Even as the U.S. appears to be climbing out of COVID-19, millions of people are in a major financial hole because they either lost their jobs, or their jobs just ceased to exist. Despite government efforts to protect them, many have lost their homes or been kicked out of apartments because they couldn’t pay the mortgage or rent.
Many state and local governments had to layoff normally “fireproof” workers because tax revenue is down — as in way down — in many places.
The bright spot during the last 14 dark months is Uncle Sam. Many federal agencies have been hiring people to cover essential or emergency jobs. Even though the retirement rate is down and there have been no pandemic-related layoffs, most agencies are the same size, if not larger than, they were last March. The government has also streamlined procedures, cutting the time it takes to actually be confirmed in a job and put on the payroll. The market is especially hot for STEM jobs.
The America public seems to have discovered the difference between career civil servants who perform critical, dangerous jobs 24/7 and career politicians who are best at talking about problems rather than acting to correct them. That’s a deserved, if maybe temporary reputation plus for career civil servants. And as many people are convinced the federal government is pretty good and very necessary, more people are trying to get in. Many insiders figure this is a perfect time to move up the career ladder.
So how do you get in? Or if you are already part of the team, how do you move up?
We asked Kathryn Troutman, one of the nation’s top career coaches, to join us today on our Your Turn radio show. It starts at 10 a.m. EDT, streaming here or on the radio at 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. area. She knows what’s going on.
Troutman is the founder of The Resume Place. It’s been guiding people into and up the federal career ladder for 30-plus years. And she said the impact of the war against COVID-19 has created a golden opportunity for people looking for work — steady work — with Uncle Sam. While many private sector jobs have disappeared or been put on hold, the government is hiring big time. And while state and local governments are laying off people because of reduced revenue, the federal government is funding its own drive. It’s just incredible. There are so many STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — jobs governmentwide. And for experienced feds whose life has been on semi-hold, “there’s never been a better time” to go for a coveted Senior Executive Service job. She said a large number of SES people chose to retire during the national lockdown, either because they didn’t want to lead operations by Zoom, were leery of continuing to work at the office or just plain figured it was time to go and have some fun. Some SES folks also didn’t like the direction the career service appeared to be taking under the previous administration.
Here’s how she explains the current hot job market, especially in fields of science, technology and medicine:
“A person who has a degree in a STEM field or is in mid-career should certainly look at the U.S. government in addition to the private sector. Now, more than ever, federal STEM employees are important for keeping America safe, meeting current threats, and preparing the United States for the future.
“Obviously, public health is the hottest STEM area right now, because of the challenges of getting Americans vaccinated and other COVID-19 issues. Typing ‘FDA’ (Food and Drug Administration) into the USAJobs search function one recent Monday, I found 99 vacancies with the agency that day. These included technical information specialist, health scientist, microbiologist, physician, consumer safety officer, and chemist.
“This time last month, CDC USAJobs showed 123 openings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including public health analyst, epidemiologist, public health advisor, behavioral scientist, and health scientist. And the demand is steady and likely to be there for a long time.
“Type in the word ‘CYBER’ and see what comes up. Last week you could find 285 federal jobs open worldwide. Just about every agency you could think of is hiring cybersecurity IT people, and remember that cyber and IT often go together in federal positions.
“Sometimes, like now, the government needs to move faster, so a process was created called ‘direct-hire.’ This is a searchable term on the USAJobs website. These are the positions most critically needed in government at the moment, including IT specialist (cyber), public health, contract specialist and law enforcement as some areas that could be designated direct-hire. The time it takes to hire is cut down because the USAJobs self-assessment questionnaire is eliminated, the announcement is open to only 100 or fewer applicants, and every qualified candidate is sent on to the hiring official.”
In certain situations, direct-hire applicants can actually send their resumes directly to the hiring official rather than loading it onto USAJobs. This was the case for some open STEM positions affiliated with the Navy. In an earlier interview, Troutman said she’d spoken to the HR person listed on the Navy direct-hire announcement. He gave her a tip to share with job seekers like you:
“So now I always tell job seekers that your resume must show that you have the required qualifications. The Navy HR person told me that they cannot infer any information. The manager may see that an applicant is well qualified, but can’t hire them if the right words aren’t on the resume. They can’t call and ask that the resume be amended either.”
On today’s show, she’ll also talk about her books on how to move quickly and efficiently in the federal job market.
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