Consider long-term care insurance

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Medical expenses are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S., even among middle-class, well- educated homeowners. Poof! If you’re not independently wealthy, all of the financial fruits of your career may be jeopardized by just one bad illness or injury. One way to help prevent such financial disaster is to make wise choices about your benefits. But many feds do not fully understand all of their options involving health care coverage — particularly involving Long Term Health Care (LTC) insurance. So here is some practical advice about LTC insurance that I’ve gathered through extensive research of my own options…

Surviving probation, part 2

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My Oct. 21 column provided tips on successfully completing probation on a new federal job. Here are more tips: Be aware that the strictness of criteria for passing probation varies among agencies, offices and supervisors. But even if your particular environment has a lenient history, don’t take anything for granted. When you start your job, ask your new boss who you will be working with most closely, and then find and introduce yourself to those people. Also, obtain the organizational charts of your agency and relevant offices, and familiarize yourself with the names and faces on those charts. Work to…

Use your work emails effectively

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Treat your federal email account as public property, because it is: Any of your emails can be read by your agency or FOIA’d at any time. So never include potentially incriminating, embarrassing or personally confidential information in work emails. Check the first and last name of the recipient of each of your emails before sending or forwarding it. A cautionary tale: I previously worked with a federal manager who used his government account to send a friend an email that cruelly disparaged one of his colleagues. But immediately after hitting “send,” the manager realized that he had accidentally sent the…

Writing effective emails

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The faster and more easily a document can be read and understood, the more likely it is to be read and understood. Convey messages with as few words as possible and ruthlessly deleting unnecessary information without cutting essential background information. Open your first email to a new contact with a concise introduction that quickly conveys context. For example: “Dear Joe: Lily Whiteman here from Federal Times. X suggested that I contact you as part of my search for information about Y.” Get to the point quickly: Explain what needs to be done, by whom and when within the first few…

Surviving probation, part 1

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Most new hires in competitive service agencies must complete one year of probation and most new hires in excepted service agencies must complete two years of probation. New hires can usually be fired more easily and quickly while on probation than after, and they have fewer appeal rights than post-probationary employees. The overwhelming majority of new hires complete probation successfully. But because of the high stakes of probation, it’s important for probationers and their supervisors to understand relevant rules. This has not always been the case, according to “The Probationary Period: A Critical Assessment Opportunity” by the Merit Systems Protection…

Simplicity, clarity mark effective PowerPoint presentation

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When it comes to public speaking, “less is more.” The simpler a presentation is, the clearer and more memorable it will be — and the more time needed to prepare it. Unfortunately, this principle is apparently underappreciated. According to a survey quoted in the book “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte, 86 percent of executives say communicating with clarity directly affects their career and income, but only 25 percent of executives devote more than two hours to preparing for high-stakes presentations. Tips for crafting simple, clear, memorable PowerPoint slides: Solicit advice on your presentation from people who have addressed your target audience.…

Simplicity, clarity mark effective PowerPoint presentation

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When it comes to public speaking, “less is more.” The simpler a presentation is, the clearer and more memorable it will be — and the more time needed to prepare it. Unfortunately, this principle is apparently underappreciated. According to a survey quoted in the book “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte, 86 percent of executives say communicating with clarity directly affects their career and income, but only 25 percent of executives devote more than two hours to preparing for high-stakes presentations. Tips for crafting simple, clear, memorable PowerPoint slides: Solicit advice on your presentation from people who have addressed your target audience.…

Tell success story in SES application

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Most applicants for the Senior Executive Service hastily slap together application essays that are long, disjointed lists describing general achievements. The problem? Their essays are about as interesting, impressive and memorable as a stranger’s mile-long “to-do” list. My advice, based on my experience serving on many federal hiring panels and coaching hundreds of feds: Structure your essays around blockbuster success stories — descriptions of how you accomplished concrete, specific, important, big-picture goals or solved show-stopping, vexing problems that parallel the responsibilities of your target job. Your success stories will be compelling because,  unlike achievement lists,  they will be conceptually united…

How to write essays that will get you into SES

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If you’re like most applicants to the Senior Executive Service, you would rather eat glass than answer those odious essay questions in SES applications. Nevertheless, answer them you must, and it is virtually impossible to do so quickly and succeed. So if you’re unwilling to spoil an otherwise enjoyable weekend — or longer — with essay writing, you will probably lose your SES competition to a more self-sacrificing competitor. Conversely, if you give your essays their due, you’ll probably vault ahead of your competition. Tips for crafting winning SES essays: Read essay requirements and sample essays in the Office of…

How to become a Presidential Management Fellow

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The Presidential Management Fellows program will continue to operate, despite budget cutbacks, because agencies must continue to grow new leaders and conduct succession planning, Angela Bailey, the Office of Personnel Management’s associate director of employee services, said in an interview. So if you’re qualified to join the PMF program, apply. Don’t bypass the program on the wrongful assumption that it will be a casualty of cutbacks. Although attorneys and policy wonks are, as always, welcome to apply, technical specialists  — in health and in information technology fields such as cybersecurity and software engineering — are in particularly high demand. The…

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