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6 Tips to Find a Job With the Federal Government

Want to work for Uncle Sam? The jobs aren't just in D.C. Here's where to look and how to get your résumé noticed

4. Go directly to an agency's website

Once you have pinpointed the agency you're aiming for, check out its job board directly. "Most agencies have their own job boards, and you may see additional positions on those sites that you don't see on the broader site," McManus says. In most cases, you still have to go through USAJobs to apply, but there are positions that are exempt from the competitive system and allow for more direct hiring.

5. Start with short-term government experience

These are often available through political appointments, or term appointments, where you're doing work for a short term or on a specific project for a year or more. Term appointments are listed on USAJobs.

Check out special programs. For example, the Peace Corps actively recruits retired leaders to be volunteers, although some positions are paid. The Presidential Innovation Fellows program recruits the best and brightest in the technology field to come and do a yearlong shift in federal service. There are also government-sponsored fellowship programs such as Code for America and Fuse Corps that place leaders from the private sector into government for one-year stints.

6. Be tenacious

You've got to hang with it and know that the process is not a short one. It's time-consuming. "If people know that upfront, they're more willing to stick with it," says McManus.

It can easily take four months or longer to get an offer. This varies from one agency to the next, but 80 to 90 days between application and hiring is the norm. "I always encourage prospective job applicants to make sure they apply to numerous jobs over a series of months and give it time," Ressler advises. "When I conducted a personal government job search, I applied to 40 jobs over three months," he says. "I got four interviews and two offers. The time from first application to starting the position I took was approximately three months."

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and  Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

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