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considering switching to a gov. job
Old 01-06-2009, 12:11 PM   #1
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considering switching to a gov. job

I work in the IT industry(software development to be specific), 11 years experience. I'm playing with the idea of getting a job in the gov. sector mainly for its job security and retirement benefits, but I don't know where to begin. Is there any good resource that gives me a comparison between the Fed, state and county level? I'm 36 and would like to retire in 20 years, is this too short a time frame to even qualify for gov. benefits at any level? I live in Southern Calif so I could consider L.A. or Orange County.

FYI, my job is fairly secure at this very moment(knock on the wood), 401k plus small pension, have security clearance.
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Old 01-06-2009, 12:34 PM   #2
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All federal human resources info can be found at www.opm.gov
Search on FERS, and ignore all CSRS references.

All federal jobs open to the public (vs internal recruitment) are listed at www.usajobs.com
Do a search on each if the following keywords:
Information Technology
Computer
Engineer (some job series allow for a non-engineering degree combined with relevant experience, such as Computer Engineer)
Technology

combined with your zip code of interest and mileage range.

You can enter your resume, and get daily job postings sent to your email. The site is actually pretty easy to use. Good luck.
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Old 01-07-2009, 08:35 AM   #3
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I was a civil engineer. I worked for the California Water Board for 3 years early in life, served as a city councilman (an elected position, small pay) for 4 years, and then finished off my career as a City Engineer for 3 years (at a high salary).

All of these agencies are members of CalPERS - the California retirement system. You can retire at age 50. Your benefits are calculated on the last 3 year's highest salary plus the length of service.

I made out like a bandit! I've been pulling in more than $600 a month since age 50 (13 years ago) - and will continue to get paid until I die. Not bad when you consider my work experience was just short-term jobs. Of course I must supplement the income with other investment income, but it is real nice to see that money come in like clockwork every month.
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Old 01-07-2009, 08:47 AM   #4
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Others who have done it can give some perspective, but I'd add here that this is probably going to be a really difficult time to get one (unless you are in a specialized field that is pretty much always needed). Between shrinking budgets causing state and local government hiring freezes and an economy that makes a lot of job seekers put a premium on job security and benefits, the applicant pool may be at an all-time high even as the number of openings is lower.

Best of luck in any event.
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Old 01-07-2009, 09:00 AM   #5
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USAJobs is the primary web site, also some jobs are posted on the Army, Navy, Airforce, etc, websites.

It's tough to break in. One strategy (other than knowing somebody) is to apply for a lot of jobs just to get hired and get your foot in the door. Once you are a federal employee, it can be easier to move between agencies and job hop.

Expect to submit a ton of resumes and not hear a dang thing.
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Old 01-07-2009, 10:31 AM   #6
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Guess I was lucky, because I got the first federal job I applied for. It was an exceptionally good match to my skills and experience, so maybe that explains my good fortune.

It took a long time, though. I applied in April, gave up thinking I didn't get it by July, and didn't find out that I got the job until September. Didn't report to work until November.
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Old 01-07-2009, 10:32 AM   #7
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One thing I wonder, if you are a developer, isn't this likely a one way move? Once a government worker, if you should want to go back to private industry, will your skills and attitudes mesh with the more entrepreneurial and perhaps demanding environment of the software industry?

Ha
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Old 01-07-2009, 08:15 PM   #8
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One thing I wonder, if you are a developer, isn't this likely a one way move? Once a government worker, if you should want to go back to private industry, will your skills and attitudes mesh with the more entrepreneurial and perhaps demanding environment of the software industry?
I've worked in both the private and public sectors as a software engineer, and they both suck. You'd think that in the private sector everything that happens is traceable to the profit motive and thus there is a basis for arguing against stupid practices and policies, but in my experience the private sector is capable of just as much irreversible stupidity as the public sector. Why? Perhaps because fallible humans are running both... :confused:
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Old 01-07-2009, 11:32 PM   #9
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I would register with governmentjobs.com. Also dice.com is a great site in general for us I/T folks and they sometimes have public sector listings. Having worked in the insurance industry previous to my current government job, there wasn't much of a difference. Both pay a little less than industry norm (my work experience is in programming, CRM security, and IT support) but the benefits and job security is second to none. 3 years and counting...

As for specifics, don't know much about Federal. State jobs are hurting mainly due to a budget shortfall and falling RE prices, these budgets need to be balanced every year (as opposed to the fed gov't just printing more money) so sometimes the cuts are immediate. Arnold is trying to force workers to take unpaid furloughs amounting to a 10% decrease in pay. CalPERS retirement system is healthy, you can check their website for current fund value, but has taken major hit recently. I have a couple colleagues that work for CalPERS and their pay is much higher scale than my meager County pay

There's plenty of other news about OC, LA County, and LA City out there, especially negative stuff. But I will say that these places ARE hiring, but it will take a lot of perseverance and a little luck to land one of these positions. When and if you apply for a government position, make sure like anywhere else to tailor your resume accordingly. Often HR departments will use an outside search firm to narrow and rank top candidates, looking for finite experience and skill keywords. From there, they will conduct interviews based on the top 3 or 4 candidates on this supposed list.

Getting even more specific, in terms of technology many public companies don't exactly use cutting edge tech. Expect a lot of IBM black/green screens, DB2, legacy cobalt, and sprinkle in some object-oriented Java and .NET components. You mentioned software development, can you be a little more specific in terms of experience? Also, do you have a salary range in mind and would you be willing to take 20-25% less on salary in favor of a defined benefit pension plan and say a... 9/80 sechdule? I'm just curious, feel free to share more or less about it.. no biggie. Good luck in the search man, been there done that.
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Old 01-08-2009, 06:47 AM   #10
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USAJobs is the primary web site, also some jobs are posted on the Army, Navy, Airforce, etc, websites.

It's tough to break in. One strategy (other than knowing somebody) is to apply for a lot of jobs just to get hired and get your foot in the door. Once you are a federal employee, it can be easier to move between agencies and job hop.

Expect to submit a ton of resumes and not hear a dang thing.
There is something called a KSA, that you will see within the text of federal job postings.
KSA = Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities.
It is critical that whatever you submit as your resume follow the format of these KSAs and addresses ALL items in the published KSAs.
Please pay special attention to the minimum education and experience requirements for grade levels within a job series.
the Occupational Series and Grade Level (traditionally follows the General Schedule GS, newer can be DR or other obscure acronyms). If you have trouble deciphering the acronyms and position coding, ask about that here. There are enough current and retired feds here to help out with that.
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Old 01-08-2009, 01:01 PM   #11
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ALways address the KSAs. There is usually space provided in "Other" if you do an online application.

Education minimums are way out of whack, IMO. OPM.gov lists them. Most job announcements will either request experience, or education, or a combo. OPM wants Masters or PhD lvl education for GS9 or GS11 positions, which is absurd.
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Old 01-08-2009, 01:06 PM   #12
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The FBI is on a hiring binge, not just agents, but translators and IT people. Personally, if I were going to work for the Feds, the last agency I would work for would be the FB1, but it might just be me.

If I knew how great the pension and retirement would turn out to be, there would have been far fewer days in my past where I would have shown up for work without a big smile.
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Old 01-08-2009, 02:18 PM   #13
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...Education minimums are way out of whack, IMO. OPM.gov lists them. Most job announcements will either request experience, or education, or a combo. OPM wants Masters or PhD lvl education for GS9 or GS11 positions, which is absurd.
Agreed!
I entered civil service as a GS-11 with a BS and 8 yrs private sector experience.
I FIREd as a GS-13, step 5, after 18 yrs, with no Masters or PhD.
I would have had to leave the Technical track and enter the Management track to get the GS-14.
No thanks.

But at entry point from private sector, the candidate must meet the minimum education quals or they are filtered right out.
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Old 01-08-2009, 08:15 PM   #14
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DD works for an IT consulting firm and has a government agency as her sole client. That is another way to go, perhaps?
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Old 01-09-2009, 01:06 PM   #15
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Consultants don't get the fed pension, which IMO, is the most valuable.
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Old 01-09-2009, 01:36 PM   #16
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Consultants don't get the fed pension, which IMO, is the most valuable.
True. But if you have a spouse that gets employer-sponsored health insurance benefits, for example, the difference in hourly rate can fund one helluva retirement even without a DB pension.
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Old 01-09-2009, 01:44 PM   #17
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Agreed!
I entered civil service as a GS-11 with a BS and 8 yrs private sector experience.
I FIREd as a GS-13, step 5, after 18 yrs, with no Masters or PhD.
I would have had to leave the Technical track and enter the Management track to get the GS-14.
No thanks.

But at entry point from private sector, the candidate must meet the minimum education quals or they are filtered right out.
Conversely, I'm a GS-11 with no degree, and fully expect to see GS-12 in the not too distant future, also without a degree. I began my civil service career right after my discharge from active duty (enlisted). I went to work for the Air Force doing pretty much what I had done on active duty, working on aircraft armament systems. Over the years, the experience I gained from that position gave me the qualifications to get the GS-11 position. The degree is less important than the background/experience in many fields. In some fields, it is of course a requirement. For example, a profession that has legal requirements such as physician etc. I'm in a technical type position and that's where I want to stay till I retire. I've turned down management offerings and will continue to do so. I will, however, be looking to transer back down south if I survive this Wisconsin winter! If somebody's looking to break into federal service, they need to do an in-depth self-assessment to determine what in their background might be useful for their resume. It's easy to overlook some small detail that just might count more than they realize. A degree is great to have but it's not always a requirement for federal service. A degree may fill in for a lack of pertinent work experience, though. A substitution of experience with education, so to speak.
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:03 PM   #18
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Conversely, I'm a GS-11 with no degree, and fully expect to see GS-12 in the not too distant future, also without a degree. I began my civil service career right after my discharge from active duty (enlisted). I went to work for the Air Force doing pretty much what I had done on active duty, working on aircraft armament systems. Over the years, the experience I gained from that position gave me the qualifications to get the GS-11 position. The degree is less important than the background/experience in many fields. In some fields, it is of course a requirement. For example, a profession that has legal requirements such as physician etc. I'm in a technical type position and that's where I want to stay till I retire. I've turned down management offerings and will continue to do so. I will, however, be looking to transer back down south if I survive this Wisconsin winter! If somebody's looking to break into federal service, they need to do an in-depth self-assessment to determine what in their background might be useful for their resume. It's easy to overlook some small detail that just might count more than they realize. A degree is great to have but it's not always a requirement for federal service. A degree may fill in for a lack of pertinent work experience, though. A substitution of experience with education, so to speak.
Exactly! Once you get in the door, it is the experience that makes the promotions happen.
Good luck with that pending GS-12 promotion!
Many kudos to you for turning down the managerial track. It is not worth it if you prefer hands-on techie work. I was, however, treated differently after I passed on that "chance to excel". oh well!
I was in the 0855 series, BTW, one that has stringent educational minimums.
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Old 01-11-2009, 01:39 PM   #19
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My dept head may have an associates, may be working on bachelors, but not sure. She is a GS14. But, has been there for 29+ years. She was working on some sort of online college, but unsure if she is continuing.

I've found that my education isn't even factored in when applying and interviewing. I recently interviewed for 2 or 3 GS13 positions. I got the decision matrix from HRO after my interviews to see what skillset I could improve on since I was not selected for any of the positions.

There was not a category for education or certification. In all instances, the job went to someone in the same dept. So, you can't discount the familiarity factor. I probably should transfer into that dept, to I get some face time.

I'm 2210, Info Technology.
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Old 01-11-2009, 02:58 PM   #20
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My dept head may have an associates, may be working on bachelors, but not sure. She is a GS14. But, has been there for 29+ years. She was working on some sort of online college, but unsure if she is continuing.

I've found that my education isn't even factored in when applying and interviewing. I recently interviewed for 2 or 3 GS13 positions. I got the decision matrix from HRO after my interviews to see what skillset I could improve on since I was not selected for any of the positions.

There was not a category for education or certification. In all instances, the job went to someone in the same dept. So, you can't discount the familiarity factor. I probably should transfer into that dept, to I get some face time.

I'm 2210, Info Technology.
Bimmer, are these 'GS' classifications for the Federal level? I'm not very familiar with this terminology.
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