Government budgets fund the Washington state capital

Are you looking for a sweet-ass government job?

If you’re looking for a job with good security, fantastic benefits, a secure retirement that can include a traditional pension, and at the same time something that provides interesting work, than you need to look into getting yourself a sweet-ass government job.  Here are the only three ways to get one:


1. Work in Some Type of Government Job Already

This is the easiest way to find a sweet-ass government job.  This may sound like a joke, but I’m only partially kidding here.  You would be amazed at the amount of cross-hiring that occurs between city, county, state, and national governments.  Government likes to hire people that already know government, and that they don’t need to wean from the private sector expectations or annual bonuses.  Government hiring managers like to know that you already know how governments works, its size, its speed, the hierarchies, legislative and executive process, and what a “general fund” is.  Hiring managers like people like themselves, and in government, that generally means people who want to help other people, want to work mostly reasonable hours, who want stable employment, want or need good benefits, have similar amounts of experience and education, and generally lean democratic politically.  The joy of this fact is that if you look at getting hired in government from a strategic point of view, you could get hired by a government for a position one or two removed from what you actually want, and for an employer that may be different from the one you want.

Government jobs, how to move between them

A strategy for getting the government job you want

For example, if you want to be a project manager (red filled oval) for a city (red open circle) but are unqualified or didn’t get an interview when you applied, perhaps you will try to get hired as a project coordinator (light blue fill) at a county government.  Then, after a year or two get a job as a project manager in county government (purple filled oval).  Now you’re completely qualified to move to a project manager in City government.  Finally, after another year, you now apply for a job as a project manager with the city.  This is of course a general strategy, and not applicable only to government, it just works very well with government.


2. Know Someone Who Works a Government Job Now

The next easiest way to get a sweet-ass government job is to know a government employee.  This is the position hook-up.  You know someone in government, and can get a favor.  Now this isn’t just for the sons and daughters of the big political donors (though that certainly doesn’t hurt).  This is also for those who may have worked on a winning politician’s campaign.  Lacking a direct favor position, you’ll need to take a softer approach.  The internal reference works everywhere, and government is no different.  Given the vast array of rules around government hiring to insure equality in the hiring process, you need to be careful how you go about asking for you references.  Some governments will exclude applicants if the human resources department, while others simply go and hire the boss’s niece.  However, the good word to the hiring manager about an existing applicant is always a plus, and really can’t hurt you.  So look up your classmates, relatives, prior coworkers, friends and whomever else is in your professional network, and ask if they can give you a soft reference or at least a good word.


Government jobs report card

How does your government jobs report card look?

3. Have the Right Skills Appropriately Showcased For a Government Job

The most common way to get a sweet-ass government job, is simply to have the right set of skills that the particular position requires.  Most people just go on the internet and look at the jobs available and apply for those.  Most people don’t get jobs.  At the very least you need to write a new resume for each position applied for, specifically targeted to both the position and government.  Go through each listed requirement and make sure that it is address in your resume or cover letter, either by valuable experience in your past or minimizing your lack of that requirement by a similar skill or experience.  When you’re writing your resume and cover letter, make sure that you’re writing in a way that makes the hiring manager comfortable.  This means using the word familiar to government employees.  Knowing how governments are funded.  If you use the same lingo as government employees, they’ll know that you don’t need to be entirely re-trained from your private sector past.

The trick with getting a government job is knowing what jobs are coming.  Each year or two (biennium), governments create their budgets.  In these budgets, they list in excruciating detail everything that has been given money in the budget, and how much.  Included in this is a list of capital projects.  These projects often require specialized skills, and often mark the future direction of the government.  For example, if a government has appropriated money for a new SAS system, you can be pretty sure that they will need consulting experts to create the RFP to design the system, consultants to actually build the system, and ongoing personnel to run and support the system.  Generally new capital projects for a government don’t have any existing personnel that have expertise in that area, so with a little forethought, you can position yourself as the expert and get a related position before they actually need to fill the position you’ve been researching.

In conclusion, a sweet-ass government job can be yours if:

  1. you already have a government job,
  2. you know someone in government, or
  3. you intelligently position yourself with the correct skills for your sweet-ass government job.

Readers, have you ever had a government job?  Are you looking for a job with great benefits and reasonable pay?  What are you experiences with applying for government jobs?  I’d appreciate it if you shared this article!

About Karl

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37 Responses to The Only 3 Ways to Get a Sweet-Ass Government Job

  1. WorkSaveLive says:

    I’ve never had a government job but I know they come with great benefits! For people that are satisfied for working with a company for 20-30 years this is definitely a way to set yourself up for a great pension!

    • Karl says:

      Many of the traditional defined benefit pensions can only be found in public employment now. And many have very good medical plans as well. Plus, depending on the union, may also have a strong bargaining position such that it’s almost impossible to get fired.

  2. I find that with the government jobs they have so much red tape around them that I apply to them and never hear. THen you find out it was a friend of a friend that got the job. I guess the old addage it is not about what you know but rather about who you know! Sorry for the rant it just ticks me off sometimes being in such a small community..

    • Karl says:

      The smaller the government (or company) the more likely that friends will be hired. That’s just how it works. Larger governments are much more apt to get sued, so they have very precise rules that they follow for applicants.

  3. Yeap, it’s best to have connection, but the right skill set doesn’t hurt. You probably should be willing to accept a bit lower pay too. I don’t have a government job. 🙂

    • Karl says:

      Lower pay for certain things, yes. Higher pay for others. Professional types can likely find better pay elsewhere, while more blue color work is usually paid a higher rate at government today.

  4. Modest Money says:

    I kinda wished I had pursued a government job more earlier in my career. It does set you up for a secure future and hefty pension. The trick is getting your foot in the door. I guess it’s the same as many big companies. They want to encourage internal hiring for a smoother transition and to keep employees long term.

    • Karl says:

      Yeah, if you can get your 30 years in early and be done by 50, you set yourself up pretty well for a good pension, and the possibility of having another late career. Best of both worlds.

  5. Frugal Fries says:

    Ack, it’s pretty hard to get into the city these days where I am. I have a bunch of friends working in government now too, and there are a lot of cutbacks. None of them are permanent and they’ve been working contract to contract in the hope that a position opens up.

    I used to work for the city, but I had to leave when I went away to university. I guess you can’t know how great an opportunity was until you leave it!

  6. Interesting post – sounds more or less the same as getting an job anywhere else!

    I want a sweet (federal) government gig. A couple years ago when I was considering leaving grad school with an MS I researched a bunch of gov jobs and got really excited about them. I grew up in the DC area where most everyone works for the gov directly or indirectly. (My father has always wanted a government job but has always been a contractor.) However, my ultimate plan is to move to California, and the types of jobs that I want are in Georgia or Maryland. I suppose I will have to look into state jobs instead and there definitely won’t be as many in my field. :/

    • P.S. I worked for the federal government for a year but wasn’t an employee, so I didn’t have access to any benefits. My boss was always (justifiably) complaining about the differences between the government and academia in terms of the red tape – but you can’t beat the funding!

    • Karl says:

      I don’t think I could work in either of those states. I did an internship out in Virgina during one summer, and I’m just not an east-coast type of guy. That and the heat and humidity would do me in. It is a shame that there are only a few federal research labs, and they are fairly concentrated.

  7. My stepdad works for the state. Although the benes are great, there have been a lot of recent cutbacks due to the state of the economy. Nothing crazy, and he’s happy to still have a job, but he’s recently had to take a bunch of forced “shut down” days.

  8. Money Infant says:

    I’ve never had a sweet ass government job, but I have spoken with some of the US Embassy employees and their wives and THEY have sweet ass government jobs. Excellent pay and benefits, the chance to travel the world (change locations every 2 years) and the job honestly doesn’t sound very stressful at all. If I had a clue how to get me a sweet ass job like that I would, but I think if you can even get hired you start out working in places like Angola.

    • My friend just became a Foreign Service Office with the State Department. Her first posting is in Vienna, Austria!! But after that her posts will probably include a stint in Afghanistan or the like.

      With government jobs, there’s a big difference between State and Federal. You gotta go Fed for better benefits, more job security, and more travel opportunities.

  9. SB @ FPR says:

    I think in all jobs, having connection at right places helps. I haven’t done any govt. job

  10. Nick says:

    Pension? What’s that? 😉

    I haven’t worked in any gov’t job (or any job that’s offered me a pension) but my brother in law works for a town and loves the perceived stability – he works his 4 10-day shifts, has a pension that slowly kicks in and has 3-day weekends (other than on-call weeks a few times a year). Not too shabby.

  11. AverageJoe says:

    Everyone I’ve known in government jobs got the job from #2 or moved in through #1….

    The thing I had to get used to when I worked for a public entity (I worked for a university for awhile), was the budget process. Rather than trying to save money, you spent as much as possible so that you’d get the same amount allocated the next year. It was incredibly wasteful.

  12. Michelle says:

    My father-in-law has a sweet a$$ government job. I’m not sure how he got it (have to ask Jeff..), but I think his main job is to shmooze and shake hands with people? I’m not sure. I know he makes a really comfy salary and is off every holiday, though.

    • Karl says:

      There certainly are benefits, and holidays off are nice. Sounds like he’s fairly senior in the government to do mostly PR and schmoozing, those jobs usually go to people with a fair amount of experience.

  13. I tried applying for some federal jobs and I NEVER heard anything back. It always amazed me because usually I do hear something back. At least once. Then I found out that connections matter the most. 🙁

    • Karl says:

      That’s the think with some of those places, it’s like sending stuff into a black hole, especially with the automated submittal stuff.

  14. My husband has a county government job as a law enforcement officer – I don’t think it’s really the sweet-ass job you’re thinking of, though. While he gets GREAT benefits and a GREAT pension (one day), he works crappy hours and his base pay is horrible.

    • Karl says:

      That may be true, some of those officers hours can be horrible, and give union shift bidding, can be horrible for a while. But many professions don’t also have the option for significant overtime. At least there’s that. And depending on when he started, he could have a decent second career. But yes, the initial years for many government jobs you can certainly be low man, but that’s the nature of union groups, benefits go to those who’ve been around the longest.

  15. I will be finishing school in May, and applying for some sweet-ass government positions. I know they will be hard to get, but boy the benefits are great. The pay is also quite a bit higher than the average jobs out there. Crossing my fingers!

  16. Great piece of advice. I hope to get a government job later in life…

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  20. YFS says:

    The only downside to the sweet ass government job is that they pay jack taco. The benefits aren’t all that good either, the only thing government jobs have going for them in D.C. is it’s practically impossible to get fired once you’re hired.

  21. Miiockm says:

    #1 is the biggest tip. Once you’re in already so many opportunities start to open up.

  22. […] presents The only 3 ways to get a sweet-ass government job posted at CultOfMoney.A sweet-ass government job can be yours if: 1. you already have a government […]

  23. Barb says:

    I’ll add (someone else also may have done so) that whenwriting a resume for a government position, so called code words are very important. Often goverment resumes go through a scanning computer system (especially for jobs with many many applicants) looking for those words. so read the job description at USA jobs and other places very carefully.

  24. […] presents The only 3 ways to get a sweet-ass government job posted at CultOfMoney, saying, A sweet-ass government job can be yours if: 1. you already have a […]

  25. Rich says:

    All smoke and mirrors. If I sound bitter…..I am. I’m a Vet and have worked in the healthcare field all of my adult life, but yet – it doesn’t appear that I’m qualified for anything from their viewpoint. I have applied for many, many positions and I changed my CV several times to make it more appealing. I use the “code” words and have NEVER been referred to a hiring authority. I personally know people working for the government and they do have great jobs. Interestingly enough….they’re not college educated, but somehow…they slipped through. I’m not bothered by it, but I’m curious why there’s a double standard.

    The simple truth is this – I work my butt off, I have a very diverse skill-set and I’m willing to relocate, but for whatever reason…..I’m doing something wrong and it drives me crazy. I hate the friggin questionnaires because it’s all so black or white and there’s no free text option to clarify that you don’t have experience specific to their question, but you’ve done it somewhere else on a different something. Some of the job descriptions I read, are me to a tee but I can’t get through. Any way….good luck to all and best wishes that you land the job of your dreams. I’ll keep on trying, but after a while – it’s a little disheartening.

    • joe says:

      Amen to that, brother. I have worked part-time in local government, and let me tell you that hiring managers in government don’t like to hire someone with more education or someone with strong work ethics. Instead, they want to hire those who are as dumb and lazy as them. The last thing hiring managers in public sector want is accountability. The only time they want to hire someone ambitious is when that person is young and green and able to be molded, or when they have a project that they need someone to spearhead who actually knows what they are doing.

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