I remember thinking it was impossible to work for the federal government. Now that I am on the other side, I want to help others. I created this guide because I want to see you win too. While this is not a comprehensive list, the information below could serve as a starting point to help you land a job in the federal government. I hope it helps. I want to thank Elise Goss-Alexander at American University for helping me with this article and providing insight on how to work for the federal government.
If you are a current student or a recent graduate, I would look at the Pathways Program. This program offers federal internship and job opportunities for students, recent grads, or those with an advanced degree. There are three paths you can look into:
This program offers paid opportunities for students to work in different agencies and explore federal careers. Students in high school, college, graduate school, trade schools, or other qualifying educational institutions may apply. Students who successfully complete this program may be eligible for a permanent job within the civil service.
If you’ve completed your associates, bachelors, masters, doctorate, vocational or technical degree, or certificate from a qualifying institution, you may be eligible for this category. Successful completion of this one-year program may lead to a civil service career within the federal government.
If you have recently graduated with an advanced degree (masters, Ph.D., J.D.), or are a current student who will complete all degree requirements by August 31st of the following year of the annual application, you may be eligible for this program. This prestigious program allows recent graduates to work at a federal agency for two years. PMF fellows receive training and can be promoted. If fellows complete their assignment, they may be eligible for immediate noncompetitive conversion to a permanent or term position.
Fellowships are another route into the federal government. Fellowships are a great way to gain experience, receive mentorship, and to learn more about your future career. The fellowship I was awarded, lead me to a career in the Foreign Service. For more information, check out the following articles:
How To Apply For An International Affairs Fellowship
International Affairs Fellowships You Need To Know About
What Is The Difference Between A Scholarship And A Fellowship?
My Experience As A Rangel Fellow
USAJobs is the main site for federal jobs.
Here are things to consider when using USAJobs:
USAJobs categorizes positions through different hiring paths. Categories include, but are not limited to veterans, students, recent graduates, military spouses, individuals with a disability, etc.
Use the resume builder. If the human resources specialist prefers it, why not use it? By using the resume builder you’re more likely to provide all the information they require in the style they require it.
Use the occupational questionnaire to your advantage. The occupational questionnaire is used to rate and screen candidates. You can take the occupational questionnaire and compare your resume.
USAJobs creates videos and hosts webinars. There are videos on YouTube you can check out. Also, USAJobs hosts several webinars a month. Topics include how to write a federal resume, interviewing, and how to navigate their site. Click here to be directed to their webinars (and other events).
Also, keep in mind that some agencies post job openings on their site. Be sure to check those sites too.
Sometimes landing a federal government job takes a long time. In the meantime, look for jobs affiliated with the federal government. Becoming a contractor or grantee may be a viable solution while you’re waiting. This may be a good option because it allows you to network with people inside the government while giving you institutional knowledge about how the government works. Having this knowledge can be invaluable while applying for jobs.
If you don’t want to be a contractor, working in non-profits and organizations that work with the government could be appealing. While you’re at work, you will learn about government programs and can also meet points of contact within the federal government. This could widen your network.
Whether you love it or hate it, networking can help you get closer to your dream position. But don’t think of it as just meeting people to get a job. Instead, network as a way to learn about the industry and connect with people with similar interests. Out of these interactions, you never know what may come out of it.