When you’re job hunting, you should target your application to each opening you aim for as assiduously as a dart player aims his darts at the bull’s-eye. Put another way: Hiring managers will probably reject a generic, untargeted application about as fast as you reject your junk mail — and for many of the same reasons. But they will probably give about as much attention to a targeted application — an extremely rare and valued commodity — as you would to a long-awaited letter that personally addresses you. Targeting tips: Your application should describe credentials that are required by your…

Suppose you suspect that a manager or colleague is holding a grudge against you for no explicable reason. Perhaps this person seems to, for example, behave coldly or chronically irritated with you, avoid you and/or does not assign you desirable projects. How can you improve the relationship? First, re-evaluate: Consider whether your manager/colleague is really snubbing you, or is indiscriminately cranky, aloof or social inept with everyone, is shy, or is coping with personal problems. Also, consider whether you may have inadvertently harmed your relationship with him by, for example, being standoffish because you’re consciously or unconsciously intimated or you’re…

Consider every job interview a “bring your own success portfolio” event. What is a success portfolio? A package of materials proving that you’re eminently qualified for your target job. Success portfolios are compelling because applicants who provide hard, irrefutable evidence of their success are generally more impressive than those who only provide unsubstantiated, potentially self-serving claims. So when you’re called for an interview, ask how many interviewers will interview you. Then, if possible, before your interview, prepare one success portfolio to give to each interviewer to keep. Package your portfolio in a neatly labeled, annotated portfolio. Your portfolio should include…

It’s that time of year again, when birds start singing, buds start sprouting, the days lengthen … and staffers in many federal agencies receive their annual evaluations. So it’s also time to review techniques for earning great annual reviews: Update: Throughout the year, update your boss on your projects every couple of weeks via emails or brief meetings. If you anticipate possibly missing deadlines or encountering other show-stopping problems, tell your boss about them when there is still enough time for trouble-shooting. Also, inform your boss about praise you receive from other managers, partners, stakeholders, instructors, clients, or other important…

Almost one-third of Americans say they’ll need to work into their 80s because they can’t afford to retire earlier, according to a recent Harris Institute survey. But in light of the difficulty even younger professionals face to find work, how will large numbers of older professionals — who are vulnerable to age discrimination, unspoken though it may be — be able to land new jobs, promotions or change sectors, if they must? Even if you’re well into your late 50s or 60s, don’t be defeatist: I have, over the years, seen many professionals from this age group land new and…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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