Archive for May, 2009

Congratulations, New Graduates: now about that job…

May 25, 2009

Doesn’t everyone out there know a young person who is just completing some aspect of formal education?  From high school to advanced degrees, our graduates are basking in their accomplishments while experiencing a gnawing sense of anxiety about their next steps.  I have a suggestion.

A brand new volume, just out, may have some information for new graduates on getting a federal job.  Get to your nearest bookstore or library and look at Guide to America’s Federal Jobs by Karol Taylor and Janet Ruck. Federal employment is surging in popularity as its virtues of reliability, good pay, and great benefits shine in today’s tough times.  

In Appendix A, you can find a breakdown of the most popular college majors and some typical federal jobs that use that education.  So if you despair because your kid majored in physical education, don’t worry: he or she might qualify as a program analyst or a recreation specialist.

If you know a new graduate in business with real estate credentials, remind that person about opportunities in housing, building management, and contract specialists.  Who knew?

Of course, there’s more to the process than connecting a major to a job possibility, but this is a great place to begin.  So many people feel overwhelmed, not knowing how to relate to these unique job titles.  

Despair no more!  Graduates, even as we salute your accomplishments, we’d like to welcome you to the world of work as soon as possible.  Get this book and begin your research.

Questions?  Please feel free to contact me at for further assistance.


From Ho-hum to Trendy: government jobs in the recession

May 19, 2009

I’m surprised and encouraged to hear that federal, state, and municipal jobs are looking more attractive to new college graduates for the first time in many years.  The benefits are obvious:

  • a growing workforce instead of a shrinking one, 
  • relative job security (more on that later), 
  • a predictable, competitive pay scale.

Why did it take people so long to figure it out?  Here are some possibilities:

  • the application process is cumbersome beyond belief,
  • the “good enough for government work” mentality may still prevail,
  • takes too long to get ahead,
  • you can’t get anything done,
  • they don’t reward visionary thinking.

What is the truth here?  

Yes, the process is awful.  From lengthy applications (phone number of supervisor in your first job many years ago) to those pesky KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities questions designed to either torment you or elicit narrative of your relative accomplishments), filling out a federal application can take hours and hours.  It’s so complicated that a mini-industry has sprung up to coach you through it.  And state applications aren’t much better.  You can submit your packet and then wait and wait and wait. And while you’re waiting, you can read articles about the simplification of the application process.  Um-hum.

But there is an exception to the usual process. Did you know that jobs related to the federal stimulus package are handled differently?  Check out and follow the link  to recovery jobs.  It is possible to apply for these special positions with a resume and cover letter.  Who knew?  

 What about the role of creativity and ambition in the bureaucracy? Some agencies get it and some don’t.  At least a decade ago, enlightened planners began to see the need to reward creative problem-solvers on the job.  And they have tried to infiltrate the workforce with mixed results.  I think that as the workforce ages and retires, things will move more quickly, more responsively to public demands.  This is a case of “hang in there”.  

What about job security?  The class of 2009 doesn’t want to go through what their elders are experiencing.  It’s traumatic all around.  Yes, government work is more predictable than the private sector.  But it’s not ironclad anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time.  Please never forget to keep up your network, to keep expanding your skills, and to keep broadening your horizons in many ways.  You will be glad you did, because nothing lasts forever in the world of work.

The pay scale is indeed competitive.  According to Karol Taylor, author of the brand-new Guide to America’s Federal Jobs (Jist), the average federal job pays $77,143 per year, versus the private sector job which pays $48,035.  And this is not factoring in the cost of the benefits package, which is substantial.  Note:  this figure does not suggest that you will begin your job earning this amount, but it does give an indication of what upward mobility is possible.  

Read. Pay attention to articles that compare worker satisfaction in different agencies.  Interview people that work in these places.  Send in applications.  And when you get an interview, don’t hesitate to ask about creative ideas, problem-solving opportunities, and the chance to get ahead.  

Once again, welcome, Class of 2009, to the major sources of employment around here.  You’re needed more than ever.

2009 – The Gift within the Recession

May 11, 2009

To you who have lost your jobs or are in danger of it, to you who are having trouble finding a new position, I’m going to offer a revoltingly cheerful observation: there’s a gift for you in this situation.

Many of you were in trouble in that former job, and you’re the ones I’m speaking to.

  • You made a serious mistake or two,
  • You irritated some higher-ups,
  • You were costing them money,
  • You were a misfit for that organization,
  • You really wanted something else,
  • You stayed too long.

Need I go on?  There is no tactful way to say this: it was long past time for you to move on.  And you didn’t.  So upper management took control and you were “laid off”.  

Where’s the gift?  

I believe that for the rest of your work life, when you say you left the job in the first part of 2009, few will question you further.  With unemployment at painful highs, you have a lot of company.  There will be an assumption (mostly true, of course), that the economy pushed your organization into  having to cut back.  

The tactful answer (completely true) will be that hard times pushed you into doing what you should have done/were planning to do/wanted to do for quite a while.  You can fine-tune your career, move in a direction that is more appropriate for you and that will a chance for you to use your best strengths.  

You just may look back on 2009 as a defining time in your career.  No one welcomes a lay-off, no one enjoys the fearful situation you’re in, but you can not only survive but flourish in whatever direction comes next.

Optimistic?  Yes, I am.  

Idealistic?  Sure, why not?

Confident in the future?  Definitely.  Write to me in a year and tell me what you are doing.  I’d love to hear from you.