On Nov. 5, I began to suspect that the planets had indeed aligned to make federal jobs hot, hot properties. After all, varied factors converged to boost the appeal of federal careers — including post-election excitement, a 14-year high in nationwide unemployment rates, an ongoing federal hiring wave generated by retiring baby boomers, and post-Sept. 11 enthusiasm for public service. When President-elect Barack Obama declared his intent to make it “cool” again to work for government, I thought I heard the planets snap into a straight line.
If, during these historic days, you would like to rev up your federal career, or if your inner circle includes nonfeds who would like to start new federal careers, here is my advice: Regularly read Federal Times and its Web site, The Washington Post’s new Fed Page (under Politics) and other news and trade publications.
*Learn about political appointments that may be appropriate for you.
*Identify new federal agencies, commissions and task forces as well as organizations slated for reorganizations and budget boosts — all of which are particularly likely to be recruiting or sponsoring detail assignments. (Don’t assume that all such openings will be advertised; cold call managers at organizations that interest you.)
*Track the administration’s priorities, so that you can describe in your job applications and interviews how you could help advance those priorities.
Finding the openings
To find openings for federal career jobs for feds and nonfeds, use these resources:
*www.USAJOBS.gov, the federal government’s main jobs Web site: This frequently updated site posts tens of thousands of openings nationwide. But significant percentages of federal jobs and internships are never advertised on USAJOBS.gov — particularly excepted servcie jobs — so don’t rely on it exclusively.
*The careers sections of agency Web sites: These frequently advertise job openings, internships and special recruitment programs that never appear on USAJOBS.gov. A link to an A-to-Z directory of agency Web sites appears under “Government Agencies” at www.usa.gov. In addition, agencies in the intelligence community are linked to intelligence.gov.
*Foreign Service agencies: Check the Web sites of the State and Agriculture departments, International Trade Administration and Agency for International Development to find out how to apply to each agency’s internships as well as its domestic and Foreign Service jobs.
*Job fairs: Some agencies use them to fill unadvertised jobs and internships through fast-track hiring procedures or on-the-spot offers. Job fairs may be advertised on agency Web sites or in the media. Some agencies in the intelligence and defense communities, the State Department, the FBI and some agencies that address banking and corporate finance rely heavily on job fair participation for recruitment.
*Selective placement coordinators: Each agency has a one who can provide information about unadvertised openings for people with disabilities and veterans. A directory of selective placement coordinators is posted at apps.opm.gov/sppc_directory.
*Temporary and contract jobs: Temporary jobs for various types of professionals — including specialists in communications, accounting, information technology and law — and all manner of federal contracting jobs frequently segue into permanent federal jobs, or at least provide contacts and experience that may lead to such jobs. Temporary agencies used by the State Department and presumably by other agencies as well are listed at state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21666.htm. The top 100 federal contractors are listed at www.USAspending.gov.
— Lily Whiteman is a public affairs officer at the National Science Foundation and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.’’ Her Web site is IGotTheJob.net. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of the National Science Foundation.