It’s About Time
Those eight months of rejections and silence from prospective employers taught me an important lesson: Building a network takes time.
According to staffing expert and Senior Recruiter, Zachary Plotkin, LION, “The process will take time, be patient, and don’t jump for the sake of jumping,” [when starting a transition from public to private sector].
Plotkin continued, “Networking and marketability are of the utmost importance and these things take time to learn and nurture.”
I had discovered while job hunting that building a network via LinkedIn (or any other professional online platform) was the most effective way to learn about the industry in which you want to dive, but it is also effective in establishing connections.
However, according to former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Agent David Griesbach, there are pitfalls that prospective employees, no matter their background or current industry, should avoid while networking online.
“Please don’t bombard strangers on LinkedIn with your resume and just assume someone will correspond with you. Finesse your approach, ask an appropriate, industry-related question or solicit a piece of advice from a networking group on the platform.”
Working in the Risk and Compliance field, we understand there are dangers in blindly accepting connection requests from individuals we don’t know, and so finessing your approach could be key to successful networking in this virtual world we live.
Griesbach explains, “Joining public-private working groups, whether online or in person, can be a great start to establishing trust within your professional network. This can take time, but it can also pay off in the long run.”
The US Federal Work Force
According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the U.S. federal workforce is composed of an estimated 2.1 million civilian workers.
Annually, hundreds of thousands of federal civilian employees leave the work force for a myriad of reasons, listed here such as retirement, reduction in force, terminations, death, or other reasons.
This means that every year brings with it a fresh supply of potentially thousands of LinkedIn connection requests or resumes sent around online.
So, what can a hiring manager do to further understand the value of a resume that lands in their inbox?
Communication from the Hiring Manager
Typically hiring managers, in any sector, tend to come to an interview with a candidate armed with questions to determine the suitability of that particular person within their company. Blending more communication regarding the company’s needs and the specific job requirements could help the company better uncover top notch candidates.
To further develop communication with a recently separated federal civilian employee, hiring managers can take the following steps:
1. If your company has a program or office for veterans needs, engage members of this group to ask questions of how their backgrounds have fit into the corporate culture
2. Ask specific questions regarding verbiage on a candidate’s resume, such as “The word Operations is listed on here multiple times, our company interprets Operations as (insert example here), is this similar to what you have experienced within Government? If not, how?
3. Communication to the candidate the specific skills the job description is requiring and ask if the candidate possesses those skills within their federal position.
These are just a couple of examples of how hiring managers could better engage candidates within this process.
It’s Not What You Know, it’s Who You Know
In my case, a personal contact helped me break into the industry. For others, it may take a combination of a strong network and asking the right questions.
“Take advantage of the transition office your government agency has in place, such as a ‘skill bridge’. These offices partner with private sector companies and provide information to allow departing employees a better understanding of what skills companies are looking for.” Griesbach explained.
These transition offices can offer advice on how to word your resume so the private sector can better understand the skills you present. In other words, they can translate “Government Speak” into “Private Sector Lingo,” which is key to even landing a first interview with a hiring manager, according to Plotkin.
“A public sector employee should reach out to have a discussion with a private sector employee. If you don’t know a private sector employee, reach out to your network via LinkedIn, networking groups, or peers to see if they know someone to simply talk to about their company.”
Don’t Give Up
Due to my geographic location, I wasn’t able to utilize this transition office to the fullest extent, making my break into private sector that much more difficult. Luckily, I had spent the better part of a year making connections online and attending public-private working groups in my area, which made all the difference.
“If you’re going to leave a US Government position, do your research on what industry you want to enter and don’t give up. Try not to be discouraged by rejections or unanswered emails. If your passionate enough about a particular industry, you’ll eventually find your spot.” – David Griesbach.
Crossing over into the private sector can be a daunting task, but if you arm yourself with time and methodical rapport-building skills (network building), it can help you safely navigate through this process.
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