June 16, 2023


By Alex Harrington, Chair & Founder, Federal Career Connection, Inc.

The federal government is the largest employer in the United States, boasting a workforce of over 2.1 million federal employees. This figure surpasses the number of employees at Walmart by nearly 40%, and it stands as 10 times greater than the workforce of McDonald’s. The vast size of the federal government offers a multitude of diverse career paths: ranging from public affairs, human resources, and education to information technology, mathematics, engineering, security, and much more.

However, navigating the vast array of career fields and job opportunities within the federal government can be overwhelming for job seekers new to pursuing public positions. The sheer size of the federal government can leave one unsure of where to begin their journey.

So, let me help you with some helpful tips based on my own experience as a federal career coach and hiring manager. And as you read the following tips, remember to approach the federal job search by breaking it down into manageable tasks, or better aptly stated, “The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time’ (U.S. Army General, Creighton Williams Abrams Jr.).

Know Your Desired Career

It is crucial to first identify your desired career field within the federal government. By understanding your career aspirations, you will help optimize your federal job search by quickly searching and finding a federal career field.

Helpful Resource: if you are unsure of what type of career to get into, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook which “provides information on what workers do; the work environment; education, training, and other qualifications; pay; the job outlook; information on state and area data; similar occupations; and sources of additional information for more than 300 occupational profiles.”

Learn Key Qualifying Core Competencies

Once a federal career field is chosen, the next important task is to familiarize oneself with the qualifying core competencies associated with that particular field. These competencies serve as the foundation for evaluating candidates and determining their suitability for specific roles within the federal government.

Helpful Resources: You can learn what occupational series of federal jobs are best for you based on the Handbook of Occupational Groups & Families which “provides agencies with a starting point to classify positions.” You should also familiarize yourself with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Position Classification Standards for both white collar work and trades, craft, and labor positions. You can also check out Go Government’s federal job profiles.

Align Your KSA’s to the Key Qualifying Core Competencies

In order to enhance your chances of success, it is imperative to align your knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) with the qualifying core competencies of your chosen career field. This involves assessing your existing skill sets and identifying areas for improvement or further development. By bridging any gaps and proactively acquiring the necessary expertise, you can enhance your qualifications and stand out as a competitive candidate.

Helpful Resource: A competency is a set of measurable qualities like knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that a person needs to do their job or perform their occupational duties well. Learn more about federal job competencies at OPM’s MOSAIC studies and competencies.

Know the Federal Landscape

Lastly, it is crucial to direct your efforts towards agencies and federal organizations that employ professionals in your chosen career field. Research and target those specific entities that align with your interests and expertise. By focusing your job search on these organizations, you can increase the likelihood of finding relevant opportunities and effectively pursue a fulfilling federal career.

Helpful Resources: Learn more about the federal landscape at United States Government Manual and A-Z index of U.S. government departments and agencies. You can also check out our blog, “Before You Apply for a Federal Job, Learnthe Industry’s Landscape.”

As mentioned, it’s important to clarify your desired career field, understand its qualifying core competencies, align your skills with those competencies, and target agencies and federal organizations that match your chosen career field. By following these steps, you can enhance your federal job search and navigate the federal job landscape with confidence.

About FCC, Inc.

Federal Career Connection, Inc. is an all-volunteer run program. It consists of a cadre of federal insiders and workforce development experts, including hiring managers and trainers, whose mission is to increase awareness and participation of public, national, military, or other federal service professions for individuals who have a calling to serve.

To stay up to date on FCC, Inc., please visit our website, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter, and sign up for our events and much more through our partner organization Career Network Ministry’s Meetup page. You can also support us financially or volunteer with us.  


Editorial Note: All the information in this blog is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. The text of this blog was taken from an FCC Inc. webinar: "BEFORE YOUAPPLY FOR A FEDERAL JOB, LEARN THE INDUSTRY’S LANDSCAPE" (January 24,2023), supported by Dragon Professional (Version and reviewed in ChatGPT (2023-06-08). OpenAI Blog does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find in this blog, is strictly at your own risk. FCC Inc. will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of this blog.

Alex Harrington
Chair & Founder
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