for students. “The Pathways initiative still is not in effect, and certain provisions might be weakened and/or not implemented. We’ll see, probably early 2012, how it actually affects federal hiring,” Krasna says.

The following is a description of the three ways applicants should be able to access opportunities from the Partnership for Public Service:

•    The Internship Program will provide students in high schools, community colleges, four-year institutions, trade schools and more with paid opportunities to work in federal agencies. The Internship Program is replacing the Student Career Experience Program. While participation in this program does not guarantee an individual a federal job upon graduation, agencies may convert eligible participants to full-time employment. “This program replaces the old, confusingly-named Student Career Experience Program and Student Temporary Employment Program (SCEP and STEP) with one program that can help students be converted directly into full-time hires,” Krasna says.

•    The Recent Graduates Program is for recent graduates, or those individuals who have been out of school for fewer than two years. The only exception to this rule is veterans, who can apply for these positions within six years of receiving a degree if they have been actively serving in the military. “The Recent Graduates Program hopefully will allow students from undergraduate and master’s programs two years to be considered for developmental positions in the federal government,” Krasna says.

•    The Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF) is not changing significantly under the new order. The PMF recruiting calendar will be adjusted, however, to better align with students’ academic calendars. Keep in mind, as is the case with the Recent Graduates Program, individuals must apply within two years of receiving their advanced degrees to be eligible for the PMF program. “The PMF is only for those with graduate degrees (master’s and Ph.D), is extremely competitive, and remains one of the most prestigious programs in federal government,” Krasna says.

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Resources for anyone interested in exploring government jobs:

•    http://www.heatherkrasna.com

•    GovLoop, a social network for government workers: http://www.govloop.com/

•    http://publicservicecareers.org/

•    http://makingthedifference.org/index.shtml

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success . Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.