February 20, 2022


By Alex Harrington

You feel a calling–eagerness to go into public service–and a federal career is your first choice. Whatever the reasons, either patriotism or financial security, you begin to look for opportunities in the federal government. But as soon as you start the job search you’re faced with an overwhelming layer of barriers between you and access to your first federal job: the perplexing government jargon, multiple hiring paths and authorities, ambiguous rules and hiring processes, umpteen assessment questions on a job application, lack of status updates on an application, and misunderstanding of just about all aspects of the federal hiring process. Given the dazzling array of barriers, it’s almost as if they don’t want you to apply.

In fact, a resolute attempt to land a federal job can be as frustrating as getting a backwoods conservative moonshiner to convert his distillery into a nutritious vegan kombucha destination for progressive Millennials.

This is where my community colleague, Angela Freeman, a dynamic federal human resource advisor, and I, a federal hiring manager and certified career coach, unscramble the ambiguous bureaucratic layers of the federal hiring landscape.

Searching and Finding the Right Job Fit

Today’s civil service system accommodates more than 350 different occupations. There are unlimited opportunities for careers in administrative, technical, professional, blue collar, clerical and many other occupations. But how do you find these careers? Where do you learn about federal occupations? And which jobs are in high demand today? In Searching and Finding the Right Job Fit, we will help you understand the federal hiring landscape by first showing you where to go to learn about the many occupations that make up the federal government’s civil service system. Second, we will highlight the most urgent hiring needs today in the federal government, especially those associated with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Office of Personnel Management’s hiring authorities associated with the jobs act, along with critical jobs associated with the pandemic. Lastly, we’ll describe the top federal job sites where you can find and apply for the jobs you are most interested in. 

Decoding the Ambiguous Nature of Federal Recruitment and Hiring

One of the top barriers for federal job seekers is their lack of awareness of its particular recruitment and hiring process. Job seekers are accustomed to private sector recruitment and hiring practices. And so, when they try their hand at applying for a federal job, many quickly become confused with the governmental talent recruitment process. To help job seekers gain greater awareness of how the federal government recruits and hires, in Decoding the Ambiguous Nature of Federal Recruitment and Hiring, we will first describe how the government advertises job vacancies, particularly for Competitive Service, Excepted Service, and Senior Executive Service appointments. Second, we’ll describe various hiring paths, such as those for veterans, native Americans, and the public Most importantly, we will provide a rundown of the common hiring and appointing authorities, such as Direct-Hire, Veterans’ Hiring Authorities, Students, Schedule A, etc.

Keeping a Pulse on Federal Workforce Happenings

As you seek a federal career opportunity in the government, it behooves you to keep a pulse on the federal workforce—almost akin to keeping an eye on your home budget, or better yet, on your weight (yep, I went there). In Keeping a Pulse on Federal Workforce Happenings, we'll provide a list of go-to sites for getting the latest news on the federal workforce, learning about new Administration policies affecting the civil service system, keeping aware of employee-related benefits and opportunities, etc. What is more, the key benefit of keeping a pulse on federal workforce matters is staying connected with the experts who write about general hiring in the federal government, special hiring placements, work climate (i.e., Best Places to Work in the Federal Government), leadership, and human resource laws and regulations, to name a few. Because they are the ones who maintain key contacts with government officials, human resources, and hiring managers. 

The Ins-and-Outs of Networking in the Federal Landscape

The old but true maxim, “It’s all about who you know and who they know” is true 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’s 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 as possible, including groups. In The Ins-and-Outs of Networking in the Federal Landscape, we will show you how to begin networking with federal employees and how to set up and network with your target groups. And then, we’ll describe how to set yourself apart from the rest of the competitors in your career field.

There you have it. An effective roadmap to help you thoroughly unscramble the ambiguous bureaucratic layers of the federal hiring landscape. Stay tuned for the following blogs:

  • Searching and Finding the Right Job Fit
  • Decoding the Ambiguous Nature of Federal Recruitment and Hiring
  • Keeping a Pulse on Federal Workforce Happenings
  • The Ins-and-Outs of Networking in the Federal Landscape

Be sure to check out our other blogs at https://federalcareerconnection.org/blog/

Please follow us on Twitter @FedCareer and join our Federal Career Connection page on LinkedIn or find us on Meetup at meetup.com/mbc-cnm.To get updates on upcoming workshops and career coaching sessions, visit https://federalcareerconnection.org/events/

Alex Harrington
Chair & Founder
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