Government Employment as a Career Path?

The U.S. Capitol building.Every time you turn on the TV news it seems as though the government is in chaos.  Fighting between and within political parties.  Campaign mudslinging.  Scandals involving leaders and staffers at all levels.  Wow! No wonder the thought of working for the government probably doesn’t enter most individual’s minds when they consider career options!

That’s too bad.  Having worked a few years in government myself, I know there are many great opportunities in almost every career field imaginable.  Also, working as a “civil servant” can be a personally rewarding and fulfilling experience.  It provides an important way to honorably serve your local city, county, state, or even the nation.  True, government pay scales may not always equal those found in the private sector.  However, they’re not too shabby either, especially if you advance to a senior level or management position.

Some people also feel government work may provide more stable employment than other types of jobs.  I believe this is true if you are not in a temporary, grant-funded position. In a private sector company, employment levels may shrink or grow suddenly.  This might occur simply because of last quarter’s sales figures or the gain or loss of an important contract.  Thus, for many jobs, government work is perhaps more stable because “sales” and “profits” are non-issues.  Plus, the government needs workers in order to provide essential services and perform tasks mandated by law.

Who Does the Government Hire?

If you think the government doesn’t hire people in your trade or profession, think again.  You might not even realize that government agencies hire doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, accountants, and nurses. Also, plumbers, electricians, welders, mechanics, teachers, computer programmers, purchasing agents, writers, communications specialists, analysts, and photographers.  Don’t forget chemists, artists, social workers, law enforcement officers, and that just scratches the surface.  I have many more examples, but there are simply too many to list here!

Could you really get a job with the government?  It could turn out that you may have a bit of an “in” when it comes to landing a government job.  For example, the Federal Government has programs which assist or provide a hiring preference for certain groups.  Such groups include veterans, military spouses, individuals with disabilities, Native Americans, and others.  Check out usajobs.gov for a wealth of information about finding and applying for positions with the United States government.  Some state and local governmental entities also have similar programs for which you may qualify.

In addition to Federal jobs, don’t forget your local city, county, and state governments also need qualified people!  Be sure to check their websites for job openings and instructions on how to apply for open positions. Continue reading

Securing and Submitting Professional References

A closeup of a professional references list.When applying for a position online, you may be asked to attach a file containing the names and contact information for professional references as a required part of your application submission.  Even when a computerized online application form is not used, many job postings  specifically indicate professional references must be submitted.  If you are in an interview, but have not yet been asked for references, the topic may come up.  This is especially true if you are being seriously considered for the position.  So, what it the proper way to handle requests for professional references?

Why and who?

First, let’s look at why applicants are asked for professional references and who should these individuals should be.  Remember, to an interviewer, you are an unknown and unproven entity.  In this situation, there is always the very real risk of inadvertently making a bad hiring decision.  Contacting professional references is one way interviewers feel they can help minimize that risk.  After all, a professional reference is – or should be – an individual who can attest to your experience, skills, and integrity.

The ideal reference is someone who has seen you on the job and can speak to your work quality. They can report on how well you performed in a similar position or setting.  The interviewer would like to actually talk with a number of people who are able to confirm your employment history.  If these people are willing to stick their necks out to vouch for you, great!  He or she will feel that due diligence has been done in vetting you.  Yes, interviewers are aware you will likely provide the names of people who will (or should) say only good things.  More about that later.

Let’s look at some suggestions to help ensure your list of references is helpful rather than harmful. Continue reading