4 Tips on Changing Your Government Job

Recently, I’ve been talking to lots of government employees about their career path. Some of these leaders are part of our VIP program (and won free career coaching) and others part of our mentors program.

In general, I find most of these government leaders have the following situation:

  • Are passionate about public service & working in public service
  • Are underutilized in their current job and/or bored with continuing to do the same job
  • Confused about how to find their next government job

These are exactly the people want to keep in public service so I think it’s important to show them the path to changing your government job.

Here’s my 4 tips:

1) Look into Opportunities in Current Office – My first question I always ask – “Is there interesting work in your current office you want to do? If so, have you asked to work on it?”

Often, we are too shy and haven’t asked leadership to work on different but relevant projects. We haven’t explored working on other teams in the office that could expand your skills or volunteering for side projects.

Or perhaps you really want to move to another city but haven’t asked yet about potential openings in that field office or working remote.

Don’t just assume the answer is no – ask.

2) Are You Networking? – My second question is always around networking. What professional organization are you involved with? When’s the last time you’ve gone to an event (associations, training, alumni group)?

Are you keeping up with former colleagues or bosses who have moved to new jobs? How many of them know you are looking for a new opportunity?

The best opportunities come from your network so you need to build the network before you need it. You also have to use that network – keep it fresh but checking in and being clear with others when you are looking for the next thing.

3) Define Your Application Strategy – My third question is “what is your application strategy?” I usually find this is poorly thought-out and executed. Usually they’ve applied for a few jobs across multiple agencies and sectors without much follow-up.

A better strategy is “What types of openings am I looking for – job series, grade/salary, location?.” “What agencies or organizations am I targeting? Who do I know there that I can follow-up with and stand out from the flood of applications?”

Also there’s a simple math equation – when I applied for government jobs out of graduate school, I applied for 40 jobs over 3 months (3-4/week), got 4 interviews, and 2 offers. Make sure your numbers add up.

4) Use Informational Interviews -My final tip is to make sure to use informational interviews in the process. This is especially true if you are trying to switch sectors (federal to state/local, government to non-profits). Most people are willing to meet for coffee if you have a connection (through a friend, alumni group) and have a clear ask and have prepared.

Regardless of sector, it’s a lot of work to change jobs. As my friend Frank DiGiammarino once said “getting a new job is a job in itself.”

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photo credit: Greg McMullin via photopin cc

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

Great tips Steve! Too many Feds simply apply for vacancies via USAJOBS and wonder why they aren’t getting job offers. It’s because their competition is using these techniques.


Recently, going on the USA job site, was a highlight concerning new jobs being available under the Affordable Care Act. Even though the current positions were not available in the area I now reside in, it was my thinking that later on some of these jobs might be available where I reside I sent out an E-Mail to the listed contact expressing my interest in being notified of future openings and highlighting my Federal Experience. Only good thing to come out of this, was that next day , despite it being a Sunday I received a reply stating only jobs available are as was stated, and I’d be notified if others are opened outside the initial area. Have to admit I was shocked at the quick response, but likely that is the last I ever will here. I will not name the Agency or Division, but in the past new people show up, and nobody knows how it happened. Something below board ?