Friday, July 31, 2015

New USAJOBS site is coming soon

The Obama administration is planning several tweaks to USAJobs, aiming to make the notoriously creaky federal jobs portal easier to use.

Officials at the Office of Personnel Management also hope to transform the site from a static repository of resumes into a more dynamic tool that helps federal hiring managers leverage data to make hiring decisions.

The planned website revamp is part of a series of workforce initiatives announced a few months ago during a webcast by former OPM Director Katherine Archuleta.

The site redesign has been in the works for a while. The agency turned its "innovation lab" loose on the problem-child of a website last year.

"We know that this important gateway to federal service does not currently meet the needs of the very large and diverse group of Americans who use it," said Tracy Orrison, who leads the site's user experience and data analytics team.

Orrison's team relied on focus groups and user surveys of hundreds of site visitors to come up with the areas most in need of overhauling. She promised a "beginning to end" look at the USAJobs experience.

However, don't necessarily look for a "big-bang" relaunch of the website. OPM, instead, plans to roll out new features and fixes every 12 weeks throughout the year, Orrison said.

That will allow users to get acclimated to site changes, she said. It could also prevent a repeat of what happened the last time OPM undertook a major update to the jobs site. A crush of jobseekers visiting the site in the days immediately after it relaunched in the fall of 2011 led to repeated site crashes . The near-"death spiral" proved a black eye to OPM, which had in-sourced the jobs site after previously contracting it out to Monster.com for several years.

The latest redesign also aims to turn the site into a veritable data mine for agency HR officials.

"USAJobs has a lot of data related to the federal hiring process, which until recently has never really been analyzed on a large-scale basis," said Graham Kerster, USAJobs data scientist.

A dashboard developed in consultation with the White House Office and Science and Technology Policy provides hiring managers with a better understanding of the applicant pool for federal jobs, particularly in the science, technology, education and mathematics fields. Hiring managers can also crunch the data to see why jobseekers for these STEM positions abandon the application process, he said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Finding a Federal Job in 2015: What Works and What Doesn't

Federal job seekers do not tend to approach the search in a fruitful organized manner, using knowledge of themselves and their myriad talents. Instead they log onto USAJOBS, the official one-stop source for federal jobs and employment information, and scroll through thou-sands of "vacancy announcements."
 
An outside view of the federal government as an employer often renders it as an unapproachable, intimidating presence, allowing in only those who have the good fortune of being on the "inside." This foreboding aura is often intimidating to a job seeker hoping to "crack the code" of federal jargon and the seemingly endless array of hiring rules and regulations. Applicants often make errors that sabotage their chances at federal employment. Myths abound, and without guidance and information, jobseekers can find themselves in a maze of confusion, wasting time applying for jobs that do not fit them or their qualifications.
 
Tried Methods That  Don't Work
Some of the most common mistakes that federal jobseekers make include:
 
  1. Beginning the job search without a target job or occupation. On any given day, the federal job site USAJOBS lists more than 5,000 job openings. Scrolling through vacancy announcements searching for terminology and language that is a loose fit for qualifications can waste countless hours.
  2. Taking any federal job to get a foot in the door. This old adage is no longer solid advice in strategic career planning. Once federal managers have completed the arduous hiring process and successfully filled a position, they are reluctant to permit employees to move laterally, even if there's a better fitting position down the hall. In fact, the law states that job transfer is required only in the case of promotion. Therefore, it is not always easy to move around once an applicant has been hired.
  3. Narrowing the search geographically with a focus only on Washington, D.C. The majority of federal jobs are located in areas outside of Washington, D.C. In fact, only 15 percent of federal jobs are located in Washington. Applicants may neglect many opportunities by restricting their search to the nation's capital.
  4. Overlooking networking as a powerful federal job search tool. Many federal jobseekers focus only on online sites and electronic applications. Although federal law requires that the federal application process adhere to strict guidelines, there are many ways to find out about federal opportunities. By attending networking events or utilizing other methods in which they can become known personally and professionally by hiring managers, applicants can distinguish themselves in the crowded federal marketplace.
  5. Applying with a generic resume. It is critical that applicants develop a targeted resume for every type of position for which they are applying. A "one-size-fits-all" resume robs them of the opportunity to market qualifications in the context of the job they are seeking. Federal jobseekers often are not aware of the amount of information available to them in the vacancy announcement, which details the skills and competencies needed to be qualified. Using the announcement as a guide provides applicants with a framework upon which to create a targeted resume.
  6. Avoiding self-promotion. Fearing that they will sound as if they are bragging, many applicants operate under the myth that selling themselves in a job search campaign is not respectable. However, in a competitive marketplace, those applicants who have the ability to toot their own horn likely are the ones who get noticed, interviewed, and hired. It also is important to support one's claims with facts, circumstances, and examples that illustrate successes. These success stories add interest and depth to the application. They're a much better approach than recounting lackluster facts and dates.
  7. Not spending enough time developing application materials. Applying for a federal job requires a definite commitment of time and energy. Some estimate that a careful and exhaustive examination of job requirements and preparation of targeted materials may take 10 to 12 hours. Much less than that means that applicants have not devoted sufficient time for systematic review and writing. Applicants should not only peruse the "Overviews" section, but analyze the "Duties and Qualifications." Jobseekers can increase their success rate by tailoring applications to job requirements and highlighting resumes with the unique applicable qualifications they bring to the position.
  8. Insufficient knowledge of the federal government's agencies and missions. Applicants need to be aware of the variety of occupations and agencies within the government.
  9. Inadequate research into their own career aspirations. Federal hopefuls need to take time to fully appreciate and articulate their worth to the government employment. They need to inventory their best skills and match them with federal job requirements.
Exploring Federal Careers
Federal job seekers and the professionals who guide them would do well to enter a career exploration process, in which they assess strengths, talents, passions, and goals and then determine the federal jobs which match. Career counselors conduct this process routinely with their clients in the private sector. Colleges and universities prepare their graduates for the work world outside federal service. But, for some reason, the career counseling field and jobseekers themselves have overlooked matching goals and talents to federal jobs.

 
Federal jobseekers also may wish to research the strategic plans of the agency in which they have an interest. In a quick online search, such as "DHHS Strategic Plan," applicants can find out which direction the agency--in this case homeland security--is headed, and other trends and plans. Using this information, applicants can determine if this is an agency whose direction coincides with their own goals. For example, if the strategic plan of a health agency shows that it is trending toward using technology to educate health professionals, a jobseeker may determine that this blend of technology and health education matches his career interest and past experience.

 
With recent reforms in federal hiring to streamline the process and provide selecting officials with tools to choose the most qualified applicants, it is more important than ever for jobseekers to specifically articulate their own worth and career ambitions in the context of the job for which they are applying.

 
Reaping the Rewards
A federal job search must include a process of self-selection. Job seekers need to rule out jobs that do not meet their own self-identified criteria. Without including a career plan in the job search, a government career can wind up dissatisfying and unfulfilling. Finding work that maximizes potential and expertise is an asset that pays dividends for years to come. Successful job seekers secure work that is meaningful, which increases their motivation and productivity. Managers reap the rewards of good hires. Satisfied workers perform better. And, the American taxpayer receives a return on its investment in employees who contribute positively and absolutely to the work of the federal government.

 
In a time of shrinking federal budgets, hiring freezes, and other mandates to do more with less, federal managers often worry if they will be able to conduct the business of their agency in accordance with mission priorities. Having the right person in the right job can heighten the success of federal managers and the agencies for which they work.
 

Hiring Reform Aims for Speed, Simplicity
On May 11, 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum to agencies, directing them to implement several important changes to the overall hiring approach, including moving the federal government to a more streamlined, resume-based system. Federal hiring reform, implemented in November 2011, recognized that the government's outdated and cumbersome recruitment and hiring practices presented a barrier to attracting and selecting qualified applicants. Concurrent with hiring reform, OPM is updating and modernizing USAJOBS.  The new webpage should be up sometime between now 2016.


The President's Requirements of Federal Hiring Reform


* Pathways for students and recent graduates. The federal government has had trouble competing with other sectors in recruiting and hiring students and recent graduates. To address these difficulties, President Obama signed Executive Order 13562, Recruiting and Hiring Students and Recent Graduates, on December 27, 2010, to improve the way the federal government recruits hires, develops, and retains students and recent graduates.


* Elimination of written essays. The use of essays, Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs), often considered burdensome and unwieldy by applicants, has been omitted as part of the application process. However, applicants may be required to complete essays at some later point in the process.


* Resume and cover letter. Applicants can submit resumes and cover letters that are similar to those used in private-sector applications.


* Category rating. With category rating, the names of all eligible candidates in the highest quality category are sent to the selecting official for consideration. Without being limited to the top three eligible candidates (previously called the rule of three), the selecting official chooses from among all qualified applicants, increasing applicants' opportunities for consideration.


* Manager accountability and involvement. Managers will be more involved in the hiring process, rather than conferring the primary responsibility to human resources offices.


* Quality and speed of hiring. One of the challenges facing federal agencies in attracting and recruiting qualified individuals is meeting applicants' expectations for user-friendly application procedures, clear communication about the hiring process, and an engaging orientation experience. This new approach to federal hiring is designed to focus on the applicants' expectations and needs and interests, and reduce the time to hire for critical positions.


* Applicant notification. Managers will notify applicants about the status of their applications at various points in the selection process.


In summary, there is little reason for federal jobseekers to create their application materials in a vacuum. They should know and illustrate their qualifications, tying both to a targeted vacancy announcement and the mission statement of the post's organization. Virtual access to strategic plans makes it possible for applicants to identify trends and demonstrate their employment potential by documenting past successes in similar circumstances. Success stories make the case that the applicant is the best fit for the job. Ultimately hires from a search well done results in greater job satisfaction for the individual, increased productivity for the organization, and a greater return on investment for the American public.
 

Federal job seekers must articulate their own worth and career ambitions in applications and tie their experience to agency missions and strategies. With hiring reform, current federal jobseekers may have more luck in a streamlined review process.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kudos to USAJOBS: The Popular Government Hiring Site is About to Get a Pagelift

The Obama administration is planning several tweaks to USAJobs, aiming to make the notoriously creaky federal jobs portal easier to use.

Officials at the Office of Personnel Management also hope to transform the site from a static repository of resumes into a more dynamic tool that helps federal hiring managers leverage data to make hiring decisions.

The planned website revamp is part of a series of workforce initiatives announced Monday during a webcast by OPM Director Katherine Archuleta.

The site redesign has been in the works for a while. The agency turned its “innovation lab” loose on the problem-child of a website last year.

“We know that this important gateway to federal service does not currently meet the needs of the very large and diverse group of Americans who use it,” said Tracy Orrison, who leads the site’s user experience and data analytics team.

Orrison’s team relied on focus groups and user surveys of hundreds of site visitors to come up with the areas most in need of overhauling. She promised a “beginning to end” look at the USAJobs experience.

However, don’t necessarily look for a “big-bang” relaunch of the website. OPM, instead, plans to roll out new features and fixes every 12 weeks throughout the year, Orrison said.

That will allow users to get acclimated to site changes, she said. It could also prevent a repeat of what happened the last time OPM undertook a major update to the jobs site. A crush of jobseekers visiting the site in the days immediately after it relaunched in the fall of 2011 led to repeated site crashes. The near-“death spiral” proved a black eye to OPM, which had in-sourced the jobs site after previously contracting it out to Monster.com for several years.

The latest redesign also aims to turn the site into a veritable data mine for agency HR officials.
"USAJobs has a lot of data related to the federal hiring process, which until recently has never really been analyzed on a large-scale basis,” said Graham Kerster, USAJobs data scientist.

A dashboard developed in consultation with the White House Office and Science and Technology Policy provides hiring managers with a better understanding of the applicant pool for federal jobs, particularly in the science, technology, education and mathematics fields. Hiring managers can also crunch the data to see why jobseekers for these STEM positions abandon the application process, he said.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Five Tips to Help You Deal with Older or Much Younger Workers at the Office

1. CHALLENGE STEREOTYPES.
A powerful way to demonstrate respect for others is to move past labels and treat people as individuals with unique experiences, preferences, and interests. Begin by examining your own ideas about other age groups. Then help others recognize when age stereotypes may be hurting collaboration. To challenge stereotypes:

• Treat everyone as an individual.
• Assess how age stereotypes may color your views.
• Encourage others to reject age stereotypes.

2. FIND COMMON GROUND.
While each of us is unique, we share more than you might think. Invest time discovering what you share—needs, goals, interests, points of view—with individuals from other generations. What you share with and learn from them can strengthen the human connection and sense of community that support collaborative work relationships. To find common ground:

• Ask respectful questions.
• Listen with an open mind.
• Connect on the human level shared by all.

3. FIND THE TALENTS IN EVERYONE.
Regardless of generation, everyone has something important to contribute. It’s a matter of taking initiative to find those talents and match them with the challenges at hand. When you respectfully ask about the interests, abilities, and experience of others, you enhance their sense of competence and encourage them to contribute to a shared effort. To find the talents in everyone:

• Assume that everyone has value to contribute.
• Ask others about their interests, abilities, and experience.
• Allow for a range of productive work styles.

4. MIX IT UP.
Most of us prefer to spend time with people like ourselves, including those of similar age. Working across generations helps realize the tremendous value of diverse perspectives, which often spark creativity and innovation. Your daily effort to offer and ask for help builds strong connections among age groups and makes everyone’s job easier. To mix it up:

• Partner across generations.
• Find collaborative ways to share your perspective.
• Respectfully ask for and offer ideas and help.

5. EXPECT A LOT.
Low expectations due to age stereotyping wreak many forms of havoc, in particular the self-fulfilling prophecy. We tend to get what we expect of ourselves and others. In contrast, high expectations—for how and how well people apply their talents—demonstrate our respect for others and promote increasing competence over time. To expect a lot:

• Challenge yourself to learn, grow, and perform.
• Hold yourself and others to high standards.
• Observe how expectations drive effort and results.

The long-term success of any organization depends on contributions from employees of all ages. Employees who apply these practices to see one another as they really are, not as stereotypes, can help support a motivating, collaborative, and productive workplace.

What We Share
Everyone shares at least four universal needs in the workplace. People of any age feel highly motivated when the following needs are met:

RESPECT – feeling valued as a unique individual. A recent study found that respect from peers, superiors, and direct reports is the top-rated workplace need of all generational groups. Conversely, we found that expressions of lack of respect have a distinctly depressive impact on workplace productivity, creativity, and relationships.

COMPETENCE – feeling valued as knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced. People have a powerful need to hone and demonstrate skills, whether technical, interpersonal, or leadership. Opportunities to develop and show competence—as well as recognition for effort and results— are powerful motivators for every generation.

CONNECTION – collaborating with trusted colleagues and co-workers. Regardless of age, people want to collaborate. Studies show this intrinsic need more powerful than extrinsic needs, such as the desire to earn rewards or avoid punishment. Cross-generational effort brings results through a melding of views and experience.

AUTONOMY – exercising self-control within guidelines to achieve shared goals. No one has total autonomy in the workplace because all must contribute to shared results. Still, people crave autonomy, or freedom, to shape their work to support the work of others. This kind of flexibility helps people of all ages to thrive in an organizational setting.

Sources: Deci, E.L., and R.M. Ryan. “Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological wellbeing across life’s domains.” Canadian Psychology 49 (2008): 14–23.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Do you have the Skills to be a Manager?

By Elizabeth Butler, Dreamfedjob editor

A few weeks ago Dreamfedjob.com was looking to hire a new Marketing Manager. The position was advertised and we received a couple of hundred resumes, no kidding. There were so many applicants for this position that management divided the resumes between four of us and asked us to set aside resumes that showed leadership, people, thinking and work style skills.

Much to our surprise, the majority of the resumes we reviewed did not include examples or specific information addressing the skills listed below. This made our job easier since we could disqualify most of the resumes in a short period of time. If you are applying for a management job, make sure you address the skills listed below and don't forget to give examples or quantify results, where appropriate, throughout your work history.

1) Leadership Skills
Not surprisingly, Managers and Supervisors need to possess a strong set of leadership skills in order to be effective and constructive. Specific areas of leadership that have been found to be important to leadership success include one’s ability to effectively and willing mentor, coach, and develop their subordinates, one’s ability to empower and motivate employees, and the ability to provide behavioral feedback in a constructive way. Certain types of managerial roles require leadership skills that other managerial positions may not. For example, a Team Leader on the production floor would need to possess leadership skills related to employee safety that requires him or her to correct, address, or educate others about any hazardous situations on the job, where as our Marketing Manager would not.

2) People Skills
Let’s face it: if you aren’t comfortable working and communicating with others in the workplace, a managerial position likely isn’t going to work out. People skills that have been found to be predictive of successful leadership performance include one’s ability to effectively handle and resolve conflicts, one’s ability to work collaboratively and effectively with others, and having an awareness of one’s actions and how those actions impact others. Being able to engage in appropriate, interpersonal behaviors in the workplace is key to building successful and productive Supervisor-Incumbent relationships.

3) Thinking Skills
Having the ability to thoroughly and effectively make decisions and solve job-related problems is critical to supervisor success. One of the most common duties of a Manager or Supervisor is to make sure that client, customer, and employee obstacles are being removed or lessened. This includes making sure questions are being answered, proper actions are being taken, and problems are being resolved. All of these actions require one to use critical thinking and decision making skills. You can have the friendliest manager in the world, who possesses all the necessary leadership skills, but if they can’t solve problems, they will likely fail at being an effective Supervisor or Manager.

4) Work Style Skills
Becoming a leader does not mean that you get to stop being a working employee. Although Managers and Supervisors typically have the power to delegate, certain working skills are always going to be necessary to use and demonstrate. For example, it’s important to be and be viewed as reliable and accountable as a Manager or Supervisor. Other work style skills that are important to managerial success include one’s ability to plan and organize, stay proactive, and adapt to changing circumstances in the work place. Without these powers, becoming a successful manager is unlikely.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Interview: Tell me what you know about our company?

By Elizabeth Butler, Dreamfedjob editor

This question falls into this category as the new employer will be assuming that you want to join their company because it is a sound and progressive career move for you. It is, isn’t it? That’s a hint … Again, this question will come up time after time. If you follow Dreamfedjob’s blog, this question has been addressed before. It is one that you expect to be asked. Right? So you ‘Googled’ them, right? You went onto the corporate website and took some notes, facts and figures.

Well, you employ some 23,000 people around the world, your main areas of operation are outsourcing and managed services, systems integration and consulting services, high-end server technology, cybersecurity and cloud management software, and maintenance and support services, your …Zzzzzz – I’m asleep already. Anybody can repeat facts from a website. It doesn’t mean you know anything about the company at all.

Now while I’m not suggesting that you don’t quote them some devastatingly interesting statistics around their niche market specialisms etc., what I am saying is get behind the facts that they present to you. What is their market share? Who are their competitors? What threats are there to their continuing growth? What opportunities might they wish to exploit? What did their CEO say in their last annual report?

By all means go the company’s website, but don’t just settle for the company line. Find out who their competitors are and what they are saying. Start by going to SEC.gov and see what the company is up to. For this example I am pretending to have an interview with Unisys Corp as a Data Analyst/Developer job.

After 10 minutes on SEC.gov I found this:
  • Revenue for the nine months ended September 30, 2014 was $2,450.6 million compared with $2,460.6 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2013. Services revenue over the first nine months of 2014 declined 1% and technology revenue increased 2% in the first nine months of 2014 due to higher sales of enterprise-class software and servers.
  • Revenue from the company’s enterprise-class software and servers increased 96.5% for the three months ended September 30, 2014 compared with the three months ended September 30, 2013. The increase was due to higher sales of the company’s ClearPath products.
  • More than half of the company’s total revenue is derived from international operations.
  • There is legal case pending regarding a lawsuit between Unisys Belgium SA-NV, a Unisys subsidiary, and the Ministry of Justice of Belgium.
  • There is another legal case pending where Lufthansa AG sued Unisys Deutschland GmbH, a Unisys subsidiary (Unisys Germany), in the District Court of Frankfurt, Germany, for allegedly failing to perform properly its obligations during the initial phase of a 2004 software design.
  • There is also a matter arising from the sale of Unisys’ Health Information Management (HIM) business to Molina Information Systems, LLC (Molina) under a 2010 Asset Purchase Agreement (APA).
Can you imagine interviewing five people and all of them trot out the same facts and figures taken from the same source? What if the sixth interviewee reminds you that in 2011 you were ranked number 7 in Information Technology Services by Fortune 500 Magazine; however, Peter A. Altabef, the new President and Chief Executive Officer effective January 1, 2015, with experience leading MICROS Systems, Inc., Perot Systems and Dell Inc. has a strategy in place to take you to number one in 2015, and that involves … No contest! Get him/her back for a final interview!

I’m asking you to be a bit smarter than the average bear on this one. Be creative about how you illustrate what you know about their company.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Life is not a Dress Rehearsal

by Elizabeth Butler, Dreamfedjob editor

I recently read a motivational article that talked about a "deathbed" exercise. This exercise aims at making you think of the things that you would think about in the last hours of your live, i.e. deathbed.

For example:

  • What are you glad and sad about your work life?
  • Your relationships?
  • Your charitable efforts?
  • Your hobbies?

Or in my case:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Having gone through this exercise, I'd like to encourage you take a few minutes to complete the exercise and find out if you need or should make changes to your life, direction, goals, etc.

Years ago I came across a bumper sticker that said "Life is not a dress rehearsal."  I dismissed it and got on with my day.  A few hours later I started to think about it and the more I thought about it the more sense it made. At the time I worked as a phone collection specialist, for a horrible boss, who had an even more horrible boss. I believe my salary was 19K or so per year. I was a young, miserable, low-level employee at a very small company in Washington DC working for a horrible boss.

Like a plane flying on automatic pilot, I was going through my daily routines thinking I was never going to die and had all the time in the world to make choices, personal and professional. If John McLaughlin, executive producer and host of The McLaughlin Group had been by my side he would had said: "WRONG!"

Pretending you are going to live forever is detrimental to your enjoyment of life. It is detrimental in the same way that it would be wrong for a football player to pretend there was no end to the game he was playing. That player would reduce his intensity, adopt a lazy playing style, and, of course, end up not having any fun at all. Without an end, there is no game. Without being conscious of death, you can't be fully aware of the gift of life.

Yet many of us (including myself) keep pretending that our life's game will have no end. We keep planning to do great things some day when we feel like it. We assign our goals and dreams to that imaginary day called "tomorrow," or "soon." We find ourselves saying, "Someday I'll do this," and "Someday I'll do that."

Confronting our mortality doesn't have to wait until we run out of life. In fact, being able to vividly imagine our last hours on our deathbed makes the cliché “Life is not a Dress Rehearsal” something to really think about. James Dean once said “Dream as if you will live forever; live as if you will die today.”