Whether you’re looking for a new challenge, feel that you aren’t being put to good use in your current agency, or just want a change of scenery, there are a number of options available to you as a federal employee when you are job hunting. Here are eight tips to get you started:
- Develop a strategy: Before you decide to change jobs, think about your career goals and plan out a path that will help you get there. Developing a strategy in advance will not only help you determine if you’re making the right career moves to reach your goals, but it is also looked upon more favorably by agency leaders than individuals who hop from job to job when they get bored.
- Find a mentor: If you can, find a mentor in your office, your target office, or a similar career field who can provide advice on the best way to reach your goals, and ask this individual if changing jobs would be the best strategy (if possible, provide a couple of examples of agencies or positions that interest you). Ask your mentor to not only help you as you begin the application process, but also ask if that person can make any introductions within the new teams/agencies/organizations to which you’re planning to apply so that you can connect with someone who can provide more information about that group.
- Consider what is available in your agency: Whether you want to change jobs because you’re feeling bored or underutilized, or because you’re working toward your larger career goals, the first place you should look for a new position is within your own agency. Talk to your mentor, or find someone in a management position whom you trust and can share your goals with. They might be able to point you in the direction of open positions, or even projects that you might be able to work on from your current job that can expand your skill set.
- Determine where you want to apply: This requires that you take into consideration both physical location and agency, department, and team. Check out OPM’s “Handbook of Occupational Groups and Families,” to determine which job series might best fit your federal career goals. Also think about the job series or grade you want to fall within. Depending on your career path and how different your target position is from your current job, you might need to make a lateral move or even go down a step in order to increase your opportunities in the future. Be sure that you know what you’re getting into and whether you can handle a salary cut, if necessary.
- Use USAJobs to your advantage: In the advanced search function, there is a choice to narrow your search to those jobs that are being offered to individuals who are already federal employees. But remember, not all federal organizations use USAJobs to post their open positions. If you’re targeting an agency that doesn’t use USAJobs, bookmark the site where their openings are kept, and check in once every couple of days.
- Check your skills: Do your target positions require a certain certification or skill? If so, be sure to obtain whatever it is you’ll need before you apply.
- Apply, apply, apply: Choose a multitude of positions you feel would be a good fit, and apply for all of them. And when you do, pay careful attention to the instructions. Read and re-read the requirements for each application and double and triple check that you have supplied everything requested.
- Keep on networking: Look to your personal and professional networks and see who might best be able to help you navigate your next career move. If you aren’t already a member of a professional organization that represents your career or skill set, join one. Look at your alumni group at your college or university, or even reach out to those with whom you’ve worked in the past. Not only is it a great chance to reconnect, but you can find out where these individuals have landed, whether they know of any interesting openings, or whether they know anyone within your target organization who holds a position similar to what you’re looking for or who has in the past.
Have you changed federal jobs? What tips would you share for finding your next adventure?