When I hear the term “G-man”, pictures go through my head of Eliot Ness and the Untouchables out to stop Al Capone and busting down doors of speakeasies, or the “Men in Black” zapping bugs that are trying to take over Earth. No doubt, these sound like exciting government jobs, but there are many different job opportunities with the federal government that are often overlooked. So how can you become a “G-man” and find one of these government jobs?
When I began researching federal jobs, I had some misconceptions about them that you might also share. So let’s call in the “Myth Busters.”
• Government jobs pay “dirt” – Actually, in some parts of the country, the pay for an average federal government worker can be significantly higher than in the area’s private sector. However, with more education, the reverse may be true. Then there are the benefits to consider. Government benefits packages are almost always higher than those in the private sector.
• All federal employees have to take a “civil service exam” – I heard this one for years! Actually, only about 20% have to take that exam, and some positions may take what is called an “occupation test”.
• Federal jobs take “forever” to get – Ok, it’s been a well-deserved rap, but there is a major push these days to fill these jobs by 45 days of the closing date. That said, this push does not have teeth behind it, so consider it more as a goal. If you see a closing date for a job you want, go for it anyway.
• All federal job postings require you to address specific KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) – It’s important to read the job description very carefully, but know that not all positions demand that you meet all of these requirements. The Center for Disease Control has a great article detailing how to do this.
Where to Start?
Start searching on the Internet. Gather information and “tips” on how to apply. A couple of government sites that are helpful are the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Here you will find over five pages of questions and answers regarding federal jobs.
Also check out the many good articles on the web, such as “10 Tips for Selling Yourself to a Federal Employer” by Experience. Just be careful of the sources and note the dates that the articles were posted.
Where to Look?
Most federal jobs openings will be listed on USA JOBS. In addition to job postings, this site has great information for job seekers. Most federal agencies use this site and it will let you load up to five resumes. No fee is necessary.
I cannot stress enough the importance of reading the entire job description. Don’t just skim it. Follow all instructions.
Let’s say all your life you’ve wanted to work for the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Foreign Affairs. Bless your socks. You can go directly to the web site for a specific agency within the federal government to search for positions.
And FYI – For those familiar with Resumix (the Department of the Army’s civilian hiring system) and Charts (the Department of Navy’s civilian hiring system), all jobs formerly found in those job search systems are now posted in the USA JOBS database.
Build Your Resume
Each agency wants your resume formatted in very specific ways. That’s why you need to read the job description carefully. Here are a few websites and formats that are available to help build those resumes.
Quickhire – format used by U.S Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and a few others as well. Several sites can help you with this format, but some charge after the third resume.
So, are you ready to explore opportunities with the federal government? You could find yourself tromping through the woods with Smokey the Bear, or on another exciting adventure. One of the biggest perks as a “G-man” or “G-woman”, is knowing that you are helping our country. So for that, I thank you in advance. We sure can use all the help we can get.
Cheryl Sandifer is a Regional Facilitator with Workforce Solutions. In that role she has been able to apply her knowledge and experience as both an educator and social worker to conduct job search skills seminars throughout the Houston-Galveston area. She has had opportunity to work with those ranging from entry level to C-level to help them find a job, keep a job or get a better job.