Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

Why professional praise matters

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Particularly if you use it strategically, the various forms of positive professional feedback you receive may help you accelerate your advancement and boost your salary. Here’s why:

Outstanding evaluations may help you land promotions. Some federal job applications require submission of annual evaluations. So, the better your evaluation, the bigger boost it will give your application.

But even if you’re applying for jobs that don’t require evaluations, brandish your outstanding evaluation anyway to strengthen your case. How? By uploading it to your application as an optional document and by including it in the success portfolio you bring to interviews.

Also, state in your cover letter and/or resume that you consistently receive outstanding evaluations, or that you “received an outstanding evaluation in 2014.”

If your evaluations, an award or praising emails from a manager include glowing comments, quote excerpts of them in your resume, writing something like:

“Sample praise from my agency’s executives: Joe is a vital asset… His contributions are multi-faceted…regularly goes the extra mile…always provides executives with insightful advice…an excellent team member.”

Your evaluations may impact your salary. Feds on the General Schedule system usually receive within grade step increase (WGIs) at regular intervals. However, a fed’s WGI will usually be blocked if he does not receive at least a “fully successful” or the equivalent rating on his most recent evaluation.

A quality step increase (QSI) is a faster than normal WGI awarded to a high producer. But to be eligible for a QSI, a fed must receive the highest possible rating on his annual review. Also, the size of a fed’s annual bonuses is usually proportional to his annual rating.

Outstanding evaluations may strengthen your job security. If you’re a new fed on probation, a positive evaluation signals that you’re on the right track — although even an outstanding evaluation will unfortunately not guarantee your ultimate probationary success.

If you’re not a new hire, a positive evaluation suggests that you’re valued by your boss, and so indicates that you probably won’t be forced into an unwanted detail assignment — a fate that all too frequently befalls undervalued feds.

Also, in the unlikely event that your organization undergoes reductions in force, a record of favorable annual evaluations is an important factor that can help protect your job.

Another reason to strive for high ratings is to avoid sliding down the slippery slope of minimally satisfactory or unsatisfactory ratings, which would likely jeopardize your job.

If you don’t receive a positive evaluation, take heart: Not all federal applications require submission of an applicant’s latest evaluation.

Suppose you recently received an egregiously unfair evaluation while you’re applying for new jobs that require submission of your latest evaluation. Under such circumstances, you may submit your previous evaluation while you challenge the newer evaluation. If you land a new job in another agency, none of your previous evaluations will follow you in the HR materials that are sent to a new agency.

Meanwhile, maintain an updated success file. Why? Because your success file, which would be virtually impossible to reconstruct in hindsight, will help you generate the achievements list you will submit to your boss before he writes your annual evaluation or when you request a promotion. It also helps you update your resume with your latest achievements and accolades when you job hunt, and provides vital evidence of your success that will, if necessary, help you challenge an unfair annual evaluation.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman. View her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/ federal-careers.

Tips for post-interview thank-you notes

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The first thing you should do after ripping off your uncomfortable interview outfit when you get home after a job interview is to send a thank-you letter to your interviewer.

You understandably may think that you — not your interviewer — deserve to be thanked. After all, you took the time and trouble to truck down to your interviewer’s office; you submitted to a cross examination from an interviewer or perhaps even a firing squad … I mean an interview panel. And you may have even graciously inventoried your weaknesses during your interview.

But, unfair though it may be, your fate depends on your interviewer’s opinion of you, which is usually based only on superficial information about you. With so few opportunities to impress interviewers, you should milk each one to the max, including writing thank-you letters.

A thank-you letter will advance your case because:

* Most applicants won’t write thank-you letters. Therefore, your letter will help you stand out from the thankless masses.
* Your thank-you letter will brandish your enthusiasm for the opening, conscientiousness and communication skills — all rare traits.
* Your thank-you letter will compel your interviewer to keep thinking about you after your interview is over.

Content

Your thank-you letter should be zippy and only several paragraphs long. It should thank your interviewer for meeting with you and reaffirm your interest in the opening. It should also concisely review several appealing characteristics of the position and organization covered during the interview and some of your best, most relevant credentials. And it may mention any important information that you failed to mention during the interview.

Your letter may be formatted as a business letter or written in neurotically neat penmanship on a formal card. Repeatedly spell-check and proofread your letter, and, if possible, get a second opinion on it.

Download a sample thank-you letter here.

Delivery method

Thank-you letters sent by overnight delivery will make stronger impressions than thank-you emails that will probably be quickly read and forgotten. After all, don’t you notice letters that are overnighted to you more than the gazillions of emails that you receive daily? In addition, a letter is more likely to be left lying around your interviewer’s office and therefore keep reminding him of you than a quickly deleted email.

And as one interviewer said, “E-mails are just one step above doing nothing.” What’s more, an email may be accidentally deleted or shunted into junk mail and so may go unseen altogether. Therefore, I recommend sending overnight delivery thank-you letters over emails — unless you suspect that a hard-copy letter would get you wrongly pegged as a Luddite.

But before sending a hard-copy letter, inquire if your target agency’s snail mail is delayed by security screens. If so, try to personally drop off your thank-you letter the day after your interview. But if you can’t, send a thank-you email immediately after your interview.

How many letters?

If you had multiple interviewers, send a thank-you letter to each interviewer. Sorry, a single letter addressed to only one interviewer is impersonal and won’t be passed around to each interviewer who will influence the selection decision, and a group email is tacky.

Try to tailor each thank-you letter to each interviewer by mentioning in it a particular exchange you had with the interviewer or something that is apparently important to him or her.

Timing

I’m often asked whether applicants should prepare a thank-you letter to give interviewers at the conclusion of their interview. Although you want your letter to arrive before a decision is made about you, don’t use this strategy because it precludes customizing your letter to each interview. You can’t predict what will be discussed during the interview, and you can’t always anticipate all the interviewers or employees whom you will meet during the interview.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman. View her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/ federal-careers.

Help for users of USAJobs

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The next time you apply for federal jobs, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that application procedures have improved in some important ways. First, you probably won’t have to write those odious knowledge, skills and abilities essays unless you’re applying for Senior Executive Service jobs. In addition, USAJOBS.com — the main portal for federal jobs — has been enhanced.
 
For example, you may now save in your USAJOBS account many types of ancillary application documents, including academic transcripts, veterans’ preference documents, annual evaluations and cover letters. This storage feature makes it easier to find these documents when needed, and to work on job applications from anywhere. In addition, only résumés created on the USAJOBS résumé template were previously accepted by federal applications. But because the USAJOBS template does not accommodate text features such as bold or italics, or résumé layout features such as an introductory “summary of qualifications,” it has traditionally been virtually impossible to create eye-catching, fast-read résumés via this template.
 
But now, federal job applications accept non-USAJOBS résumés, if they include all required information. Therefore, you may now apply to federal jobs with résumés that have reader-friendly formats and quickly highlight your best credentials. Do so to stand out from the pack! But if you do create résumés with the USAJOBS template, you may now cut and paste bullets and text from Word into the job descriptions of such résumés — and thereby energize them with fast-read bullets.
 
But despite such improvements, applying for federal jobs can still be a maddening experience — the kind that may tempt you to sledgehammer your computer, ditch your professional career altogether, and join a traveling road show. Some advice to help ease the application process and hopefully help you keep your career on track:
 
First, don’t leave your application for the last minute. It may take you several days to get trouble-shooting help for problematic online applications from agency or USAJOBS personnel, if necessary. And all current feds must upload into federal applications their latest SF-50 — “Notification of Personnel Action.” So obtain an electronic copy of this document from your human resources office in advance, if necessary.
 
Be sure to upload the correct documents into each application. Why? Because once you upload a document into a federal application, it may be impossible for you to delete it and replace it with the correct document — even if the application instructions promise that your application can be changed until its closing date. I’m not kidding! If you upload the wrong document, request help from the HR contact identified on the job’s announcement.
 
If an online application won’t let you upload a required document (UGH!), try the following steps: 1) Save the required document in your USAJOBS account. 2) Return to your target job’s USAJOBS announcement. 2) Click “Update application.” 3) Under “Attachments,” check the box for the type of document you want to upload. 4) Continue with the application.
 
Each job description in a USAJOBS résumé has a character limit. But USAJOBS won’t warn you if you exceed this limit; it will merely silently erase excessive characters from the end of the oversized job description — ruthlessly truncating it in mid-word or mid-sentence. So check that each job description ends logically.
 
After you apply for jobs, regularly check the “Application status” section of your USAJOBS account, because updates won’t necessarily be emailed to you.
 
Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman. View her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/ federal-careers.

How to target your job interview

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My July 11 column explained how to target your resumes so that they will generate job interviews. Here’s advice on how to similarly target your job interviews so that they will generate job offers.

Research each interviewer: When you’re invited to an interview, request the names and titles of each interviewer who will attend the interview. Then, Google your interviewer, review his LinkedIn page, search for his profile on his agency’s website, and milk any knowledgeable associates you may have for insider information about him. In addition, you might be able to obtain his profile for a small fee from Leadership Profiles on Demand.

The results of your interviewer research will help you identify some of your interviewer’s special interests, biases, alma maters and previous employers. This information may help you find common ground with your interviewers that may, for example, be based on similar perspectives on technical issues, shared professional experiences, a common college or even the same hometown.

By mentioning your common ground, you may improve your rapport in pivotal ways. For example, suppose your research reveals that your interviewer is — like you — a former Peace Corps volunteer. By talking about your mutual experience, you may appeal to his bias for fellow former Peace Corps volunteers, and thereby edge out your competitors who lack such experience.

In addition, if you discover during your research that you and your interviewer have common acquaintances who would sing your praises, mention them in interviews.

Another potential advantage of interviewer research: It may warn you of ideological or other potentially thorny differences between you and your interviewers that you should, if possible, sidestep during interviews.

Research your target agency and office: Identify the current major activities, goals, priorities and challenges of your target agency and target office as well as major criticisms faced by these offices. To do this, review the websites of these organizations, paying particular attention to recent strategic plans, press releases, annual reports and annual budgets. Conduct Google news searches. Then review your target agency’s standing in the Partnership for Public Services annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, recent annual appropriations reports for your agency and your target job’s vacancy announcement.

This research will help you in many ways during interviews. For one thing, it will prepare you to sound generally informed about your target agency, and describe substantive reasons why you want to work for it. It will thereby enable you to show your fire in the belly for your target job.

This research will also help you identify which of your credentials and previous achievements involve issues and types of projects that are most similar to those demanded by your target job. By practicing to describe these particularly relevant credentials and achievements and by practicing to incorporate them into anticipated interview questions, you will go a long ways toward winning over interviewers.

In addition, this research will help you to develop insightful questions to ask interviewers.

Give each interviewer a success portfolio: My May 5 column explains how to prepare an impressive success portfolio.

Tell your interviewers you want the job: At the end of your interview, tell your interviewers that you would enthusiastically accept the job, if it is offered to you, and inquire about next steps.

Follow-up: Immediately after your interview, send each interviewer a personalized thank-you letter or a neatly handwritten thank-you card. Cite in the letter some of the appealing aspects of your target job that were specifically discussed in the interview.

Unless the delivery of snail mail to your target agency is slowed by security screens, send your letter by overnight delivery — rather than by email, which is easily deleted and forgotten and lacks the attention-grabbing power of overnight delivery.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman. View her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-careers.

How to target your job application

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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 target job — not credentials you wish were required. No matter how many irrelevant credentials your application describes — impressive though they may be — they won’t compensate for missing required credentials. For example, an application for a speechwriting job that merely mentions speechwriting but waxes on about other types of communications will almost certainly fail.

Your cover letter and resume should describe your academic and professional experiences that address the duties, qualification factors and credentials identified in your target job’s vacancy announcement and short-answer application question. Warning: to access your target job’s application questions, you must enter its online application; don’t rely on questions from “application previews,” which frequently differ from actual application questions.

Format each job summary in your resume as a series of fast-read, achievement-oriented bullets that sends the reader’s eye flying down the page. Begin each bullet with an action verb.  Bullets should include specifics that match the substantive requirements of your target job.

For example, if you’re applying for a speechwriting job that addresses environmental issues, your application should identify the environmental topics covered by your speeches, the presenters and audiences for those speeches and related praise.

Create bullets in USAJOBS with asterisks.

Cover in your resume prestigious acting positions you held — even if you “acted” for only short periods.

Include headings in the job summary for your current and recent jobs that match your target job’s evaluation factors. For example, if these factors include “leadership,” “communication” and “strategic planning,” use those terms as headings in your job summaries. List relevant bullets under each heading.

Order your bullets under each heading according to their relevance to your target job, even if they accounted for a relatively small proportion of your time. Likewise, provide the most details about your most relevant bullets, regardless of the amount of time the associated activities consumed.

Give yourself the highest rating for each self-assessment short-answer application question you can without lying; grade yourself liberally and leniently on these questions.

Upload with your application a concise, one-page cover letter that features a table that has two columns:  “your needs,” and “my credentials.” Draw the “your needs” column from your target job’s vacancy announcement, and your credentials from your academic and work experiences.

If substantive knowledge of topics covered by your target job is not explicitly required and you lack that knowledge, but you have the necessary skills for the job, consider stating in your cover letter, “I am confident that my skills would easily transfer to your organization because of my reputation for adaptability, quickly mastering new material and going the extra mile.”

Prominently identify your veteran’s preference and security clearance in cover letters and resumes.

Update your LinkedIn profile and add to it annotated hyperlinks to relevant documents and multimedia products and online praise of your work. Alternatively, hyperlink your profile to a Dropbox that showcases work products, like images, maps and PDFs.

Identify your LinkedIn address under “Additional information” in USAJOBS resumes and in a “career overview” or “highlights” section of hard-copy resumes, and state that it contains relevant hyperlinks.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Email your career questions to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com and view her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-careers.

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Melting icy coworkers

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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 shy.

But if your re-evaluation does confirm your suspicions about a grudge, try to improve your relationship by being friendly without mentioning your grudge suspicions: Engage him in chitchat, occasionally sincerely compliment him, or ask him to coffee or lunch.

If that approach fails, consider — if appropriate — gently and gingerly directly addressing the problem by initiating a calm, diplomatic conversation about it with your manager/colleague. Some tips:

  • If after contemplation, you’ve identified a specific way you may have alienated your manager/colleague, prepare a compelling, nonoffensive explanation and/or apology that you can, if necessary, deliver when you later meet with him.
  • Meet when he isn’t stressed or hurried. Before starting the discussion, double-check with him that it’s a good time to talk.
  • Keep the meeting cordial. Maintain eye contact and a friendly face. Stay unresentful and nonhostile.
  • Consider opening your discussion by saying, “I sense there may be some tension between us. I’d like to improve things. Can we discuss this situation so we may resolve it?” Or, “Perhaps we’ve had a misunderstanding. Is there a problem that I’m unaware of? If so, can we talk to clear it up?” Mention that by doing so, you’ll be able to work together more efficiently.
  • Your manager/colleague may ask you what you mean. Consider elaborating by saying, “I get the feeling that you don’t feel as comfortable with me as you might. Is there any truth to this? Have I inadvertently done something that bothered you?”
  • If your manager/colleague responds by accusing you of making a mistake you didn’t make, reply by calmly stating your case. Also say, “I hope that this clears the air so we can put this behind us and work together in a positive way.”
  • Alternatively, if your manager/colleague responds by citing a mistake you did make, explain that it was an inadvertent, one-off situation; apologize; offer solutions; identify extenuating circumstances; and pledge to work to regain his trust. If the cited mistake surprises you and you’re unprepared to discuss it impromptu, consider saying so and suggest discussing it later, after you’ve gathered your thoughts and reviewed your notes.
  • Don’t interrupt your manager/colleague; let him tell his side of the story before you tell yours — and, if necessary, ask for the same courtesy. Also, don’t respond to accusations with accusations.
  • If your manager/colleague denies that there is any tension between you, express relief and say that you would like to continue working together on a positive note. Also, mention that you would invite any follow-up discussions in the future.

And heed the trite but true saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” You are sure to improve relationships with coworkers by helping them — even if necessary tasks are menial — when they’re in a bind.

Also, you may obtain free, confidential trouble-shooting advice from a mental health professional from your agency’s Employee Assistance
Program.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Email your career questions to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com and view her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-careers.

Interview show and tell

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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 your resume; never assume that your interviewers have read, can remember or even find your resume. You may also include:

Several of your best work products that parallel the demands of your target job. Get ideas for which products to include by reviewing your annual reviews and your lists of accomplishments. Identify your contributions to group projects.

An excellent recent performance evaluation.

Noteworthy awards.

References.

For recent grads: academic papers that cover issues addressed by your target job and/or your transcripts, if they’re impressive.

Another must for your portfolio: Materials that will help you ace your answer to the virtually inevitable interview question: “Provide an example of a successful project … or a project you’re most proud of.”

These materials should include a concise summary of your best, most relevant success. Under a page title, explain your case study with fast-read bullets logically distributed under the following headings: project description, goals, obstacles, my actions and results. Ruthlessly edit unnecessary details from your case study. More tips:

Support your case study summary with evidence of your results, such as printouts of relevant websites, social media campaigns, publications, diagrams, photographs, maps, praise from managers or stakeholders, media or newsletter coverage of your work, survey results or audience feedback from trainings or presentations you gave.

Practice explaining to trusted advisers your case study in two minutes or less, and walking interviewers through the rest of your portfolio in a minute. Speak with confidence and animation without cockiness.

If, by chance, your interviewers don’t pop the “give me an example” question, here’s how to segue into your case study: When your interviewers ask you if you have any questions about your target job, say, “Yes, I do. But first, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take a moment to show you some examples of my work.”

Don’t leave preparation of your success portfolio to the last minute. Selecting appropriate examples of your work (be discriminating; don’t overpack!); finding supporting documents; editing your case study into quick, compelling written and verbal explanations; and neatly packaging and labeling your portfolio will be time-consuming.

If appropriate, consider alternate ways to package your portfolio. For example, if you’re applying for a job as a webmaster, you may showcase your work to interviewers on a tablet with bookmarked pages or on your online portfolio. But if you do so, check beforehand that your interview room will be wired. And while quickly describing your case summary, provide your interviewers with your hard-copy summary document.

But even if you’re assured of Internet access, always have a Plan B, such as a quick PowerPoint presentation that displays screen shots of your work. And if your interview includes software demonstrations, bring extra software and hardware copies.

A complementary approach: Post links to your work products on your LinkedIn profile; include its address on your resume; and tell interviewers that it provides a panorama of your work.

Lily Whiteman is federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Email your career questions to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com and view her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-careers.

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Earning a great review

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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 individuals. Do so by forwarding relevant emails to him, and by asking those who verbally praise you to email their praise to your boss and to c.c. you on such emails. Save copies of such emails and other forms of positive feedback, such as enthusiastic evaluations from attendees of your trainings or the counts of large turn-outs for events you organized.

Request Recognition: If you successfully complete a detail, ask your detail boss to give you a written evaluation when your detail ends. If your boss is “too busy” to do so, offer to write your evaluation yourself for his signature. Then, submit your signed evaluation to your boss on your regular job.

Take note: I know a fed who, justifiably, wrote an excellent evaluation for herself at the end of a detail. Soon after, when she was job-hunting, she included on her resume glowing quotes from that signed evaluation (which she had written) — which helped her land her next job.

Document: Keep a running list of all of your achievements, trainings you took, presentations you gave, conferences you attended, ways that you went the extra mile, and other noteworthy successes. Update your list after finishing each project, and immediately preserve evidence of your results and positive feedback. Why? Because your boss is more likely to remember what he achieved in the 11th grade than to, without your help, remember what you achieved 11 months ago. And how can he possibly give you full credit for achievements that he doesn’t remember?

And no matter how thrilled you were by previous projects, and associated results and praise, your memory of some successes probably faded as your attention turned to new projects and evidence of your success vanished as, for example, websites you created changed, documents you wrote went out of print, managers who witnessed your achievements departed, and praising emails got lost in the shuffle.

So the only way you can definitely capture all of your successes is to continually update your achievements list and save written and oral praise and evidence of your results. Perhaps, for example, you should save screen shots of relevant websites.

If you didn’t keep a running list of your successes this year, inventory them now. Then, remind yourself of other salient, potentially forgotten activities by scrolling through your emails and other electronic documents and by asking your close colleagues, spouse and/or other advisers to help jog your memory.

Once you have completed your list, organize it logically. For example, consider prefacing your list with a summary that explains what your main focuses this year were and why, and identifies challenges you conquered. Also, chunk similar types of achievements under headings on your list; your headings may, for example, correspond to categories of responsibilities identified in your position description.

Even if your boss doesn’t request your achievements list before he writes your evaluation, offer it to him. (You may also use your list to support your request for a Quality Step Increase or grade increase, and to help you write your resume and answer interview questions.)

If you receive an excellent annual evaluation, say so and quote selected praise from recent evaluations on your resume in a bullet that introduces this information with the phrase: “Excellent reputation.”

If your boss doesn’t incorporate your list or its gist into your evaluation, ask him during your review meeting to attach it to your review so that it will become part of your formal record.

If you receive a grossly unfair annual evaluation, ask your union how you can request reconsideration of your evaluation or how you can formally object to it.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Email your career questions to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com.

Getting hired after 50

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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 better federal jobs.

My advice to older applicants, which is based on interviews with dozens of federal managers: Show hiring managers why they should hire you over a younger applicant they could probably pay less than you. Demonstrate your breadth of experience and prove to them that you’re enthusiastic, current in your field, eager to learn and relearn, collaborative and flexible. Dash stereotypes of older professionals as rigid, dowdy, outdated and tired. In other words, even if you‘re an older professional, don’t act “old.”

Some tips:

Your application’s purpose is to help you land interviews and avoid being rejected sight-unseen because of age discrimination or other reasons.

Your one-page cover letter should concisely highlight your most relevant credentials — whether or not you earned them via your most recent professional, educational or volunteer experiences.

Also, consider providing a personal anecdote that demonstrates your passion for the subject at hand. This strategy helped a seasoned photographer leap from a box store to a marine-based agency.

The photographer’s cover letter impressed her future boss by stating: “Although I currently work at X, I seek a position that would allow me to contribute my extensive photography experience gained at Y and Z science-based organizations.”

Her letter also mentioned her recent participation in a tourist dive to the Titanic — underscoring her enthusiasm for her target agency’s mission as well as her vigor.

Explain in your letter special circumstances, such as your willingness to relocate or why you have a gap in your work history. As one hiring manager advised, “Don’t let important questions go unanswered.”

Don’t expect hiring managers to find the needle in the haystack — they won’t. Edit your resume ruthlessly.

Show in your resume how you have kept your skills up to date.

In your interview, listen, show energy, confidence and humility, and ask questions — but don’t talk too much.

Your interviewers will probably be checking that you’re adaptable and not stuck in your ways, curious, willing to go the extra mile, and able to take instruction from younger supervisors. Support your claims with specific examples.

If you’re asked about your “five-year plan,” describe your desire to grow in various directions, not towards retirement.

 

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Email your career questions to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com and view her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-careers.

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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 as a fed and via real-world experience.

First, a definition of LTC: It is care needed to complete the Activities of Daily Living (ADL), such as dressing, eating and bathing. It may be needed because of ailments associated with old age or because of accidents or serious illnesses occurring at any age. LTC may be provided in homes, assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Contrary to popular belief, most LTC expenses are covered by personal/family assets — not by standard health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid for people who don’t qualify for welfare.

Most current and retired feds, their spouses and adult children are eligible to apply to the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). Probably the best kept secret in government: the parents and parents-in-laws and stepparents of eligible feds may also apply.

Some advantages:

*FLTCIP screens new feds and new spouses of feds less rigorously than other applicants.

*The cost of an FLTCIP policy is significantly less than that of a comparable policy from most, or perhaps all, other LTC insurers.
*The cost of buying the same FLTCIP policy is equivalent for a man and woman of the same age and health status. But more private insurers are charging single, and some married, women significantly more than comparable men for the same policy because women are more likely to use their LTC insurance than men. My response to such inequality is: Excuse me for living!
*FLTCIP sells policies that may provide lifetime benefits. Most, or all, other LTC insurers only offer much shorter benefit periods.
*FLTCIP policies are portable after federal service, and are valid throughout the U.S. during retirement.
*FLTCIP does not require covered caretakers to have licenses (which are likely to increase their rates). Some insurers do. FLTCIP covers some care-giving by certain family members.Backed by the federal government, FLTCIP will probably be able to pay all claims in perpetuity (even though, like any LTC insurer, it may raise its rates at any time). Other insurers are probably more vulnerable to bankruptcy. But you may check the stability of private insurers via sources such as Standard & Poor’s.Some disadvantages:

FLTCIP strictly defines ADL’s as bathing; dressing and eating; transferring from a bed, chair or wheelchair; using the bathroom; and dealing with incontinence—without covering any other activities. By contrast, some insurers also cover cooking, house cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, driving to medical appointments and other services needed for functioning.

FLTCIP does not offer indemnity policies, which are offered by some private companies. Under such policies, the claimant receives his entire daily benefit in cash every day— which he can use as he chooses, no matter which services he has used on any day.

Learn more about the FLTCIP at http://www.ltcfeds.com.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job” and a trainer on career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Email your career questions to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com and view her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-careers.