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Why Work for the Federal Government-A Couple of Tips

Updated on February 10, 2011

Veterans Status


I am a recently retired federal employee, having a total of almost 33 years of combined civilian and military service. My specialty was the negotiation, award and administration of federal contracts and grants. The federal government has proven to be a great employer.


Are you a veteran? You enjoy an advantage in the selection and hiring process. In the event of substantially equally qualified applicants, the veteran receives preferential consideration. You may apply and be considered a candidate for many vacancies not available to the general public. Federal personnel divisions take you very seriously, to the point of first hired, last fired. If there is a RIF (Reduction in Force), which is uncommon, you will be the one closing the door and turning off the lights. A grateful nation certainly believes that you deserve it.

Are You Geographically Flexible?

Are you flexible, geographically, as to where you are willing to work? You need to be as it will get your ‘foot in the door’ that much sooner. To illustrate this point, let me share a story with you. I separated from the Air Force in California after 4 years active duty. Jobs were hard to come by, as we were in the midst of a recession during the early 1980’s. I resided in metro Los Angeles at the time. I had placed applications in for several federal vacancies in the area and did not have a great deal of luck. Consequently, I extended the geographic area that I would consider for employment. I got a call from a federal agency located in Southeast Montana, not far from the Custer Battlefield Monument, in response to one of my applications that found its way there. They were looking for a trainee in government purchasing. I took the job, drove away from the Los Angeles area with platform shoes and disco duds in tow. I knew that it was going to be a bit colder in Montana, but I believed I that I could manage as it was a job/opportunity and after all, they hired me. I am African-American, so that you know. The nearest sizable city was Denver, 600 miles to the south. This was a culture shock, to be sure. The village had no more than 500 people, the nearest sizable town was Hardin, Mt. which was 40 miles away on a single lane road with frequent cattle crossings and snow storms blocking your path during the winter. You had to go to Hardin to get groceries on a regular basis. I lived in a trailer with propane gas that was used to heat and operate the stove. The people were very neighborly and inviting, which helped. They were as curious about me as much as I was them. Yes, I was the butt of ‘snipe hunting’ jokes. So many laughed in good fun when everybody found out that I actually thought that snipes existed. So many warned me that my clothes were inadequate for the pending winter, I kept putting off buying the jeans and flannel that I would need. Well, I got caught ‘flatfooted’ on September 1st when it snowed 6” and it was still the summer. If this was a harbinger of what was to come, I was in trouble. Some of the men went fishing regularly and they invited me to come with them. When they asked if I could tie a fly, I did not want them to think that I was completely ignorant; of course, you lassoed the insect on a hook as bait. Not right, they taught me how to tie flies and lures to help me catch and enjoy the greatest treat of all, fish that you caught and ate yourself. So many invited me over for supper the first month that I almost stopped buying groceries. During these visits, people consistently asked me why Michael Jackson (Thriller) wore the sequined glove. Geez, people must have thought that I was his personal valet or something. The talk turned to the Bill Cosby Show that was hot in the ratings during this time. The topic always came up as if I regularly watched the show, while in reality, I didn’t. You get use to the stares and pointing by the kids while driving to and from the market, after all I was not something they see everyday. I wondered how men could walk around outdoors in just a flannel shirt and jeans while it is 10 below zero outside, and it was all that I could do to keep from freezing to death. It was the equivalent of walking on the moon without a space suit. As a fiercely self reliant, independent people, I learned things that I would never have been exposed to in Southern California. I liked the smell of wildflowers in the morning instead of exhaust fumes. While it was uncomfortable sometimes, you were part of an extended family. If something went wrong with your home or car, there were people that you hardly knew that you could count on. Once everybody realized that I put my trousers on in the same way that they did, we got along famously. Their welcoming spirit renewed my faith in humanity. It permanently changed my view of the ‘so called’ advantages of urban life. So my point in sharing this with you is not to be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You may be looking for a plum but you may have to accept a crabapple to get your ‘foot in the door’. That crabapple could very well turn out to be your plum. The areas so many consider least desirable are the places where you can get your start.

Thank you for your attention.


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    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Glad that you enjoyed the account, thanks for stopping by.

    • claptona profile image

      John D Wilson 

      8 years ago from Earth

      Interesting read, Crede

      Sounds like you've had quite the life.

      Thanks for bringing the Hub to my attention.

      Have a great night.


    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thanks, FrugalFamily for taking the time to check this out. The place where I was stationed was called the Yellowtail Project Office, in Ft. smith, 40 miles south of Hardin. Billings was the "big city" from the persepective of the locals. The state is vast and pretty, and the winters cold and harsh. Boy, do I remember. There is no sweet spot there as the nearest substantial urban was too distant.

      It is also true is that what can and does undo it all is the access to quality health insurance. Everything is going up but wages are stagnant, what to do?

      I don't know how long you have been around but our times today try mens souls.

      Thanks for the kudos, as long as I continue to take another breath, things could always be worse. Matter of fact, we are fortunate when compared with the plight of many of our fellow citizens.

      Delighted to make your acquaintance and hope that if you get out to the islands, you'll drop us a line. Cred2

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 

      8 years ago from Houston, TX

      Thanks for inviting me over. This was a good read. I spent time in a mountain town of NV very much like this. When I lived in MT, I was in the largest cit (Billings.) It was much like a suburb of any metro area. Very small, but not so small that people knew what you had for breakfast every morning. I've been to Hardin, but I never understood why they called it a town:) As for working for the government, I'm glad you had a good stent. As a former teacher, I've felt it was difficult to get appropriate benefits. I was never able to add my partner onto my health insurance (which would not have cost the governement a dime) but my partner was able to put me onto her insurance (they are a bit more forward thinking.) I hope you find the sweetness in whatever spot you are in!

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Unfortunately, Barbergirl, I don't have any vacancies right now, I will let you know if something comes up!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      8 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Are you hirinig... ;) My husband is looking for a job right now. Unfortunately, being mobile is not an option right now because we just moved so we could be closer to his family... although... I might consider it if it meant going to Hawaii!

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, Barbergirl, Education is a great advantage in your pursuit. As far as federal employment, a close second to being qualified is being mobile. Please don't hesistate to call if I can be of assistance.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      8 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Great information. I know I was in the military for 5 years and my husband was in for 6. He has tried to get into the federal jobs for awhile, but hasn't had much success. I am think he needs to finish his degree.

      Oh yeah, I think it is awesome how you talked about how people in Montana weren't used to seeing people like you. I come from a very simiiar area. In fact, when I was in school, we did not see any other race... basically white. When I went into the military it was a culture shock. I had never been exposed to so many different races. Ultimately it opened my eyes a little, but then again, skin color is never important... unless you are comparing tans! :)

    • Credence2 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Thank you for your comments. Outside of the urban centers, everything else is gorgeous. There can be nothing more liberating that being able to live most anywhere you want in America without regard to employment opportunities in the area. It is certainly one of the advantages of retirement. Best wishes to you and yours

    • American_Choices profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Very practical advice - love the "crabapple" and plum. Life has unusual routes - enjoy each pathway and the journey is remarkable.

      I worked for the local governments for close to 2 decades. In my retirement I am seeking a challenge - you convinced me - will have to check it out.

      My family and I are "geographically flexible".

      Excellent Hub! Thank you!


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