Making the Career Switch to a Federal Job
If you are an experienced worker looking for a Federal job, you are in good company. More than 40 percent of the people hired by the Federal Government last year were experienced workers over the age of 35. These tips will help you to get credit for your expertise.
Estimate your GS level
The Federal Government classifies positions according to the complexity of their job duties and their level of responsibility. People qualify for a given level based on education, experience, or a combination of both. The most common classification system is the General Schedule (GS). To find your GS level, see this article to estimate the level you qualify for based on education alone. If you also have relevant experience, your GS level will be higher than that. If you have had relevant managerial responsibilities or do complex work independently, you might qualify for a GS-12 or above. To be certain, read the job descriptions in vacancy announcements.
Understand job requirements
Vacancy announcements often say that a worker needs experience equivalent to a particular GS level. A vacancy announcement at the GS-12 level, for example, might say that you need 1 year of experience at the GS-11 level. Some announcements give examples of what that experience could be. Others don’t. The simplest way to know if you qualify for a job is to read the job duties. If the work described there is only slightly more complex or responsible than work you have done in the past, you might be eligible for the position.If some of the required experience for a job seems unique to the Federal Government, explore further by calling the agency or the contact person for the position. You might learn that your private-sector experience meets the requirement.
Be flexible about titles
If you want to be a manager or supervisor, do not limit yourself to openings with those words in the job title. Jobs with widely varying levels of responsibility are
often listed under the same title.
Be specific about past experience
Human resources managers will study the details of your application to decide if you qualify for a job. They will compare your past work to the kinds of tasks performed at different GS levels. Managers will pay close attention to the amount of time you spent in each job. They usually will estimate exactly how many months or years you have done each major job task. When creating a resume or writing statements about your skills, show your level of expertise by explaining who you reported to or worked with and how your work was used.
Explain past job titles
Use job titles that clearly describe what you did. You may want to put the equivalent Federal title in parentheses next to your actual job titles.
Consider Senior Executive Service
Finally, if you have substantial experience in high-level leadership positions, you might qualify for the Senior Executive Service (SES). SES positions require you to answer a set of standard questions about your leadership ability. A review board established by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will certify your qualifications based on your answers and your experience. For more information, see www.opm.gov/ses or call (202) 606-1800.
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