So Much Can Be in the Detail (Assignments)

By Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job

If you're a current fed looking for a new job, consider also looking for detail assignments. When a fed is on a detail, s/he is working a new and different job for a specified time period--usually in a different office or agency than his/her home office.  However, throughout the detail s/he remains officially employed by his home office and is still paid by his home office.

Advantages of a Detail Assignment

A detail may segue into a permanent job, either through a lateral transfer or a promotion.  Also, a detail may enable you to:

  • Generate new contacts who may hire you after they move to new organizations.
  • Gain new skills, knowledge, experiences and references that will help you land new jobs in other organizations or a promotion on your current job.
  • Work for a more alluring or prestigious organization.

Finding Details

You may find some details on USAJOBS by searching under the keywords “detail assignments” and on agency websites.  But you are more likely to find them via announcements from your agency’s management and by informing your network of colleagues and managers of your eagerness to work a detail.  In addition, you may generate detail opportunities by: 1) identifying managers inside and outside your organization who probably need your skills; and 2) explaining to them why hiring you into a detail would benefit their organizations.

Getting Your Detail Approved

Your boss is most likely to approve your request for a detail if he tends to encourage professional advancement; believes that you will return from your detail with new skills that will be helpful to your home office; or is sympathetic with your desire to jump ship.

One way to encourage a reluctant boss to approve you for a detail is to arrange for a high-level executive from the detail organization to request your boss or office director to release you for the detail. The more senior your requesting official is, the better.

Using Your Detail Experience to Land a New Job

After you complete a detail, ask your detail supervisor to write an evaluation for you. If your detail supervisor is too busy to do so, volunteer to write the evaluation yourself for his signature.  You may thereby earn a positive evaluation that you deserve but would otherwise not receive.  Then, submit your positive evaluation to your permanent boss to bolster your reputation on your permanent job.

Finally, incorporate glowing comments from your detail evaluation (along with other glowing comments you have received on your permanent job) into future job applications.  Several of my clients have used this technique to land new jobs.

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