Thursday, April 16, 2009

Government Career Advice Q & A

My radio interview this week with Stewart Liff, author of Managing Your Government Career sparked some great listener emails. Stewart was kind enough to respond to the additional questions with the inside scoop on landing a government job!

Question: How do you get around the system? No doubt there are many of us with great credentials but otherwise shouldn't waste our time due to gaps in our employment, bad employers or firms that have been merged, purged, bought and sold so that we can't provide references. Is this a lost cause? If so, are there still opportunities to work for the government without the paperwork? Consulting? Appointments by elected officials?

Answer: There are several ways to work for the government. The most direct way is to become a government employee. If you do not have references to cover the immediate past, this will not disqualify you for government employment, as they are not really taken into account until the end of of the selection process. At that point, if they like you well enough to tentatively select you, the odds are that a gap in your employment will not be a concern, particularly if it is driven by the economy, which everyone understands has had an adverse impact on many people. Consulting opportunities certainly exist with the government, but there are a wide variety of rules and regulations that govern this process. You can 1) try and consult directly with the government, which often involves having to either bid for government contracts that are announced to the public; 2) get on a GSA schedule as an approved vendor; or 3) work for a company that consults with with the government. Political appointments are generally at a high level and often, but not always go to people who were involved in the most recent Presidential campaign.

Question: Are there professionals we can hire to do the paperwork for us? How much? For the working person, it may well be worth $500 to $1,000 when we don't have the time to do it ourselves.

Answer: I'm sure there are, especially retired Human Resources experts. However, the most important part of the application process is your resume, which you should develop on your own. Once that is completed you can use that for every job announcement you are interested in (although you should customize it for different jobs.) Beyond that, all you would have to do is either answer several questions designed to identify your knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA's) or respond to a series of multiple choice questions. Once you have applied for a few jobs, the process will pretty much be the same and the amount of work involved in submitting your application should drop precipitously.

Question: Does the government use recruiters/headhunters?

Answer: Not that I am aware. The people who get the best jobs with the government follow the strategies I've laid out in "Managing your Government Career." They apply only for the jobs that are a good fit for them, they submit a first-class application that distinguishes themselves from the competition and they come to the interview on time and well prepared.

Thanks to Stewart Liff for sharing his insights. If you have a career or industry you'd like to learn more about, share your comments here. Life's too short not to do work you love! Here's to us all Making a Great Living.

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