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Rocking Resource: Q&A from “Find the Right GovGig for You” Training
July 11, 2011 at 1:18 pm #134935
From Heather Krasna’s blog:
My recent webinar, Find the Right GovGig for You, was a smash hit with over 400 participants. I got over 40 unique questions, and am responding to them all here in this gigantic blog post. There are a few that I’m not best qualified to answer, so I’d love anyone who works in federal HR in particular to chime in with your take on the toughest questions below, especially numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 12, 15, 17, 18, 19, 23 and 24. Thanks!
GETTING PROMOTED IN GOV
(1) Q: What is the best approach for transitioning from administrative to professional positions in the Federal Government. Oftentimes, it is difficult to change tracks or series.
A: Let’s crowdsource an answer here… anyone make the leap from an administrative track to a professional track? Sure, it might not be easy, but I think if you are patient yet proactive and ask for more assignments and additional training, or even go out of your way to pursue further education or get relevant volunteer experience, combined with getting a mentor and doing networking, you hopefully can move around. I would refer you to Stewart Liff’s excellent book, Managing Your Government Career, for more ideas.
(2) Q: how can a person avoid getting stuck at the gs 14 level?
A: Look into the book I mentioned above.
(3) Q: I (and a close friend as well) have been a finalist in SES interviews (at agencies other than my employing agency) and not been selected. Do agencies preferentially hire their own employees (SSA, IRS, DHS, specifically)?
Q: I have not met the certification for an SES opening on occasion despite having passed some five separate interview steps at other agencies for SES openings (specifically OPM, in this case). Why does getting an interview with an agency seem so random – is it like getting one trial judge versus another?
A: Any HR folks want to answer this one? My guess is that any technical knowledge that is agency-specific would make someone best qualified who has worked in a particular agency. That might be why others who have worked inside the specific agency come out ahead. Any other thoughts?
TRANSITIONS FROM ONE LEVEL OF GOV TO ANOTHER
(4) Q: I have worked for the City of New York for over 8 years. How can this experience be taking into consideration for Federal Jobs? Meaning, it has an equivalent into grading levels?
A: It all depends on the specifics of the job and how relevant it might be to a federal job. If you have been a policy analyst or budget analyst for 8 years, or worked in HR or IT, you should be able to transfer all of your skills to federal jobs.
(5) Q: I worked for years in the Legislative Branch. I am trying to make the leap to the Executive Branch. I recently found out from OPM that all my years of government service doesn’t matter…and I must apply only for positions that are open to ALL US Citizens. I also feel there my be some age discrimination involved. I only need four years to retire. How can I get a job with the Executive Branch?
A: This is a good one for an HR person in the federal government to answer (anyone want to comment on this below??). I believe that the federal civil service is quite separate from the excepted service and legislative or judicial branch agencies—which makes sense considering the general idea of civil service, which is that it must be purely based on merit hiring and not connections or nepotism. This philosophy goes back at least a century. Similarly, the separation of powers probably has to do with the fact that experience from your Legislative Branch work doesn’t count towards civil service hiring. My guess is, though, that because your experience is still relevant and good experience, you can certainly include it in your resume when applying for competitive federal positions. Hopefully, even though you don’t have federal “status” you can still compete for jobs and be found best qualified.
(6) Q: I’ve got connections with a state agency job…I know they will be hiring at some point within the next 6 months for a position one of their current employees is advocating me for. Would it be appropriate for me to send a note to the manager now introducing myself and my connection letting them know I’m very interested in a position in their dept. once something opens up…there is no formal posting at this time – would volunteering in the interim for the dept. be a helpful way to get in? I want to know the best way to maximize this connection in today’s economy.
A: This depends tremendously on the hiring process for the agency… if it is the state of NY or others with civil service testing processes, my guess is that no amount of internal connections will help you get the job. You just have to ace the test. However, if your state doesn’t use this method of hiring, I think all of your ideas are great. Ask your contact to help introduce you around for an informational interview, volunteer if you can, find out what particular skills they need and go out of your way to obtain them.
(7) Q: I am looking for a housing related job at any gov. level in Fort Lauderdale or Miami Florida. How do I go about that. I have over 25 years of experience in NYC government.
A: Great question—I would do some networking via professional associations in the area. There are probably only a handful of agencies in the field in that city, and my guess is that after doing a little bit of research you should be able to generate a list of both government and nonprofit agencies in the field. After creating your list, you need to get on Linkedin.com (and GovLoop) and do the following:
1. Set up your profile
2. Link to all your existing contacts and join as many relevant, industry-specific Groups as you can.
3. Go to “Advanced” under People Search in Linkedin and do an advanced search for people in the housing industry, and/or with the keyword housing, with the zip code radius you want.
4. Sort the list you get by “connections” and you will find the most well-connected person in Fort Lauderdale. Probably an open networker.
5. Ask to be introduced to the top few super-connectors, and/or Add them to your network using the groups you’ve joined.
6. Choose a week to visit Fort Lauderdale. 3-4 weeks prior, contact all of your new Linkedin connections and ask for informational interviews. Aim to have at least 2 and up to 5 informational interviews each day you are visiting. Also, start applying for jobs and mention in your cover letter that you will be visiting the city during your specified timeframe.
7. After this, you are likely to be a known quantity in the small community of folks in your industry in that geographic area, and will either start getting job offers or at least getting leads on jobs.
Please write back to me after you’ve used this plan and tell me how it went! I like success stories and feedback of all sorts!
(8) Q: I’m already in the federal government and want to make a move to another agency. I have plenty of networking contacts in this other agency but that’s not how government jobs are obtained– one must go through the nationwide job pool, even if it is a job open to just current employees. One makes the cert or they don’t– networked or not. Help!
A: Again, a good one for our federal HR friends to answer. But I would ask your network of folks in the new agency to take a look at your resume. Also consider reading up on the way to write a great federal resume. You have to maximize keywords from the Duties and sometimes the Qualifications section of the job posting to be found best qualified. Good luck!
(9) Q: Currently I like my GS13 pay level but am concerned about moving to another federal agency. Would a pay cut be the likely way to move to another agency? How common is it to get an equal or higher paying job at another agency? Thx
A: Anyone want to take a crack at this answer? I know people sometimes take a pay cut to relocate to a state they would prefer to live in but I’m not sure how many do it just to move to another agency. Anyone have tips on this?
(10) Q: I am reinstatement eligible and graduating this month with a Master’s in HR Manamgemt. I am willing to relocate. What are your recommendations for locating employment besides usajobs?
A: My guess is that if you use the “status” =yes advanced search in USAJobs you will reveal more opportunities. HR is always needed, so if you have federal status, use it for all it’s worth. In addition to USA Jobs, you can also cold call agencies using the blue pages of the phone book or fedscope.opm.gov.
(11) Q: I have 20 years of experience in training, specifically as an Instructional Designer. I’ve spent most of that time producing e-learning. For people like me, does the Department or Agency even matter?
A: You are a “job function” specific type of job seeker. You could probably work in any agency large enough to have training programs. However certain agencies might need you more than others. For you, the agency might not really matter except for factors like the culture of the agency as opposed to the mission.
(12) Q: Are there agencies that are more amenable to Telework–or futher along in development towards enabling employees to Telework?
A: Great question. I think BestPlacesToWork.org might address this. I know OPM is always encouraging telework. Anyone have other answers?
(13) Q: Some Federal positions have age restrictions, how can job seekers who are 40 plus overcome these limits?
A: The only agencies or jobs with age restrictions I know of are in law enforcement, intelligence, and the Foreign Service (with an age limit of 57 or so). That leaves you with a LOT of jobs to consider. However I don’t know how you would be able to get into a career path where there is a specific age limit put on job candidates due to the nature of the job.
(14) Q: I’ve been at one agency about 13 years. How can I learn to move between agencies more often? Is my age and time at my current location a hindrance generally to moving around?
A: Start networking! And don’t worry about age or other factors.
(15) Q: Any advice for a fed that wants to convince their bosses to allow them to telecommute from a regional office for a program at HQ?
A: It’s been done. One of the GovLoop members of the week I once profiled was able to do it. Any tips from other feds here? In general, there are some good books on this topic too. You might look at the book “Undress for Success” for some ideas, as well as books for parents returning to work after time off.
(16) Q: I’m retiring from state govt and thus am over age 55. Is it realistic to think I could get hired at the federal level, or is this age going to put me at a disadvantage?
A: While it’s always hard to get a federal job from the outside, federal government values years of experience so I don’t think it would put you at a disadvantage at all.
(17) Q: I’ve worked in local govt (DC Govt) at the Management Supervisory Service Grade 14 level as a Public Information Officer. I have had a few GS 13 and 14 interviews for Federal Public Affairs Interviews or resume gets referred to hiring manager, but I often get ” Minimum Qualification Requirements Not Met” for lower level grade levels. There seems to be no consistency in evaluation of experience. Any insights?
A: Any HR folks want to try to address this? I think it might depend on how specific the technical information is that you are going to have to communicate at as a Public Affairs person—if the job requires you to have technical knowledge of Social Security regulations, for instance, it would be hard to be qualified without that.
(18) Q: Do “continuous openings” actually work? If I apply, will my resume get reviewed by the (supposedly) various hiring managers for the duration of the announcement?
A: Anyone want to address this? They must work sometimes, otherwise I’m sure no one would waste time posting positions like that.
GETTING INTO GOV FROM OUTSIDE
(19) Q: For someone who is in sales, marketing, business development (with a non – IT background) and wants to work for the Army, what would you recommend?
Q: For someone with no prior government experience (worked with commercial B2b), how likely is it to find gov. related work in marketing? Someone with over 20 years experience
A: Well, I would look at the federal job codes to see what might be most relevant for you. Perhaps contract management? General Program Management/Analyst positions? Maybe Public Affairs? Sales and marketing do exist in the government and Army—maybe in the outreach and recruiting area in particular. If you are a veteran this will help you get any federal job but probably more so for anything in DOD. Also you will have to completely redo your private sector resume to make it a federal style. There are several books on this topic and I recommend those by Lily Whiteman and Katherine Troutman the best.
(20) Q: Is interning the best way to get your foot in the door when you have no prior public sector experience?
A: Yes, if you are a currently enrolled college or grad student. If you’re not, you likely can’t do an internship ( you might try volunteering or serving on a commission or board instead). But if you are, it can be the absolute best way in, both for federal jobs (where, if you do 640 hours of Student Career Experience Program/SCEP or internships, you can be converted full time non-competitively, which is a big deal), or for state or local government jobs.
(21) Q: how long before fed gov will be hiring again? should still submit applications now?
A: They never stopped. They just slowed down. Even if there’s an official hiring freeze, government agencies never truly stop hiring. You should keep applying to whatever you are qualified for and interested in.
(22) Q: I applied to several federal government agencies late last year. Many of them instituted hiring freezes when Congress did not pass a budget. Now that a budget is in place, how can I find out where the agencies are in the hiring process without being a pest?
A: Just call the number under contact information in the job listing. Don’t call every day—that’s a pest. But if you call every other week it’s probably fine.
(23) Q: I specifically desire to work in the Pentagon for DoD. I have had several interviews, but not been selected. When I request feedback, I rarely get any, and if I do, it is from an HR person who has no notes on the actual process so the data is useless. How can I improve without real data?
A: This is the same probably you would likely encounter in any job search, because most employers are afraid to provide real feedback in case you decide to sue them for some reason. You might ask for a mock interview with a career coach to see if there’s anything else you can do to improve your search.
(24) Q: What do you feel will be the immediate impact of the elimination of KSAs having to be included for applying for federal govt jobs?
A: Well, KSAs are still probably going to be there, but only for second round candidates or those found qualified. You also might be asked to basically include your KSAs as part of your resume. Also, OPM is going to start rolling out online skills assessment tests to help pre-screen people for certain jobs, which will replace KSAs. But there’s a lot that remains to be seen about how this will change anything besides making it easier for people to apply.
(25) Q: I would seem to be the perfect candidate: veteran living DC area, executive management resume, master’s degree in management but after many dozens…I’ve been told I am well qualified to apply as GS 15 but can’t even seem to get interviews at 10-12. Does apply at lower level help or hurt me?
A: Your executive management resume might not be a federal style resume. Federal resumes are a different species compared with non-federal. You should take a look at federal resume writing resources like Kathryn Troutman’s books. It is extremely hard to get into the federal government from the outside at any level above GS 12, from what I understand. So applying at 10-12 will not hurt you. If you do a good job you should be promoted up.
(26) Q: what job types are ideal for public policy/admin master degree holder? ive been looking at analyst positions, any other ideas?
A: Management and Program analyst, budget analyst, policy analyst, and maybe public affairs positions all could work.
(27) Q: How does the “noncompetitive” job search differ from “competitive” when looking for a job? For example, are the positions not available to just anyone?
A: Well, this is its own hourlong webinar, but in short, I would say go look it up on opm.gov. Mainly, if you go through the competitive hiring process, you are being ranked and rated according to your qualifications, years of experience, and veterans preference. If you go through the non-competitive/excepted service process (either because you are applying for jobs in excepted service agencies like the State Department, USAID, intelligence community, Postal Service, GAO, etc.—a list is on the OPM.gov site; or because you have non-competitive eligibility due to being a recent returned Peace Corps Volunteer or Americorps VISTA, having Schedule A disability hiring preference, etc.) you don’t have to be ranked and rated, and agencies might just have an easier time hiring you; or the hiring process might just be totally different (like the State Departments Foreign Service hiring process).
(28) Q: For Federal jobs, is there advice for dealing with the pre-screening that occurs through USAJOBS? That process makes networking or the ability to make a personal impression much harder.
A: Well—you just have to maximize your federal resume by using the right keywords. Remember your federal resume can be up to 5 pages long. Look for books on the topic. If you are student, try getting an internship to get your foot in the door.
(29) Q: Returned Peace Corps Volunteer with Non-competitive eligibility, what is the best way to search for NCE job openings?
A: Do an advanced search in USAJobs, and when you get to the bottom of the search form and get asked whether you have “status” or non-competitive eligibility, say “yes.” Also be sure to sign up for the Peace Corps’ e-newsletter for RPCVs which has job listings in it, and reach out to their office to get additional tips for the federal job search. They do a great job connecting RPCVs to opportunities.
(30) Q: Can you speak to fellowships such as the Presidential Management Fellowship?
Q: What is the status of State Fellowship and City Management programs?
A: The PMF is a great program for people in their last year of a graduate degree program. Ask your career advisor in your graduate school for more information or visit pmf.gov. You will need to apply in the beginning of your final year of grad school, probably in early October, get nominated by your grad program, take an online test, and then if you are a semi-finalist, take an in-person test. It’s a process, but it’s well worth it if you are one of the 10% chosen. Other fellowships exist in excepted service agencies; and starting in early 2012 there will be a new Recent Graduates Program for recent grads looking to enter federal service. Also, certain state governments and cities have their own special fellowship programs. There are many still going on, like the NYC Department of Planning and Development fellowship, ICMA fellowship etc, though many have been cut. Check my website at heatherkrasna.com for more information.
(31) Q: What was that website again where there is a list of job related skills?
A: Look on http://www.onetonline.org
(32) Q: Heather, what’s your blog address?
A: Thanks for asking! You can sign up for my newsletter where I have over 500 links to government-related job search sites, as well as a downloadable list of links to all 300+ federal agencies with agency descriptions, links to the job boards of each of the 50 states, and the largest 25 cities and counties, atheatherkrasna.com. You can also read my blog at heatherkrasna.wordpress.com and follow me on twitter @heatherkrasna Also feel free to link to me on Linkedin.com/in/heatherkrasna
(33) Q: Do you have any specific recommendations for people mid-career that differ from beginning careers?
A: Not really, beyond to maximize the experience you have accumulated and make sure it matches what employers are looking for. And, if anyone is worried about age discrimination, a few quick tips: get a twitter account and a good Linkedin profile; and (please don’t sue me for saying this!) replace your Aol or Comcast.net email address with Gmail. Gmail is the newest email service; Aol and Comcast have been around the longest. Whenever I see a Comcast email, I am almost always right in guessing that the person is a Baby Boomer.
(34) Q: Any advice on staying focused and encouraged in the job search?
A: Get a job search group together. Every week, ask the same 3 questions: What are you doing for your job search? What successes, questions, or challenges did you encounter? And What are you doing to do next week for your job search? And work with a career counselor. Job search is hard. It can be really discouraging.
(35) Q: Considering graduate studies, and would like to know which degrees are in demand?
A: Well, I don’t want to sound self-serving, but a Master of Public Administration, Master of Public Policy, or one of the other affiliated degrees from schools in NASPAA (National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration) are needed in government. You also might look at the Partnership for Public Service’s website WhereTheJobsAre.org to find out what the Mission Critical Occupations are in the federal government and then decide what to pursue from there. Besides specific mission critical occupations, there are also mission critical languages, including Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Pashto, Dari, Farsi, etc. Also, your state government’s unemployment agency might have a list of degrees that they think are in high enough demand that they will reimburse unemployed/dislocated workers to get those degrees or credentials. That might be an indication of degrees to consider.
(36) Q: It may seem out of date, but what are your thoughts on “Thank You Very Much” cards? Or is an e-mail preferred?
A: I am right in the middle on this one. Lots of folks really like written thank you cards, especially after an informational interview where the person you met volunteered their time to chat with you. Email, however, is much quicker—and is more environmentally friendly if you are applying for environmental jobs. As long as you say thank you within 24 hours you should be fine.
(37) Q: Regarding contacts/networking, how do you keep notes on your contacts, reminders on birthdays, and info stored and organized? What do you recommend for people that use Facebook, gmail, outlook and govloop – also how to aggregrate all data into one location??
A: A friend of mine invented a nice solution for this called JibberJobber.com. I like it, and also recommend trying an Excel spreadsheet of Google Doc spreadsheet to track all your followups and next steps. You could also try a contact management database like Act!.
(38) Q: I’m looking for an honest, emotionally intelligent, appreciate inquiry, coaching type supervisor. Where are they most likely found in Federal government?
A: Well, there are 2 million+ federal workers. I’d refer you in general to Bestplacestowork.org which has some employee satisfaction surveys, but even if you go to a highly-rated agency, it will be hard to know exactly what boss you’ll have. Perhaps one of the interview questions you should ask is “what is your management style?” to try to find out this information. Also, before accepting the job, consider asking if they would allow you to speak to the person who previously held the role if possible, to find out what they have to say about the boss.
(39) Q: Where did you start your experience and how did you land the job you have today?
A: A long story… you can find out most of it atLinkedin.com/in/heatherkrasna.
The short version is: I started up an environmental club in high school, and from then on I knew I wanted a career that made the world a better place. I went right from undergrad into grad school where I studied nonprofit management and organizational development. My first real job after grad school was in fundraising; I found a job at a college where they needed someone to write grants to raise money for their internship program. While working in that job, I soon found that my help was needed to advise students about internships, and I found I enjoyed that more than fundraising. I took some additional training in career advisement and have been a career counselor ever since. I found my current job through an informational interview.
(40) Q: I see the sponsor as “Young Government Leaders” What about us mature workers that have much to offer?
A: I think YGL is open to anyone of any age. Because the demographics of workers in government in general is much older than it is for the private sector, in my experience age discrimination is much less prevalent—and there is a special need for younger folks who are just entering government to get support from one another.
(41) Q: I am interested in pursuing a program coordinator position, but not sure what kind of agency I would like to work for. What would be your recommendations?
A: If you want a federal job, consider researching agencies on Bestplacestowork.org. Otherwise do some research via networking on Linkedin.com and of course, GovLoop.com, to find out what agencies do and where you might fit.
(42) Q: I have a bachelors and a masters in natural resource topics, but want to make a transition to counseling or family therapy. Is it more important to begin working in the field or return to school first?
A: Most states require you to be licensed in order to actually do therapy or counseling, and most states require a master’s-level degree (in counseling or social work) plus a certain number of hours of supervised internships to be licensed. You should look into the licensing requirements in your state and also go to the American Counseling Association’s site at counseling.org.
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