The RIFfed federal worker who is setting out to try his or her luck at getting a job with private industry may encounter an unexpected obstacle -- the sometimes poor image the outside world has of the Washington bureaucrat.
Among the stereotypes business holds of federal employes, says Ronald A. Gunn, project director of SRA Corporation of Washington, which has been offering five-day job-hunting workshops to Labor Department workers threatened by a Reduction in Force:
"They just want to work 9 to 5. When the day stretches on, will they be there? They work by the clock, not the task."
Another: "Do these people understand the profit motive?" Do they realize "they have to be increasing the demand for the product or service or improving its quality?"
Or: "Gee, these people have been working in these mammoth organizations where they have been reacting from on high. They're not self-starters."
True or not, says Gunn, job hunters switching from the government can expect to encounter these views and should be prepared to face up to them. One possible culprit: "The last four administrations have denigrated federal employment to get elected."
To counter the stereotype, he advises federal workers to "choose new verbs to describe what they do.
"Take a word," he says, "like 'coordinate.' There's a lot of coordination going on in the government." Instead, to describe a task to a manager in private business, "turn it into 'organize' or 'manage.' You'll find a lot better response" from prospective employers.
Job-seekers, he says, "can explain they know what the position calls for. For example, you might say: "I'm willing to work any hours to get that job done. I won't mince words. I understand that all of the work will not always be compensated."
You might add, he suggests: "I was a federal employe, and I was always productive."
In their job hunt, public servants, he says, "may be used to doing it by the book," such as going through channels to get a job interview. But he advises bending the rules, say, to get to the person who is hiring.
Another point he is careful to make in his workshops: Former bureaucrats "may expect some level of salary reduction" unless "you're in high-demand occupations such as computer programmer. We sensitize them to the fact that the private sector is not experiencing a boom."
That last point is one that many bureaucrats seem to ignore, says William H. Marumoto, president of The Interface Group Ltd, a Washington-based executive-search firm, who has been speaking informally to federal agencies threatened with a RIF.
Their approach to private industry often is unsystematic, he says, and many don't give a "second thought" to which industries are suffering in the current economy. He advises steering away from "steel, autos, rubber, construction and real estate." Instead, "I say look at telecommunications, cable TV, electronics and defense industries."