Applying for a job with the federal government is very different than applying for one in the private sector.
That’s what Fort Lewis College students learned last week at a workshop hosted by FLC Career Services and the San Juan National Forest. The focus was to help them seek employment locally or nationally at any federal agency.
A federal job hunt starts with usajobs.gov the government’s online hiring website, which can be set up to offer alerts on openings for types of jobs in certain locations with specific agencies.
“I was looking for guidance on navigating the USA Jobs website,” said Hannah Burlingame, an FLC junior majoring in English and communications, who is interested in working for the State Department. “I also wanted to know what salary range, or GS level, I should be searching for at my education level.”
“You might have more success shooting for a lower grade level in a location that’s not as popular,” said Pauline Ellis, San Juan National Forest partnerships coordinator. “You’ll also want to apply for a work schedule that suits your situation; there are temporary, permanent, seasonal and trainee positions.”
In addition to a quick tutorial on navigating the website, local Forest Service officials talked about what it’s like to work for the federal government.
“It was helpful to hear firsthand accounts from federal employees,” said Tate Howes, an FLC freshman studying anthropology. “I’m very interested in federal work and wanted to learn about the system.”
Some government jobs are geared toward current students, such as the Pathways Program or internship programs. For those with recent graduate degrees, Presidential Management Fellowships may be available.
“I’m OK with starting at the bottom with a seasonal job and working my way up,” said Evan Hornstein, an FLC senior in environmental studies, who is interested in a seasonal job so he can work summers in between semesters.
“I’ve always been interested in working outdoors for the Park Service or Forest Service,” said Clay Adams-Berger, an FLC senior in environmental studies. “I’m thinking of applying for a wildland firefighter position in Oregon next summer while studying for my master’s in conservation biology.”
Because many government jobs attract a large amount of interest, federal staffers said it’s important to try to stand out from the crowd.
“If you’re really serious, spend the time tailoring your application and resume to the particular requirements listed for each position you apply for,” said San Juan National Forest Staff Officer Mark Lambert. “You can apply for as many jobs as you like, and you can save up to five different résumés on the website.”
The students were also advised to go above and beyond the electronic process and reach out to the agency or agencies they are interested in.
“The human touch is very important with government hiring officials,” said Jeremiah Hyslop, who recently landed a job as San Juan National Forest executive assistant.
Fort Lewis has been partnering with the San Juan National Forest for six years to offer the federal jobs workshop.
“We attract students majoring in everything from anthropology and environmental studies to political science and sociology,” said Tana Verzuh, FLC Career Services coordinator for Arts and Sciences. “A lot come in because they want to stay here, but we’re seeing more who are willing to look for jobs in other places, which is a good way to get your foot in the door with the federal government.”
Ann Bond is the public affairs specialist for the San Juan National Forest.