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How to Move From the Government to Government Contracting

{Originally published at GovWin.com, a Deltek network.}

Though federal government positions are reputed to be more stable, their growth is slow due to cost-cutting measures. Contractor employment, however, is expected to grow. In just one example, the number of IT security personnel on the federal payroll is expected to increase to 61,000 by 2015, many of whom will be contractors.


If you’re yearning to jump ship or think your department may be up for cuts, keep reading to find out how to make your government service work for you in the contracting world.

Master the Private-Sector Resume

Unlike longer federal resumes, resumes aimed at contractors should be short, ideally no more than two to three pages. Condense your experience into short bullet points and only include the most relevant items.

Translate the KSAs

The government doesn’t use the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) format in its application process any more, but they probably did when you were hired. That’s just fine — in fact, your KSAs should lay out exactly what you need to fill out your resume.

One KSA-writing service provides this sample KSA, “Application of specialized knowledge of laws, procedures, practices, relevant to managing and executing programs in an operational environment,” followed by several paragraphs of detailed explanations.

Click the link and take a look at those paragraphs; each one can be boiled down into a couple of bullet points such as “Document control on all classified material” and “Evaluated and trained police officers.” Use this same technique to boil down your own KSAs into an easy-to-read format, then put them in the appropriate spots on your resume.

Talk Your Head Off

There’s one exception to the short-resume rule: job-search sites. Here, longer is better; the more keywords you include, the better your chances of being detected by the automated systems used by recruiters and hiring companies.

Connect with Recruiters

There are two types of recruiters in the contracting world: corporate recruiters, who are employed by the company doing the hiring, and independent recruiters, who work for an outside agency and are paid by the hiring company to find qualified candidates.

You’ll likely be contacted by both types of recruiters, by phone and/or e-mail. Some will only stick around long enough to see if you’re a match for the exact position they have in mind; others like to speak with you in a little more depth to form a relationship. Cultivate the latter; they’ll contact you any time they have a suitable position, and the next time you’re hunting, they’ll go the extra mile to find you the right job.

You’ve Got It — They Want It

If you’re applying for a contractor job supporting the same agency you worked for as a fed, emphasize that in your resume and cover letter. If the position for which you’re applying support a different agency, talk in your resume, cover letter and interview about how your knowledge of agency processes translates to the other agency.

Most importantly, be confident in your experience. Federal government experience is a huge advantage in your job search. Contractors want people who know how government agencies work and who have existing relationships within agencies.

Get Listed

Ready to test the govcon waters? Head to the GovWin Jobs and Employment page to submit your resume.

Learn More

Lindley Ashline is the Web editor at GovWin.com, the network that helps government contractors win new business every day. She can be reached at [email protected], or you can follow her on Twitter @lindleyashline.

Filed under: career, employment, federal government, for job seekers, government contracting, job hunting resources, published at GovWin Tagged: employment, federal government, government contracting, job hunt, job hunting

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