According to the Partnership for Public Service, the federal government will “fill more than 50,000 entry-level jobs in the next 12 months, along with about 60,000 paid internships. There are jobs and internships available in practically every interest and skill area, in all 50 states and around the world.”
Most people think that working in the federal government means working in Washington, D.C., but that’s hardly the case. In fact, 84% of federal jobs are located outside the D.C. area.
If you have not yet considered these opportunities, you should. Federal positions often provide excellent pay and benefits, as well as the opportunity to travel and make a difference. The federal government has an initiative called the Pathways Program that is designed uniquely for college students and recent graduates. Visit USAJobs.gov to learn more about internships, agencies and popular jobs related to your major. Most vacancies are advertised on this site, but you will also want to monitor the websites of the agencies that interest you. Individuals with an associate’s degree often qualify for GS-4 positions, while bachelor degree recipients qualify for GS-5 or GS-7 positions.
If you elect to apply for any of these positions, be careful. When it comes to resume-writing, federal applications break the rules. The quick tips below will help you understand these differences.
1. Include more details in your experience section. When you list your work history, include the following information for each position:
• Job title (include series and grade if Federal job)
• Employer’s name, city and state
• Duties and accomplishments
• Supervisor’s name and phone number
• Starting and ending dates (month and year)
• Hours per week
2. Provide whatever additional documents are requested. Depending on the position, you may need to submit an application questionnaire, your college transcript, writing sample or security-clearance forms.
3. Target the qualifications for the position you are seeking. USAJobs recommends that you review several job announcements, even if they are not in your preferred geographical area or agency, to better understand which of your qualifications to emphasize. If you are feeling ambitious, conduct additional research. View the Handbook of Occupational Groups and Families to learn more about the occupational series. The Supervisory Qualifications Guide also identifies essential proficiency for managers. You should also visit the website of the specific agency and use their search engine to find core competencies.
4. Include keywords and emphasize results. Look for keywords such as repeated verbs or technical terminology that are listed in the vacancy announcement. Once you have identified these words, use them in your resume and provide proof that you possess these attributes. Use numbers, provide examples and focus on the outcome of your activities to emphasize results. This may require more details than a private-industry resume, but it is especially important because some agencies use the accomplishment record to evaluate candidates and predict their future performance.
5. Organize and format information carefully. Paragraphs should generally run between 5 to 10 lines. Use subheadings to grab the attention of your readers. Kathryn Kraemer Troutman, author of the Federal Resume Guidebook, suggests an outline format that uses keywords in all-cap as sub-headings. View an example at The Resume Place.
6. Highlight one year of specialized experience. Agencies often request one year of specialized experience equal to the position being advertised. Identify relevant work experiences that demonstrate your ability to satisfy this requirement. USAJobs encourages you to include all of your experiences, including volunteer positions, internships and co-curricular activities. Do not minimize or embellish your experiences. Your information will influence your ratings, but it is also subject to verification.
7. Demonstrate your ability to save time and money. The government seeks to comply with federal regulations and to operate efficiently within a budget. Gain a competitive edge by highlighting your ability to contribute to this effort. USAJobs provides the following examples:
• Identified, researched and recommended a new internet service provider, cutting the company’s online costs by 15%.
• Managed a student organization budget of more than $7,000.
• Attended high school basketball games, interviewed players and coaches and composed 750-word articles by an 11 p.m. deadline.
• Suggested procedures that decreased average order-processing time from 10 minutes to five minutes.
8. Be concise. Eliminate unnecessary or repeated words, such as “in order to” or “it was my responsibility to.” Avoid acronyms and keep your sentences short. Here are the questions that USAJobs encourages you to consider before you submit your resume:
• Can a hiring manager see my main credentials within 10 to 15 seconds?
• Does critical information jump off the page?
• Do I effectively sell myself on the top quarter of the first page?
9. Federal resumes are longer. Traditional resumes rarely exceed two pages in length. Federal resumes, however, are usually three to four pages. Given the additional pages, carefully open with your key qualifications to avoid losing your readers. Your first page is prime real estate. If you bury your accomplishments on the last page, your readers may overlook them. You could also add a profile statement or qualifications summary to the top of your resume to highlight your most noteworthy and relevant accomplishments.
10. Carefully proof your resume. Similar to other resumes, editing is important. Not only are you outlining your qualifications, but you are also submitting a writing sample. Stop by the career services office on your campus to obtain personal feedback and more details about resume-writing.
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