In my work I am honored to serve many students and alumni interested in applying for federal opportunities. The first task I encourage my advisees to take part in is weighing out the pros and cons of working for federal vs. state entities, government vs. private/public establishments, and more. This is paramount before one dives into what can be a complex process of applying to a federal opportunity.
It is important to network beforehand if you can as well. The federal sector is a big machine, but a small world. The more you network in preparation for an application, the better. Networking includes attending virtual events for particular agencies, the Office of Personnel Management, and so forth. If anything, that is one benefit among the challenges in applying for federal opportunities: nowadays it is easier and more accessible to go to different events and potentially network that way virtually. Simply check out the social media accounts for the different departments you are interested in for updates on events!
Another noteworthy factor is that federal opportunities get posted quickly, sometimes for 5 days for instance. Or, one example on USA Jobs is the employer may have a posting active for 30 days, but they will close it when they get 100 applicants, or something similar.
For this among other reasons, it is important to get the whole application done in one go, as soon as you see the opening. So, prepare your materials ahead of time to be ready for submission. Feel free to work on your application materials with a Program Manager/Career Advisor in Career Services!
Speaking of application materials: there is also a resume builder portion of USA Jobs that can help you build a federal resume if you have not built one before. This is critical because federal resumes are unique in that they typically include more info than you are used to including on your typical resume, and therefore will be longer than your typical resume as well. You can also see a sample of a federal (or “Federal Government”) resume on our website to get an idea of what yours can look like now, or in the future: https://careerservices.erau.edu/resources/resume-cv-tips/
Some people don’t know there are federal opportunities that are part-time as well. In fact, “part-time” is a filter you can search by. Or, you can do a federal internship which is part of USA Jobs’ “Pathways” program. These types of opportunities are important, because it is already difficult enough to get a foot in the door in the federal sector. Some of these temporary opportunities act as almost a bridge program even if it is not titled that, because a lot of the employers treat the opportunity as a “long interview” to see if they can hire the intern or part-time employee for full-time work in their department. I know many success stories of students who work hard to begin their career in a federal internship, and the employer helps them in their successful trajectory within their respective field.
Federal opportunities are competitive, but almost always worthwhile. Although it is a bit more challenging to apply for a federal opportunity due to all the hoops one must jump through, all it takes is getting used to the system of applying. There is a purpose to the procedures, and if you really want to work for a federal entity, they want you to be able to work through any challenge, including this one.
Ryan Mazon is a Program Manager with ERAU Daytona Beach Career Services. He is a graduate of Florida State University and holds a Master’s in Career Counseling. Check out our podcast “Going Places!” that Ryan spearheads to learn more career development info or Ry Ry the Career Guy Developminutes on Instagram.