March 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm #157018
I get this question a lot from people hoping to get a job with the Federal government ... and not just from people who are unemployed or seeking to change careers but from people who have reached a point in their lives when they are ready to give back through service to our country!
So I thought I'd share my story ... and hope that others will do the same! Perhaps sharing what worked for us will provide great insight to those trying to figure out what works best for them!
Technically, my first "federal job" was with the Navy [but I have a feeling you're not interested in how I landed that job :-)]. Even still, civil service employment was my next dip in pond; it came several years later once I'd earned my Master's degree and after I'd gained additional years of private sector experience.
The first thing I discovered, before ever filling out a civil service application, was that my education gave me the basic qualifications in my field of study, for positions starting at the GS-9 grade level; this was great information and helped me narrow my job search to the grade levels for which I qualified. If you don't know at what grade level you meet the government's basic qualifications, the OPM Qualification Standards is the place to find out. And, I have to admit, It also helped to have Veteran's Preference but ... honestly ... one MUST first qualify for the job before Veteran's Preference provides any benefits to the applicant.
I spent about 10 months making my job search my "job" so, even after spending 8 hours each day working at my private sector job, I'd come home and spend another 4-6 hours each evening searching USAJobs (and it's predecessor) to find vacancies for which I met the qualifications. I tailored my applications to each vacancy, and made follow-up status inquiries about the jobs in which I had the most interest.
I didn't let rejection letters get me down either; they actually spurred me on to work harder, to learn more about the next jobs in which I had interest, and I also learned a lot from the HR contacts named in each announcement about how I could make myself more competitive for the next job. I used that information to get additional experience and training, when it was necessary.
To my good fortune, one day a vacancy was announcement in my home town; I applied, I was found qualified, and I was selected!
Ten years passed ... and it was time to move on.
The first thing I had to figure out was how to transition to something more challenging. That's when I read about The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government ... and I got busy again. There were several vacancies with employers in the Top 10 on that list so I started applying only to the vacancies announced by those organization and for which I qualified ... and I was persistent! Every time a job in my field opened up with one of those organizations, I applied for it! When I didn't get selected, I queried those HR contacts again. Some people helped, some didn't. But I used what I did find out to better my changes with the next opportunities.
I interviewed for my current job about the same time that I interviewed for two others. In preparation, I actually wrote out my answers one week ahead of time to those interview questions I THOUGHT I'd be asked. I worked on my answers everyday to improve my responses and to get comfortable with them; I wanted to "hit the nail" on each question's proverbial "head" with each employer. So I also had to do a bit of research to find out what the current issues were for each employer. Long story short ... I ended up with job OFFERS!!! Not one, not two, but all three!
There are many good sites on the internet were you can find interview questions ... here's one that might get you started: http://www.interviewquestions.com.
How did you get your first Federal job?
March 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm #157026
Thank you for the great article. You offered many helpful tips I can use right away. I have often thought about contacting the HR professionals listed at the end of vacancy announcements; but didn't know if it was appropriate, now I will. I need to remember to be persistent no matter how long this process takes. Thanks again for the wonderful pointers!
March 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm #157024
You're welcome, Traci!
March 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm #157022
I got my first Federal job after I had been working for Newport News Shipyard, in VA, (a government contractor) for a few years. I was looking to relocate to CA and found that Mare Island Naval Shipyard, north of San Francisco, was hiring so I filled out the SF-171 and mailed it in. (Yes, in those days you filled it out long-hand and snail-mailed them in) In a few weeks I received a notice back that I qualified for the position and was being considered. In a few more weeks I was called for a phone interview and received a call a week later informing me that I had the position if I wanted it (which I accepted). They paid for my move (which was nice) and I started about a month later. The position was an Electronics/Electrical Designer for Los Angeles Class Submarine overhauls....and the job I was leaving was Electronics/Electrical Designer for Los Angeles Class Submarine new construction. It was a great fit!
I worked at Mare Island Shipyard for 10 years; 7 as a Designer and 3 as the Hazardous Waste Manager (re-hired & re-trained after a RIF). I found another job working for the Air Force when Mare Island went on the BRAC list in 1994. The job was originally offered to a friend but she had just accepted another job and she referred them to me....I sent them my info, they offered and I accepted. Again, it was a perfect fit and I've been here ever since!
March 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm #157020
I applied for a job with the State of Ohio. While dropping off the application I discussed the application requirements with the HR secretary. We had a nice visit and I called her every other day for three months requesting she submit my application for various positions that opened up. Finally I was hired by the State. 17 months later the Republican Governor elect was looking for jobs to cut. Since I was federally licensed stste employee the feds picked my entire agency up and that is how I became a fed. 22 and a half years later I am still with the original agency.
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