Ways to open up your search — including for federal jobs

May 12, 2010 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Often, job hunters needlessly limit their searches by “woulda, coulda, shoulda” thinking. Mid-career professionals in particular often think they “should” have arrived at a specific level at this point in their career, and they look only for jobs that meet those specifications. The problem is that those jobs may not exist any longer in any appreciable number. So much has changed in recent years, especially for journalists — the industry as we know it is no longer, new categories of jobs are being added, and the nature of work (and loyalty in the workplace) has been altered irrevocably as well.

So what’s a smart job hunter to do? Hiring experts advise opening up one’s search — especially the types of jobs you’re seeking. Decide to look for jobs outside your “comfort zone,” yet those for which you’re qualified. If you’ve always worked in the private sector, consider federal government — as well as state and local government — jobs for a change. If you’ve been based at companies, think about the non-profit sector. Think creatively about how you can use your skills and experience moving forward. And work hard not to let your regrets about the past and outdated career goals guide your search.

Here is some advice about opening up your search:

*Look beyond what you’ve done most recently. In updating your resume, inventory skills that you have gained in previous jobs — this is especially important for mid-career folks who may have had a variety of jobs but got stuck (or laid-off or bought-out) recently. Think about how you could pitch these skills for openings. Don’t let your last job limit you as to what kinds of jobs you should be seeking now — especially if this position (say an editor for a print publication) is endangered and you see few leads or listings for this kind of work.

*Be willing to take some different paths to land something new. Consider not only seeking different types of jobs than you’ve sought in the past but also new ways to get there. If you’ve tended to apply for jobs online and through alumni and other list-serves, for example, use social-networking sites and other fresh forms of communication this time around. Expand your network to people who you haven’t relied on before in finding jobs. If you’re at a point in your life when you’re mobile, consider expanding your search to a new city or cities. By trying different ways of finding a job, you’re much more likely to open up a range of new possibilities.

*Don’t get hung up on details that can limit you from the start. Especially at the beginning of a search, pay less attention to title, the size of the company (especially if it’s a lot smaller than where you used to work) and even salary than the type of work and the opportunities it may afford you going forward. For instance, if you’ve worked in D.C. for a big “name” company in a job with a prestigious-sounding title, you may sniff at an opening with a start-up in the suburbs where they haven’t even figured out the titles yet — yet that may be a much better route than trying to replicate the job you had (which may not even exist anymore). Though salary and commute, etc., are important components of a job, in the long run you want to be doing good work with an organization that will challenge you — think about this in your search more than title or address.

*Don’t spend too much time worrying about “what other people will think.” Sometimes job hunters limit their search because of how a job or organization may be perceived by others. A little hint: They are paying much more attention to their own job and career than to yours. If the opportunity makes sense for you to pursue, do it — in the long run, others will likely be impressed with your choices.

*And here is some of the best, most detailed advice I’ve seen on applying for a federal job. Federal jobs are an obvious opportunity for transitioning journalists but the process is so cumbersome and time-consuming that many give up after the first application. Angela Dorsey generously shares some hard-won advice — gained after applying for 45 federal jobs! Angela, after being laid off last October, targeted federal openings in her search and recently landed a position. Congratulations, and thank you to Angela for these great tips:

Transitioning from the private sector to the public sector: From laid off to hired

After 6.5 months of searching, I landed a Federal Government job and start in 2.5 weeks.

To put things in perspective, I applied for a total of 45 Federal jobs via the USA Jobs website. I was “referred” for two positions within the same Federal Agency. The application deadline for both of these positions was in early January 2010. I received a call about an interview for one of the jobs in mid-April. I had my initial interview within two weeks and I had a second interview in the week immediately following. The official job offer came the following Monday (this past Monday).
For those of you searching for a position within the Federal Government. Here are my suggestions:

1) Make sure your “private sector” resume is formatted for federal positions
I hired a consultant with over 20+ years’ federal experience to format my resume. I considered it a “solid investment” which gave me an added boost of confidence in the early stages of my Federal job search.

2) Prepare a target list of 5-10 agencies
Set up a Google Alert to track these companies, so you’re knowledgeable about their recent activities and developments should you be called in for an interview.

3) Attend networking groups geared towards individuals seeking positions in the federal government
For example, the Career Networking Ministry at McLean Bible Church hosts a speaker and/or seminar geared towards individuals seeking Government positions the last Tuesday of every month

4) Attend conferences and face-to-face, networking events
Prior to receiving the actual job offer, I was on the fence about attending the annual conference targeting individuals to whom I would be potentially working with at that federal agency. The issue wasn’t just the cost ($325) it was how my presence would be perceived by the potential interviewers. I ran my concerns past several individuals with experience in the Federal sector and they said that the more “face-to-face” time you can get with individuals within the Federal agency, the better. If there’s an upcoming event where professionals from the Federal agencies you’re targeting are slated to speak on a panel, seriously consider attending the event.

4) Establish a presence on social networking sites targeting Government employees and contractors. Think Facebook for Government workers. GovLoop is the largest site targeting Government employees. You don’t have to be a current Government employee to set up a profile. There’s another networking site called FedSpace which is scheduled to launch this coming fall. There is also a site for a group called, TFCN (The Federal Contractor Network) targeting Government contractors. TFCN has a robust job board on it’s website, maintains an active Twitter feed with a solid presence on both Linked In and a Facebook presence.

5) Consider volunteering (if applicable) for one or more of your targeted agencies
I completed the volunteer orientation for the federal agency I was eventually hired for. When I mentioned that I had been introduced to their agency as a volunteer, I could definitely tell that it impressed the interviewers.

6) Spend a considerable amount of time perfecting (and formatting) your KSA responses
I heard a rumor that several agencies are abandoning the KSAs = mini essays you have to write during the application process. Until this comes to fruition, I encourage everyone to read the book, “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job” by Lily Whiteman. It was extremely helpful and provided me with useful strategies for targeting agencies and applying for jobs.

7) Establish realistic expectations: Obtaining a federal job is a long-term strategy, not a short-term solution
While the entire process for landing a Federal job took me about 5 months from the initial application process to the final job offer, my experience was closer to the exception, not the norm. If you have decided to apply to Federal jobs, consider it part of a long-term strategy with the understanding that the selection process for many Federal jobs can take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year. I encourage you to apply for some “quick hits” aka “survival” jobs within the private sector and prepare yourself for 6 month to 1-year wait to see the fruits of your Federal job search efforts.

Lastly, I wish everyone success in their respective job searches. For those of you pursuing Federal jobs, I encourage you not to become easily discouraged. In fact, I preferred the Federal job search process to the search process for private sector jobs, mainly because I actually received “feedback” from several of the agencies about my job application.

Onward and upward!


*And if you need some evidence that there are — and will be — federal openings out there to pursue, check out this link to a washpost.com piece. It’s great to hear that they’re trying to make the process easier:

Obama wants federal agencies to hit the gas on hiring

*Here are some job and internship leads to check out today:

*And keeping with this theme, the first opening is for a federal position — a communications officer with the National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) in Bethesda:
Communications Officer
Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH) – Bethesda, MD
If you are an exceptionally talented, knowledgeable and motivated individual AND you want to play a significant role in a dynamic organization, then consider… $105,211 a year
From Federal Highway Administration

*The Edens Group in Reston has an opening for a senior technical writer:

Dynamic Cleared Senior Tech Writer/Editor with Security Clearance
The Edens Group, LLC – Reston, VA
Senior Technical Writer/Editor for a rapidly growing… Effective communication and customer service skills, excellent verbal and written communication skills and…
From ClearanceJobs.com

*EEI Communications has an opening in Rockville for a federal proposal manager to supervise the work of proposal writers and editors:

EEI Business Communications is searching for an… monitoring the work of other Proposal Writers/Editors. Providing proposal quality control (QC) reviews… $110,000 a year
From washingtonpost.com

*The Council for Advancement and Support of Education in D.C. is looking for a senior editor:


*Atlantic Media has an opening in D.C. for a director of programming and content development:


*People For the American Way in D.C., a non-profit group, has an opening for a media relations manager:


*These final two leads are for internships — pass them along to those who still may be trying to secure a last-minute summer internship. The first is for a digital media intern in D.C. for Home Front Communications:

Digital Media Intern
Home Front Communications – Washington, DC
Home Front Communications seeks applications for an… Senior Digital Media Managers. Home Front Communications specializes in media strategy, content production…
From JournalismJobs.com

*And last but not least,  the Department of Energy has three-month (unpaid) summer internships available in D.C. with its newswire, Energy Empowers:

U.S. Department of Energy – Journalism Summer Internship

The Department of Energy (DOE) is offering an exciting three-month summer internship to write news stories for our energy newswire called Energy Empowers (www.energyempowers.gov). Energy Empowers highlights the personal stories of businesses, families, and communities in the clean energy economy. Our current writing team consists of five full time writers and an Editor-in-Chief who produce approximately 20 written stories per week.

Internship Description

Energy Empowers is offering summer journalism internships where interns will become an integral part of the Energy Empowers writing team. Our interns will join a group of established DOE reporters covering timely energy, environment, and job creation stories from around the country. Working in DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., interns will use all of their reporting skills by researching, interviewing sources, writing, and editing three to four stories each week. They will benefit from working in a team environment and learn directly from an Editor-in-Chief with more than 20 years of experience.

This three-month, unpaid internship starts in May or June 2010 and promises to be a rewarding opportunity to report on the latest news in the clean energy economy. As President Obama and Congress shift their focus toward energy and environmental issues this summer, the stories our interns produce will become more and more relevant. This internship is not for credit, but we can provide a letter of confirmation that the internship has been completed.

Intern Qualifications

  • Excellent written and verbal skills
  • Ability to create 3-4 articles per week for Energy Empowers clean energy newswire
  • Strong reporting and editing skills
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Currently enrolled in (or new graduates of) a four-year college/university with a journalism or related major
  • Accuracy in presentation of stories and an eye for detail
  • Multi-media skills desirable
  • Interest in energy issues and the environment

How to Apply

Please fill out an application at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/office_eere/volunteer.html by Wednesday, May 19, 2010. On the application, fill in your name, email address, proposed start date (between May 24 – June 21), a copy of your cover letter, and a copy of your resume. Please write “Energy Empowers Journalism Internship” at the top of your cover letter. Note that “volunteer” means unpaid intern and your title will be Journalism Intern.

Please do not email to check the status of your application, but if you have questions contact David.Katz@ee.doe.gov.

Good luck on the hunt!



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