Working for the Government has several advantages over private sector employment. From opportunities for growth, advancement, and job security, to competitive salary and benefits, working in the public sector is an ideal way to build a satisfying career while also making a difference in the lives of others. And considering that more than 80 percent of all government jobs are located outside of Washington, D.C., there’s a reasonably good chance that you can find a government job wherever
you happen to live.
However, just because there are plenty of government jobs, that doesn’t mean that they are easy to get. Landing a position in the public sector is slightly more complicated than landing one in the private sector, as the requirements tend to be a be more stringent, and there is a bit more red tape to cut through. You can improve your chances, though, and help streamline the process by taking certain steps ahead of time.
1. Keep a Spotless Reputation
Clearly, most people don’t deliberately cultivate a poor reputation. However, when you want to work for the government, how you conduct yourself before you’re hired can make a significant difference in whether you’re hired or not. Some positions require extensive background checks, and unfortunately, your wild “party days” during college could come back to haunt you. That doesn’t mean you need to be a stick in the mud, but as you make decisions, consider how the fallout during a background check. If you think you might be embarrassed or that it could hurt your chances, don’t do it.
2. Earn Your Degree
Most well-paying government positions require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, though, a master’s degree will move you higher up the list. Government leaders — city managers, agency directors, and the like — need the skills in decision-making, communication, leadership, and problem-solving provided by degrees like a Master of Public Administration. With such a degree, you stand a better chance of landing your perfect governmental position.
3. Develop an Appropriate Resume
It might sound bureaucratic, but when you apply for a government job, your standard chronologically formatted resume isn’t going to get you interviews, especially when you are applying for federal jobs. Applicants generally have to include additional information on their resumes, particularly if you have ever held a position within the government before. In addition, this is one area in which creativity doesn’t really count, at least when it comes to your resume. Your best bet is to visit a site like USAjobs.gov, the central hiring database for government jobs, and use the tools there to format your resume properly.
4. Become an Intern
It might seem unfair, but many government agencies and departments rely heavily on their internship programs to find new employees, hiring primarily from the pool of successful interns rather than seeking outside applicants. This means that you may never have the chance to even apply for certain positions, or at the very least, face fierce competition from those who have direct experience. This is just one reason that you should seek internship opportunities in the public sector. Not only do you gain a competitive advantage when it comes to employment, you also gain insights into the inner
workings of a department or agency that you may not otherwise have. In addition, you can begin building your network, which is a vital component to success in any field.
5. Develop In-Demand Skills
It’s not difficult to determine what the federal government’s priorities are. Just pay attention to the news and follow the development of government programs and initiatives. For example, current government priorities fall within the realm of health care, education, cybersecurity, and the Middle East. Therefore, applicants with experience within those areas have a better chance of standing out in a crowded talent pool. Consider studying a second language, particularly one in high demand, such as Arabic or Farsi, and building your expertise in a specific area. Look for skills that will allow you to stand out and help you do your job better.
Of course, even if you do all of these things, landing that plum assignment can still be challenging. Above all, you need to be persistent and patient. The hiring process can be slow, particularly with federal jobs, and it might be three months or more before you hear back on an application. However, when you have the right skills and a commitment to public service, you shouldn’t have any trouble landing a government job.