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The USAJobs Myth: One Destination, Many Paths

Updated: Jul 11, 2018

Whether you’re just starting your federal job search or well underway, one thing is certain: you’re using USAJobs. After all, that’s where everyone starts looking for federal employment, and where you’ve probably found interesting job postings. So, why go anywhere else?

Simple: it’s not the sole online resource to find and apply to federal jobs.

USAJobs is a great repository for numerous federal job postings. However, you should keep in mind why it exists and who else it serves. USAJobs is as much a tool for you (the prospective candidate) as it is for agencies needing to reach as many people as possible. The volume thus goes both ways: lots of jobs going up, but also lots of people flooding the site to find a job. This can be problematic for both sides, particularly job seekers who have a good idea of where they want to work.

Well, where else can I find a job at a federal agency that interests me? Fear not! Here are some alternatives to finding your next federal job.

Agency Sites

If you know where you want to work, you should check that organization’s website for job postings. However, people often forget that when it comes to federal agencies, it’s always a good idea to periodically check an agency’s website for general job postings. Some sites let you search specific positions, while others may require you to look at agency offices or divisions for that group’s openings. Candidates especially interested in law enforcement or intelligence work should keep this alternative in mind.

Contractor Jobs

The federal government employs numerous contractors to help execute its many missions. Although these folks are not actual federal employees – also known colloquially as “feds” – contractors perform many of the same duties and play an integral role across the federal workforce. Applying for contractor jobs within an agency of interest to you can be a great first step towards the federal career you want. In contrast to the lengthy federal hiring process, contracting companies hire candidates quickly to meet urgent staffing needs across the government. In addition, contractor positions provide a chance to learn more about an agency’s work and job opportunities, as well as to test the waters before deciding to sign on as a fed, when such openings become available.

Start by seeing which contractors partner with federal agencies that interest you, and what those contractors’ specialty fields are. Contractors post job openings on various platforms – their websites, LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, and other job sites. Be sure to check these regularly, follow contracting companies on social media, and identify and introduce yourself to contracting officers who manage contracted teams at agencies where you want to work.

Student Opportunities

Finally, undergraduates and graduate students should never ignore student programs. After all, those programs are designed for you! Federal agencies also invest in these programs to bring in early-career talent and groom students for long-term federal careers.

For undergraduates, research federal Pathways Programs and summer internships. These are often posted on both USAJobs and agency websites, including the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM). For graduates, the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) is the federal government’s flagship leadership development program, and continues to be a popular avenue towards federal employment. PMF automatically converts selectees to feds after 2 years of service as a PMF fellow, making it a highly competitive program.

There are many paths to federal employment, and while USAJobs is a good starting point, it doesn’t need to be the starting point. Keep alternate pathways in mind to help you land the right job.

Alan Cunningham

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