Lily Whiteman on Riding the Federal Hiring Wave

Lily WhitemanThe following is a guest post by Lily Whiteman, federal career coach and author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job: Your Complete Guide to Opportunities, Internships, Resumes and Cover Letters, Application Essays (KSAs), Interviews, Salaries, Promotions and More! (AMACOM 2008). She is writing about the new enthusiasm for government service with a new administration in the White House.

Greetings from Washington, D.C.!, or rather, Greetings from Obamaville! Here in the nation’s capital, the atmosphere is still charged with post-election energy and a sense that these are truly historic days.

The continuing post-election excitement manifests itself here in many ways–from the many billboards and urban murals welcoming our new President that are distributed throughout the city to the ongoing tendency of DC residents to turn conversations at social and professional gatherings to “who stood where” and “who saw what” at the maul during the inauguration. Such discussions are invariably accompanied by the proud swapping of digital cameras displaying grainy photos of the festivities.

And as a federal employee, I frequently observe evidence of post-election excitement among public servants. A case in point: one of my colleagues at the federal agency where I work recently set up in her office a life-sized cardboard cutout of Barrack Obama. Within minutes of the cardboard President’s arrival, a line of feds snaked from my colleague’s office into the hallway–all of whom were waiting to have their digital photos taken with him. Such enthusiasm has been generated, in part, by President Obama’s recent pledge to “make it cool again” to work for the federal government.


Partly because of post-election excitement, federal job openings are currently drawing record numbers of applications. Other factors that are also increasing the popularity of federal jobs, include:

• Spiking unemployment rates, which have increased appreciation for secure, well-paying federal jobs.
• The healthy work/life balance offered by federal jobs.
• Post 9/11 respect for public service.


What’s more, even as mass layoffs continue in the private sector, federal employers will continue to annually fill well over 200,000 dynamic federal jobs located throughout the U.S. These jobs include positions of all levels — from internships that are being filled by students and recent grads to executive positions that are being filled by record numbers of private sector employees.

This federal hiring wave, which will continue no matter how bad the economy may get, is being generated by:

• A huge retirement wave: The retirements of record numbers of baby boomers within the federal workforce will open up about 40 percent of federal jobs in the next few years — including about 90 percent of federal managers.
• New federal priorities, which are producing aggressive recruitment campaigns at dozens of federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the VA, the FBI, intelligence agencies, the Peace Corps, the State Department, the SEC and other agencies that address banking and financial management.
• The need for federal agencies to supplement undersized staffs. (Remember: federal agencies must fulfill their mandates even during tough economic times.)

Now has never been a better time to ride the federal hiring wave.

Lily Whiteman is a popular contributor to the “Jobs” section of The Washington Post, the career columnist for Federal Times, and a senior writer at the National Science Foundation. As a federal career coach, she has helped hundreds of professionals of all levels—from recent grads to executives—land jobs and earn promotions. She is the author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job: Your Complete Guide to Opportunities, Internships, Resumes and Cover Letters, Application Essays (KSAs), Interviews, Salaries, Promotions and More! (AMACOM 2008). She lives in Washington, D.C. Visit her website at

Stay tuned next week for a guest post by Stewart Liff, author of Managing Your Government Career.


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