Of the six presidential transitions Jim Hawkins has observed since landing his first federal job in 1958, "the thing that stands out about the Reagan people is the rapidity with which they are gearing up to assume control.

"With Carter, there was a period of months after he became president where people were still bumbling around trying to take control of their agencies. Reagan's team looks impressive."

As head of Federal Jobs, Inc., in Reston, Va. -- which offers monthly seminars, a newspaper and other materials on federal careers -- Hawkins is watching closely the transition's effect on federal employment.

"For career Civil Service people below the GS-15 level," says the 58-year-old former Commerce Department deputy assistant secretary, "I don't expect (the transition) to mean too much change.

"The exception is at those agencies under the gun -- like the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency -- that Reagan has targeted for some serious review."

Hawkins is "convinced" that Reagan will announce a hiring freeze, but predicts it will last only "a very short time, maybe three months. Then it'll be modified so the new administration can hire the people it needs.

"Traditionally, one of the best times to be job-hunting is just before a freeze when people are trying to staff up. But a change of administration is usually a bad time -- unless you are a political type -- because of the uncertainty and people's tendency to want to wait and see what will happen."

Hawkins' advice to those who want to land or advance in a federal job during the transition:

Become acquainted with people in key employment decision-making positions, many of whom will be the new political appointees.

Job-hunt or promotion-seek now (before the freeze), by visiting agencies and scouting vacancy announcements. "Hiring freezes may freeze promotions, too, because promotions may empty a slot that the agency isn't permitted to fill."

Have ready "an outstanding SF 171 (federal employment application).

Consider lateral movement, even if it doesn't mean a promotion, to better position yourself for the new administration. "If I were in the Department of Energy or EPA, I'd try to get a lateral to the Department of Defense." o