If you are like most, you probably have concerns about the state of the economy and long-term job security. Times are uncertain and—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—in uncertain times many people look to the stability of Federal employment. Unfortunately, the idea of a Federal job search can seem daunting to the beginner: vacancy announcements, dozens of agencies (and subagencies), grade numbers, various unfamiliar forms, and specialized concepts or terms rarely seen in private-sector positions will leave many job seekers feeling they should give up before they've even begun.
But it's not hard at all! Really. You can do it! You only need to keep a few things in mind to avoid major pitfalls and ensure that your resume gets considered.
Let's begin by debunking some common myths. First, you don't need to take a civil service exam for the majority of jobs; in fact, there is no single "Federal civil service exam." Second, you are eligible for most positions even if you have never held a Federal position or served in the military. While Federal employment is highly competitive, every qualified applicant is considered to ensure the best possible placement.
The first (and sometimes only) stop on the road to applying for a Federal position is USAJobs. Through their online system, you will have the opportunity to create a resume (whether you compose it yourself or use professional resume services), search for positions that interest you, apply for positions, and upload additional materials required for employment. Any additional forms you will need will be indicated in the posting and can be found on USAJobs; each vacancy also lists any additional documentation you might need to provide. These may include college transcripts, military evaluations, or KSA statements.
Of all these steps, resume writing can be the most important. In presenting yourself for a hotly contested vacancy, it is critical that your resume be focused, concise, and error free. While the USAJobs website provides an opportunity to build your resume step by step, you will likely be more successful if have your resume written in advance and copy it over to the forms. Not only does this enable you to take advantage of a professional resume writing service, but you can also be sure that your job descriptions work together, avoid repetition, and focus on the strengths most relevant to your goals. Keep in mind that if you are taking advantage of professional resume services, it is vital that the service be familiar with Federal resumes and the government's various hiring processes!
Once your resume is ready and pasted into USAJobs, you are ready to apply to jobs! While some agencies have postings that will direct you away from USAJobs to complete a separate application process, most can be addressed directly through your profile. Additionally, you can have several resumes saved in your USAJobs profile, so you need not limit your job search to just one area.
As you can see, there is no reason to be intimidated about applying to the Federal government. In fact, in many ways, it is just like any other job search: Have a solid resume and follow the specific directions in a given vacancy, and you will have taken your first step to a career in civil service.