04/01/2009

Uncle Sam Wants You!

By Karol Taylor

The federal government is hiring! It is seeking high-achieving college graduates, and "encore" careerists who are returning to work after retiring from corporate America. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently recommended hiring flexibilities to ease restrictions on the federal hiring process. With such changes, the federal government is quickly becoming the employer of choice. However, it hasn't always been this way.

Beginning with Jimmy Carter's Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, through the beginning of the last administration, the image of the public servant steadily deteriorated. However, something interesting happened during the second term of the most recent Bush administration. In 2001, The Partnership for Public Service, a think tank targeting federal human resources (HR) policies, was established. The Partnership was created "to restore prestige to government service, and to reestablish the federal government as an attractive employer for America's best and brightest."

Doing so required a focused effort of undoing 30 years of negative publicity. With an endowment of $200 million, The Partnership began lobbying for change in federal hiring practices, which OPM embraced. The image of the bungling bureaucrat was slowly transformed into the wise career decision maker who had chosen steady employment, excellent benefits, and a retirement that would be there when needed.

The Obama administration has continued this trend. With the Change.gov website attracting more than 350,000 applications, civil service is again coming into vogue. The economic stimulus package has increased the effort, as well. It provides additional funding for federal agencies, many of whom have said they want to use the funds to hire new staff. The recent decision to reconsider the definition of "inherently governmental" federal jobs (meaning the job no longer has to be contracted out) also increases the possibility of federal job openings.

The "tsunami" of federal retirees has provided yet another impetus to federal hiring. In 2006, then-OPM Director, Linda Springer, predicted that more than 60% of the federal workforce would be eligible to retire in 2016.  Ms. Springer established a council of federal Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) to address this issue. Influenced by The Partnership, CHCO mandated changes in federal hiring practices that called for a 45-day turn around, and provided a federal hiring toolkit to assist federal agencies in expediting their hiring practices.

What does all this mean for career counselors? How are counselors and coaches affected by these changes? The Partnership for Public Service has asked career centers to partner with them to bring federal agencies to recruit at colleges and career fairs. More and more students are requesting instruction on completing and posting the federal resume on the official job site of the U.S. federal government, USAJOBS.  Workforce development centers (career one-stops) are offering classes and coaching in the federal job search process to accommodate the growing numbers of employed and unemployed individuals who are interested in pursuing federal careers.  Career counselors and coaches in private practice are being approached by clients seeking direction toward federal government careers.

In their NCDA 2009 Career Development Conference presentation (Thursday, July 2nd in St. Louis, "Surfing the Tsunami to a Federal Job"), Karol Taylor and Janet Ruck will help you to make sense of the often-confusing federal application process. They will share tips and techniques for effectively posting federal resumes, and for writing KSA/essays. With a combination of more than 50 years federal employment between them, Karol and Janet bring insider knowledge to the federal job application process. If your students or clients are targeting the federal government as their employer of choice, you will want to participate in this content-rich workshop.


Karol Taylor Karol Taylor is a career advisor specializing in federal resume writing, KSA writing, and federal job search. Karol can be contacted by email at karol@tayloryourcareer.com


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