If you’re looking for a job with good security, fantastic benefits (even things like student loan forgiveness), 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.
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.
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:
you already have a government job,
you know someone in government, or
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!
Karl Nygard is the original founder of Cult of Money and created the website to share his ideas on investing, personal finance, and more.