Government Careers

Derrick Dortch
Career counselor
Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 11:00 AM

Federal careers expert Derrick Dortch was online Wednesday, September 16, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss government job searching and military transition. Dortch is president of The Diversa Group, a firm that focuses on career counseling and development.

The transcript follows.

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Derrick Dortch: Good Morning, Good Morning! Its another great day here in Washington, DC and today we ware going to have another great show. There is so much going on in the news that that federal government that I am more and more amazed each day.

September usually kicks off a number of Career Fairs in the Washington DC Area as well as the nation and they are great ways to get into the door. I know many are crowded these days but I have seen people get conditional offers of employment from career fairs.

Even with career fairs being intimidating and frustrating if you develop the right strategy, what I call a "Career Fair Success Strategy" then you can definitely make a career fair work for your benefit. If I have time today I will talk about developing a Career Fair Success Strategy.

If you have any questions related to the federal job search, writing federal resumes and KSAs, getting a security clearance, military transition and more please send your questions in. I will respond to as many people as possible. For those who have contacted me directly please know that I will get back to you as soon as possible. Its been quite busy but I will follow up with you.

Also if anyone has any comments, advice or a good tip they want to share please do not hesitate to do so.

Also let me mention on my Radio Show: Fed Access with Derrick T. Dortch on Federal News Radio 1500 AM (Federalnewsradio.com) each Friday at 12 noon I will be having a representative from the FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) as my guest this Friday. We will be discussing the FBI, its activities, hiring, outreach programs, internships and more. It will be an interesting and enlightening show. Make sure you tune in.

Thank you so very much for stopping by the show. You are truly appreciated. ENJOY!!!

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Productive fed workers: Hi Derrick, my neighbor works for a large fed agency, her cubicle mate who's been there 10 years runs her own 2 businesses while on gov time. The woman has a website, sells merchandise and takes every Monday and Friday off to travel and do seminars for her other businesses. She has written two books about her businesses, all on gov time and does virtually no work except her own. She told my neighbor that her side businesses paid more than her fed job but that she would never leave as the benefits are great, and this way she banks her whole fed salary. My neighbor is constantly overworked. Her cubicle mate is her supervisor, so there is no point 'reporting' her activities. This is a prime example of why people think fed workers don't do anything but take up space.

Derrick Dortch: Thanks for sharing this. Let me make two points. First, this is truly unacceptable behavior. Being a Fed is a privilege, not a right and we need people working in the Federal Government who see it this way. As a Fed you are a Public Servant and while you are at work you are suppose to be working in the best interest of the public, not the best interest of self.

Second, I would recommend that your Neighbor report this to their supervisor or even to the Inspector General of whatever agency so that this can be investigated and if proven true this person can be dealt with accordingly.

People can have businesses on the side in any occupation but it should not affect the time this person is doing his or her Federal work. They should remain very much so separate. If the person who is a Federal Worker does start doing other work or has business on the side then they may want to look at cutting down their hours, going on a Flex Schedule where they only work 4 days a week or something that will allow them to do both effectively but it will remain separate from their work as a public servant.

Thanks again for sharing. Most federal workers do not fall in this category. I know there are some bad apples without a doubt but I see many Fed working very hard each day. We have to do our best both those who are working internally in the government and externally in the public and press to expose those are who are taking advantage of being a Federal Worker and work to make sure this behavior is corrected or those who wont correct their behavior are fired from their positions and someone who really cares about being a Public Servant will take their place.

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Culpeper, Va.: Does your credit report weigh heavily on acceptance for government jobs?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Culpepper, VA,

Thanks for your question. A persons credit and financial history and financial current status does weigh heavily in government positions that require you to get a clearance. There are a few killers of a person getting a clearance. One of them is negative financial issues. This is what the Adjudication Desk Reference (ADR) which is one of the guides Adjudicators use to guide them in determining someone's suitability for a clearance says about Financial Considerations - Debt:

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Relevance to Security

Common sense and experience tell us that financial difficulties may increase temptation to commit illegal or unethical acts as a means of gaining funds to meet financial obligations. Many persons encounter financial problems through no fault of their own. For others, financial problems appear to be part of a general tendency toward irresponsibility and poor judgment, and that is a security concern. From a security perspective, the cause of debt and how one deals with financial obligations are considerably more important than the amount of debt.

It is important to remember that many financially motivated crimes are committed out of simple greed, not need, and that most people with financial difficulties are not inclined to commit illegal acts at all.

Potentially Disqualifying Conditions

Extract from the Guideline

(a) inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts;

(b) indebtedness caused by frivolous or irresponsible spending and the absence of any evidence of willingness or intent to pay the debt or establish a realistic plan to pay the debt.

(c) a history of not meeting financial obligations;

(d) deceptive or illegal financial practices such as embezzlement, employee theft, check fraud, income tax evasion, expense account fraud, filing deceptive loan statements, and other intentional financial breaches of trust;

(e) consistent spending beyond one‘s means, which

may be indicated by excessive indebtedness, significant negative cash flow, high debt-to-income ratio, and/or other financial analysis;

(f) financial problems that are linked to drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling problems, or other issues of security concern;

(g) failure to file annual Federal, state, or local income tax returns as required or the fraudulent filing of the same;

The degree of security concern about unpaid debts depends upon:

* Cause of Debts

* Amount of Debt

* Attitude Toward Debts

* Illegal Financial Practices as a result of the debt.

Mitigating Conditions

Extract from the Guideline

(a) the behavior happened so long ago, was so infrequent, or occurred under such circumstances that it is unlikely to recur and does not cast doubt on the individual‘s current reliability, trustworthiness, or good judgment;

(b) the conditions that resulted in the financial problem were largely beyond the person's control (e.g., loss of employment, a business downturn, unexpected medical emergency, or a death, divorce or separation), and the individual acted responsibly under the circumstances;

(c) the person has received or is receiving counseling for the problem and/or there are clear indications that the problem is being resolved or is under control;

(d) the individual initiated a good-faith effort to repay overdue creditors or otherwise resolve debts;

(e) the individual has a reasonable basis to dispute the legitimacy of the past-due debt which is the cause of the problem and provides documented proof to substantiate the basis of the dispute or provides evidence of actions to resolve the issue;

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Now as you see this is very important to the government because many people who have sold secrets of our government have done so because of financial reasons.

Whenever I am doing Security Clearance Counseling/Pre-Clearance Counseling with a client we always have to take a in-depth look into their financial situation and if there are problems I recommend working to rectify them before applying to positions that require a clearance.

I hope this helps. If you have any more questions about this please contact directly at dtd@diversagroup.com.

Take care and I wish you much success.

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Arlington, Va.: Thank you for your work. Your advice definitely contributed to my landing a federal job successfully. My question is, are we federal workers any closer to having paid maternity leave? I had read an article on this website that it was being debated in Congress months ago, but never learned the outcome.

Derrick Dortch: Hello Arlington, VA,

These may have been some of the articles you have seen on: "A bill to enhance parental leave benefits for federal employees passed the House by a wide margin yesterday, despite a White House veto threat.

Under the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, federal and congressional employees would receive four weeks of paid parental leave after birth or adoption, or taking in a foster a child. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would have the discretion to grant an additional four weeks of paid leave."

See full article here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/19/AR2008061903241.html

http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0609/060909p1.htm

http://www.shrm.org/Publications/HRNews/Pages/ParentalLeaveHouse.aspx

With the House passing the bill its close but let me do some digging and I will try to find out more and will make it a point to talk about it on the next show. I think we are close. The outcome has yet to be determined but I think it will be in this new session of Congress that it will go to the Senate and hopefully will pass to become law:

You can track the bill here:

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h626/show

I hope this helps. I will keep monitoring the situation.

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Yorktown, Va.: I am looking for work in this area and would like to have some help. Is there a networking group you recommend as effective in this area?

Thanks.

Derrick Dortch: This is a good question. The best answer is the networking groups you should join should first be based on your career field. Say for instance if you were in Human Resources I would recommend to someone that they join the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM). If you were in Public Relations/Public Affairs then I would recommend a person join the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). If a person was interested in or in the field of Intelligence then I would recommend them getting involved in the Association for Intelligence Officers (AFIO). I think you get my point. There are usually associations for each career field and if it is not then you should think about starting one. Every career field needs a representative group.

Now on the general I let me recommend a couple of places you can do some networking. Of course you have places like Face book, LinkedIn and social networking sites and those are good. More specifically to government I would recommend you take a look at joining GovLoop and GovCentral.

GovLoop.com

GovCentral.com

For the Washington, DC area you may want to start off by looking at the Washington Networking Group:

http://www.washingtonnetworkgroup.com/

There are honestly so many ways to get networked. I always recommend to my clients that we take a look at their career goals and then develop a Networking Success Plan based on those goals. There are so many groups that sometimes a person can get overwhelmed. Evaluate the networks you join and think about what it can do for you and what you can do for it. Remember success is a two way street. Just as much as you get help you have to remember to help others succeed as well.

If you have more questions about networking then please contact directly at dtd@diversagroup.com. Take care and I wish you much success.

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washingtonpost.com: Get Advice on How to Stand Out

Derrick Dortch: Here is a good article on Networking written by my Producer Sakina. Please make sure you read it as you are developing your networking plan.

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Fryazino, Russia: Dear Mr.Dortch, I'm going to be relocating to the U.S. as a happy Green Card holder. As a biologist, with a Ph. D. equivalent, can I apply for a governmental position?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Russia,

Thanks for your question. There are some federal positions that will allow Green Card Holders/Permanent Residents to apply for positions. These are few but they are there. I just did a quick search and did not see any today but every once in a while you will see them. Given your level of specialization I would recommend that you develop a list of agencies you want to work for who could use your PhD in Biology. Then begin calling their Human Resource offices and asking about positions. I would also suggest that you look at government contracting firms. Sometimes they have more flexibility in hiring a Green Card Holder. This depends on the positions, clearances involved, and other factors.

So it is possible but you need to start your search in advance. Do not wait till you get here to start.

When you get here let me suggest you move quickly to become a U.S. Citizen and then you will not have any limitations whatsoever on becoming a Federal employee.

I hope this help and if you have more questions please contact me at dtd@diversagroup.com Take care and I wish you the best.

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Silver Spring: Federal contractor here. Yes, the supervisor is out of line. Make contemporary records (on paper, and take them home with you daily).

Then contact the IG with your information. They actually care and do stuff.

Derrick Dortch: Thanks for your comments. I concur.

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washingtonpost.com: Get Advice on How to Network

Derrick Dortch: Here is a article on Networking from my Producer Sakina. It has some great information.

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Columbia, Md.: I had an interview last Thursday for an Information Technology Specialist position. They indicated that all candidates were going to be interviewed by end of last week. Will it be a good idea to contact them directly to find out my status? If so, how long should I wait before contacting them? Thanks,

Derrick Dortch: Columbia, MD,

Thanks for your question. Congratulations on your interview. I hope you sent out Thank you emails to those you interviewed with. If not you need to take care of that immediately. I would suggest you wait one more week and then call to find out your status. Usually two weeks is a good time to wait.

In future interviews make sure you get their time table for when they want to finish interviews, make and offer to someone and have them on board.

If the HR Point of Contact is the person you have been talking to before the interview you can reach out to him or her and ask these questions.

Let me know how it works out. Take care and I hope to hear some good news. One word of advice. Keep applying. With a job search you always keep pushing forward until you get the final offer.

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Washington, D.C.: If being a Fed is a privilege and not a right, then why the preferential treatment during the application process? And why does the government actively advertise jobs on their job site that are reserved for people within the agency? I am very tired of applying for jobs only to be told (months) later they have decided not to fill the position. I am told this is because the person they wanted to promote from within somehow didn't get through the HR process. How can I avoid these traps in the future, and not waste endless hours filling out applications that will really never be considered?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Washington, DC,

It is a frustrating process for sure and honestly there is no quick fix. What I suggest to you is that you do not give up and we may need to look at your job search in more detail. The key for finding a government job is too look at what you are truly qualified for, target agencies who have the budgets to bring in a good number of people (i.e. DoD, DHS), and target the right positions and make sure that you meet the qualifications. I see many people applying for positions they are not qualified for but they thought they were because of the title and the duties but they did not read the qualifications and evaluations section to see what they were looking for in a candidate.

Also you have to make sure you are applying to the right positions, with the right package. This means that if you are qualified then you to have a targeted, powerful, persuasive federal resume, KSAs or supporting essay question responses and any other materials required. These materials need to be targeted to the position. They can not be generic.

This gets you started but please do not give up. Develop a new strategy and get back out there. The government is hiring and new budget cycle is coming so that means hiring will pick up starting now.

If you have more questions or need additional help please contact me at dtd@diversagroup.com. Take care and I wish you much success.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Recently furloughed from my state government job, and trying to reenter the federal workforce. My comment is this: when is there going to be any commonality in the federal job application process? You can put a resume on USAJOBS, but some agencies need you to fill out another resume on their website, some require you to FAX all materials in, etc. Fax? Since I don't have a fax machine, at $1/page, this isn't helpful or cost effective, and haven't these federal agencies heard of uploading electronic documents (or the 21st century, for that matter)?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Harrisburg, PA,

I am sorry to hear about you being Furloughed. I like Harrisburg, PA its a very nice town. To answer your questions on commonality I do not think that we will see this anytime soon. When looking at the federal job search you almost have to look at it like a private sector search and everyone is using different recruiting tools for applicants to apply. Its the same with the Federal Government and I do not see it changing.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not have the power to make agencies do things. They are more advisory in their capacity but its Director John Berry is working hard to make the process better and there is legislation being proposed that would make the process easier but I do not think we will every see one system for all federal agencies to use to get applicants. At least not in the near future.

For now make sure you develop your materials around the agencies and the application tools they use and make sure they are application ready that way when you see an announcement then you can apply for it without problem.

Thanks for your question and I wish you much success in your job search.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello, I have a 19-year-old daughter that recently graduated from high school and has no plans on attending college. She is currently seeking employment but has no experience. She's an easy learner and excellent with her hands, what's the best way she can obtain a job or get some hands on experience?

Derrick Dortch: Hello DC,

I am very happy your daughter graduated. Honestly she can get some hands on experience by working in anywhere from Target to an office. She can also get some experience by volunteering at a non-profit.

Let me make a suggestion to your daughter. Although she does not plan to go to college let me suggest that you do talk to her about seeing a career counselor. She needs to seriously think about her direction, what are her passions, what careers interest her and then what does she need to do to get to her career of choice. It may not be college but it may be a technical program or it may be something she can learn on the job. I just do not want her to go around and not have any direction. Without a vision, the people will perish is what the Bible says and I do believe that without a path, without direction, without vision then your daughter could end up going the wrong way.

Talk to her about both seeing a Career Counselor to explore various options in life and then also thinking about her passions and interests and pursuing them as a careers.

I you want me to speak to her then I will also do that. You can contact me at dtd@diversagroup.com. Take care and I wish you both much success.

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Springfield, Va.: My position as a government contractor was eliminated from the new contract that my company won. Even though, I won a Customer Service Award last month, I am now looking for another position and I'm having a difficult time on such short notice. My Government Direct kept on piling the work in the last month and telling us in meetings how they were expanding our programs. He was making it look like they would have a place for me and yesterday, I found out that it was not the case, even though nothing has been said "officially". They are "keeping on the younger slackers" and ones that rarely put in their 40 hours of work. I know that I am older, but this is unfair and illogical. I was also assaulted in the first two months of employment (punched in the back on two occasions in my cubicle) by the woman that still is my Government Program Supervisor. By the time I found out about the "Harassment-Free workplace" I was too late to report it to the Federal Government. I did report it at work with both my Gov. Direct and former PM, but they totally mishandled it. I am ready to move on but I'm concerned about recommendations, because they have also eliminated my Program Manager's position; and she was the best one we've had in the 1 1/2 years that I've worked there. What is your advice?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Springfield, VA,

Your question is something that I need to get more details on to answer effectively. Contact me directly at dtd@diversgroup.com so I can hear the full story and advise you appropriately.

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Fort Washington, Md.: I have submitted roughly 40 applications through USA Jobs in the last three months. No interviews, no calls, nothing from those 40 applications. Applying for a federal job is time consuming, are there any ways or methods that I can use to make my application stand out.

Also, why are some applications periods open for one week?

Derrick Dortch: Hello Ft Washington,

Thanks for you question. Whenever someone tells me they have applied to a large number of positions and have not heard back anything from any agencies the two things that come to mind automatically is:

1. Are they targeting the right positions. Meaning are they targeting positions they are truly qualified for?

2. Is their package (Federal Resume, KSAs/Essay Responses, Cover Letter, and any other materials) truly selling them and making them competitive.

If you are applying and applying and not getting any positive feedback after several months then you will have to reassess your strategy and your tools that you are using to carry out this strategy.

I agree the process is time consuming, very long, very frustrating but its not one that can not be overcome. You can get that federal job.

I would recommend at this point that you have a professional take a look at your materials and your job search strategy and see what is going wrong.

Do note that most federal job searches do take several months sometimes and you do not always hear back right away but you should know something usually within 30 - 45 days.

I would also recommend that you reach out and call the HR Point of Contact on the job announcement and find out your status on positions you have not heard back from. Also ask them for advice on the process. Some will be very helpful.

Have someone look at your materials, modify your materials to make them more effective and make sure you are targeting positions you are truly qualified for.

For positions that are only open a week I call them Red Flag positions. Those are the ones I am very cautious about because they are usually for someone that the selecting official wants. What I suggest with those is that you have an "Application Ready" package on standby and when those positions do pop up you still apply. Even for these positions they usually still do interviews so you may be one of those interviewed and even though you do not get the position you can make some contacts and let them know you would like to be considered for future positions. Interviews can also be door openers even if you do not get the first position you applied for.

Take care, do not give up and I wish you much success.

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Maryland, North Potomac: Dear Derrick, I need to ask you about career development and how to go by it. I am interested in a government job as well.

Derrick Dortch: Contact me at dtd@diversagroup.com and I will get you set up with an appointment for us to talk.

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Derrick Dortch: Well that is it for me. My producer is telling me that I have to close up. We will be back on September 30th at 11 am for another show. Thank you for stopping by the show and thank you for your questions and comments. You are very much so appreciated. As usual I want to thank my producer Sakina for all her great work and assistance.

I just received word from the FBI that my guest on my radio show on Federal News Radio will be Special Agent In Charge (SAC) D. Keith Bryars. He is the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) for the FBI' s Washington Field Office Administration Division. Make sure you tune in on Friday at 12 noon on 1500 AM or you can listen online at FederalNewsRadio.com.

I also what to give a special thank you for Purvi Sarin from the FBI who was instrumental in setting the interview up and is doing some outstanding work for the FBI managing several of their programs. Thanks Purvi!!!

Till next time, please take care, be safe and I wish you much success in your career, work, and life.

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