Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

Learn the basics of networking

Bookmark and Share

Your motto should be: Network now and forever.

With the help of others, you will achieve more goals in less time than you would alone. These goals may include:

*Landing new jobs. The change in administrations and the ongoing retirement wave will generate unprecedented work-force churn, turnover and hiring for years to come. Position yourself to exploit resulting opportunities by meeting and impressing key contacts who may create jobs for you, tell you about openings you would not otherwise learn about, provide references or push your application to the top of the pile.

*Accessing key resources and people. Many potentially pivotal people who would not otherwise give you the time of day will generously extend themselves for you if they meet you through mutual acquaintances or organizations. Therefore, no matter what you are doing — whether you are working to promote events, services or products, seeking legal advice, or trying to schedule an appointment with an overbooked doctor — you may advance your cause by tapping your networking connections.

*Obtaining advice. By stuffing your Rolodex with people who may share with you their good judgment and specialized expertise when needed, you will exponentially increase your ability to make wise choices and solve problems.

*Managing crises. The poster boy for this principle is Elliot Spitzer: He might still be New York’s governor if not for his penchant for alienating other power-brokers and the resulting refusal of any luminaries to publicly defend him after his recent scandal. By contrast, the disgraced but generally less reviled Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was able to keep his Senate seat even after promising to resign.

Some high-impact networking techniques:

*Help run alumni and professional organizations. The more you contribute to these organizations, the more camaraderie you will share with your fellow members and the more mutually beneficial relationships you will cultivate. Also, the more you display your skills via professional organizations, the more likely you will be to impress managers who may want to hire you.

An example of this principle’s success: The producer of an alumni organization newsletter applied for a federal communications job. The hiring manager happened to be an alumnus who regularly read the newsletter and found it informative and well-written. The applicant’s proven communication skills helped vault her ahead of the competition and she got the job.

Alternatively, you may work to intentionally generate serendipity: I know, for example, a communications specialist who spent three months unsuccessfully searching for a Capitol Hill job. But within three days of obtaining a list of fellow alumni who worked on Capitol Hill from her university’s alumni office and then calling them, one of her fellow alumni hired her.

*Volunteer for nonprofits. By helping to manage advocacy groups, political groups, neighborhood organizations, condo boards and other nonprofits, you will likely generate key contacts and earn leadership experience that may help you land a better job. Remember: Volunteer experience counts on federal job applications.

*Befriend strangers. Some years ago, I struck up a conversation in my apartment building’s elevator with a stranger who, as it turned out, served as a consultant to the Plain Language Initiative — a governmentwide organization devoted to improvement of government communications. Once I discovered our mutual interest in federal communications, our long ride allowed me to deliver my “elevator speech” — a 20-second sales pitch I had prepared as part of my job search. The result: My new friend arranged for me to work a detail assignment with the initiative — a job that opened many doors for me.

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.

New administration means new job opportunities

Bookmark and Share

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.

Regularly visit: Obama’s Web site; a site about the transition; and the Government Accountability Office’s transition site at. Using these resources, you will:

*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.

New administration means new job opportunities

Bookmark and Share

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.

Regularly visit: Obama’s Web site; a site about the transition; and the Government Accountability Office’s transition site at. Using these resources, you will:

*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.