How to Pursue a Federal Career
Any position that offers a competitive salary and perks package spurs high demand. You may find yourself competing against hundreds of qualified candidates. However, with the following tips, you can learn how to get a government job with the right degree and a ton of savvy.
Fully 80% of all positions never appear on internet job boards. The government is no exception. While stricter regulations might encourage them to publicly advertise openings, it doesn’t stop them from promoting from within — or extending them to candidates met through networking.
How can you build your network, particularly when COVID-19 makes in-person meetings problematic? What if you’re an introvert? You can address the latter by asking questions about others and expressing genuine interest. When it comes to the former, seek open Zoom meetings on topics like foreign policy and engage in the discussion.
If you want to break into an elite federal job, you need a good education. There are several ideal college degrees for federal jobs. Which courses of study represent your top choices? Consider declaring one of these majors to improve your chances of getting an offer:
- Political science: This degree gives you an understanding of the political process and government work.
- History: Learn the theoretical framework that guides many public policy decisions today.
- Public administration: If you want to head a nonprofit organization someday, this degree will get you closer to your goal.
- Business administration: Such degrees provide an understanding of statistics and management styles.
- Economics: Money makes the political world go ‘round, and learning how to manage it benefits you in a government role.
According to the Military Times, the powers-that-be [give veterans priority consideration](<https://rebootcamp.militarytimes.com/2016/04/29/5-facts-about-veteran-hiring-preferences-in-civilian-jobs/#:~:text=With a written policy%2C employers,in nearly every hiring situation.>) when applying for federal jobs. Such positions use a point system when determining which applicants advance to the next level, and having served gives you an instant five. Many state governments also extend preferential treatment to candidates who did a stint in the armed forces.
When it comes to getting a federal job, a criminal record is a surefire way to land your application in the virtual circular file. You will need to pass a background check that may entail several steps. Don’t lie on your application to improve your chances — hiring authorities will discover your fib.
Additionally, you’ll need to undergo a credit check for positions involving money management. Sometimes, the roles requiring this clearance don’t seem financially related at all. For example, TSA screeners cannot have more than $5,000 in outstanding debt, federal or state taxes, or unpaid child support. Authorities claim this helps workers avoid the financial stress that can lead to poor judgment.
Did you heed the advice to keep your resume to one page? You can throw that tidbit out the window if you have experience. The government wants to see 10 years of work history, but it doesn’t require you to make your font so small it gives recruiters a headache.
Likewise, the federal government uses a different language than other positions. Learn the lingo by studying official publications and identifying keywords in job postings.
You might need to start at the bottom and work your way to the role you want. Seek internship opportunities and apply — you might land one before you graduate. Another alternative is to accept a low-paying position, such as a mail clerk. Do impressive work, and doors of opportunity may open.
When it comes to getting a federal job, you need a desirable college degree and a bit of savvy. With these six tips, you can demand the salary and benefits you deserve.
About the Author
Alyssa Abel is an experiential education writer with a love for learning. Read more of her work for students and educators on her blog, Syllabusy.