April 21, 2022


By Alex Harrington, Executive Director

Last month the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released its long-anticipated five-year strategic plan on how it will pivot to meet today’s hiring challenges, with the hope to improve the federal hiring process and “develop innovative assessments so that federal agencies can hire the talent needed to confront the challenges they face.”

But until that happens, job seekers like yourself must try to navigate the federal job search process, which at times must seem like a swirling vortex of resume submission requirements and bewildering HR rules and regulations, while at the same time wondering about the status of your applications.

To help you masterfully navigate the swirling federal hiring requirements, I recommend the following strategies:

Know Your Bearing: Make Sure You Are a Good Fit for Government Service

If you are considering federal service, make sure that you are a good fit for government work. First, determine if you have the right skills to meet the demands of the job by assessing, identifying, and aligning your transferable skills, abilities, and expertise. But, do you have the right temperament for government service as well? 

Federal government workers today will continue to experience turbulent times and uncertainties for many years ahead as the American public Congress, media, grassroots and watchdog groups continue to demand and expect open transparency, accountability, and value-added service and programs from the federal government. In fact, this will continue to be the norm indefinitely, in my opinion.

On top of the external demands, you will have to adapt and meet executive requirements and political agendas of a new administration every four to eight years. And with Congress being more deeply divided, federal workers will continue to feel the ripple effect from their infighting, especially in terms of government shutdowns.

Lastly, if you land a job overseas working for the military or another federal agency, just keep in mind that you may have to give up some personal rights based on the “Status of Forces Agreement” between the United States and host country. For instance, when I worked for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in Seoul, South Korea, I was ordered—along with all U.S. military members, government workers and private contractors—to be in quarters between midnight and 5:00 a.m. daily. This order was in response to a State Department warning that cautioned all U.S. citizens in Korea about potential protests and violence against Americans. Some federal workers balked at the notion of being told what to do during their off-duty time, and subsequently disobeyed the USFK order. They soon found themselves placed on leave without pay. 

Although you may have the right transferable skills, abilities, and expertise, be sure that you have the temperament and mettle for government service.

Know Your Terrain: Learn All That You Can About the Government Sector

Unlike the other U.S. job sectors, the government sector—specifically the federal government—offers more than 350 different occupations, with a footprint across the nation and overseas; with opportunities to serve in one of the 480 organizations under the Executive Branch. So, before you think about blasting your resume to a wide swath of federal job announcements, you first should learn about the federal job sector and how to navigate the hiring process. 

Second, get acquainted with 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 (OPM) hiring authorities associated with the jobs act, along with critical jobs associated with the pandemic. 

Then, be familiar with where to go to learn about the many occupations that make up the federal government’s civil service system. And as you begin to learn all that you can about the federal government sector, be sure to know which federal agencies have high employee engagement and effective leadership, and be sure to keep a pulse on government hiring through various media outlets, blogs, non-for-profits and other informational sites. Moreover, familiarize yourself with the various hiring paths and how the government recruits for federal employees.

Know Your Target: Learn How to Focus Your Federal Job Search

While the federal government offers an unparalleled variety of career opportunities, it can still be overwhelming for you to choose a career. Before you even begin to apply for a federal job, you must focus your job search by first taking into account not only your own transferable skills, but also what type of environment you would like to work in, level of responsibilities and salary, where you’d like to work in terms of location, the type of people to work with, and how your values align to the agency’s mission. Then–and only then–will you be ready to target a federal career field. 

To help you find and learn about the many different careers in the federal government, checkout the following blogs:

If you follow the above strategies, you will not feel the swirling effects of the federal job search vortex. So, be sure that you are a good fit, learn as much as you can about the federal sector, and how to focus your job search. 

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 & Executive Director
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