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How to Build a Network Within Federal Agencies Before You Apply

How to Build a Network Within Federal Agencies Before You Apply

Landing a job with the federal government can be competitive, but building a strong network ahead of time can give you a leg up. Developing relationships with current federal employees, especially those in your target roles or agencies, is crucial to getting your foot in the door. This post will explore best practices for networking within federal agencies before submitting an application.

Understanding the Importance of Federal Networking

Networking is widely recognized as an essential element for federal job seekers. According to a 2016 survey by Government Executive, over 70% of federal hires leveraged networking to some degree during their job search. Developing contacts within target agencies provides visibility into job opportunities that may not be publicly posted yet. It also allows you to get insider perspective on agency culture and priorities.

In the federal hiring process, networking is particularly impactful at the resume screening stage. Having an internal advocate draw attention to your application can boost your chances of progression. Additionally, informational interviews and mentor relationships garnered through networking can reveal key skills or experience to emphasize in your resumes and interviews.

Overall, networking is a proactive way to enhance your competitiveness and align your experience with federal openings. It demonstrates motivation and commitment to public service.

Attending Agency Events and Industry Conferences

One of the most effective ways to expand your federal network is by attending agency-sponsored events, industry conferences, and local meetups. These provide a natural environment to connect with and learn from current federal employees.

Approach these events strategically:

  • Identify upcoming conferences or meetups focused on your target industry or specialty area. Federal employees often attend events related to their professional interests.
  • Review the attendee list in advance and note any contacts you want to connect with. See if you have mutual connections who can facilitate an introduction.
  • Prepare an introductory elevator pitch highlighting your background and interests. Have concise talking points ready to explain what draws you to federal service.
  • Follow up promptly with new contacts on LinkedIn or email to continue the relationship. Share relevant articles or resources based on your conversations.

While at events, be professional but personable with all attendees. You never know who might end up being a valuable contact.

Volunteering for Federal Agencies or Related Non-Profits

Volunteering is an excellent way to create direct relationships with agency personnel. Explore short-term or recurring volunteer assignments that align with your target field. For example, offering pro bono services in your area of expertise or assisting with community outreach events.

When volunteering:

  • Ask about opportunities to collaborate with full-time staff on projects. This allows you to demonstrate your skills.
  • Treat volunteering like a professional engagement. Be reliable, deliver high-quality work, and maintain strong communication.
  • Avoid overstepping your role as a volunteer. Respect boundaries but seek feedback on your performance.
  • Express your interest in federal employment when appropriate. Be transparent that you are volunteering to gain exposure to agency operations.

Non-profit organizations that partner with government agencies can also provide valuable connections. Identify local chapters of groups like Student Veterans of America where you can interact with agency representatives.

Leveraging LinkedIn and Other Social Channels

Social media platforms like LinkedIn provide additional avenues to identify and engage federal employees relevant to your interests.

Best practices on LinkedIn include:

  • Following federal agencies, offices, or high-ranking officials to stay aware of their priorities and initiatives.
  • Joining federal employee networking groups or LinkedIn pages of professional associations.
  • Connecting with individual federal employees in your desired role or agency. Personalize invitation messages to explain common interests or experience.
  • Commenting on federal employees’ posts to join the conversation and increase your visibility. Share insights or resources.
  • Messaging contacts who you may not know personally but share career experience or academic institutions. Introduce yourself and request a short informational interview.

Twitter chats, Facebook groups, Slack channels, and Subreddits can also help you connect with the federal workforce. The key is participating actively and adding value to the discussion.

Seeking Out Mentors and Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are critically important when networking for federal positions. Speaking directly with hiring managers, program officers, and other federal staff provides insider understanding of recruitment needs.

When requesting informational interviews:

  • Identify federal employees in your target role or agency at the appropriate level. Do not approach the heads of major departments without an introduction.
  • Customize your outreach message for each person. Demonstrate familiarity with their career background and expertise.
  • Explain your professional aspirations and interest in their insights on transitioning into the federal workforce. Be clear you are not asking directly for a job.
  • Offer to meet at their convenience, even if just 15-30 minutes. Express willingness to meet by phone or video chat.
  • Come prepared with thoughtful questions about their career journey, lessons learned, and advice to share.

Concluding informational interviews by requesting introductions to other federal contacts helps expand your network efficiently. You can also inquire about being connected on LinkedIn.

In addition to informational interviews, try to cultivate long-term mentor relationships with federal professionals who can offer continued career guidance.

Maximizing Federal Job Fairs and Hiring Events

Once you have established federal contacts, leverage agency-specific job fairs and hiring events. These often provide the chance to network directly with hiring managers from units recruiting for open positions.

To make the most of federal hiring events:

  • Connect with participating agencies ahead of time to confirm which divisions will be represented. You can then target relevant staff.
  • Prepare several versions of your resume tailored to various federal occupations of interest. Bring ample printed copies.
  • Research the agencies and roles you plan to speak with to craft informed questions about mission objectives and required qualifications.
  • Collect business cards from federal recruiters so you can follow up after the event.Promptly send thank you messages re-expressing your interest and fit.

Taking the time to nurture relationships across the federal landscape before applying sets you up for success. Consistent engagement and contribution to agency initiatives demonstates commitment beyond just wanting a job. Leverage the above strategies to develop a strong federal network and unlock hidden opportunities.

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