In 25 years in the federal government, Bob Lane climbed from GS-7 (his entry job) to GS-18, the top of the bureaucratic ladder.

Along the way he worked for nine agencies (including the White House staff) and 14 politically appointed bosses in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

"I was a job jumper," says Lane, 52, now a free-lance writer and lecturer. He has used his experiences to develop a list of 12 career elements he considers the most helpful in getting you promoted into the supergrades.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that many people get ahead, says Lane, either through friendships; because they know somebody in a power position; they are lucky; politics favored them, or they are an acknowledged expert in their field. Competence and experience, however, can get you just as far.

Newcomers to the federal work force may start out as specialists in a field--Lane was a contract specialist for the Air Force, buying training films. But to climb the rungs, he says, eventually "they become one of those vague things known as a manager."

To manage well in the government, he claims you should be able to:

* Give a good speech.

* Think straight--look at a problem in seven different ways, if that's what it takes.

* Do good staff work. If your boss is to testify on Capitol Hill, you prepare him or her with a list of the nastiest questions that might be asked and good answers to them.

* Absorb a great deal of information and present it to your boss in a concise form. Lane tells this story about one of his supervisors, Donald Rumsfeld, former director of the Office of Economic Opportunity: At briefing time, "You'd walk in front of his desk, and he would say, 'Speak.' You'd better be able to speak. You knew you were on." When Rumsfeld's eyes began to glaze, Lane says he knew he hadn't been concise enough.

* Know how to pick good people to work with you.

* Develop congressional relations.

* Talk The Budget.

* Argue your case. "Good rhetoric. You are in the persuasion and public-relations business."

* Acquaint yourself with statistics.

* Acquire some of what Lane calls "administrivia," the day-to-day paperwork of how people get hired and fired. "Dull stuff, but you need to know it."

* Formulate a plan. When you make your move for a top job you want to be able to "trot out a career plan" to show you have been aiming for the post for years. That could include books you have read, additional schooling undertaken, assignments accepted, seminars attended.

In the military, you command in a war zone to get a general's star. "There's nothing to correspond for civilians. So you make your own plan."

* Devote 10 percent of your time to your self-interest. "Use the free Federal Telephone System to keep in touch with what's happening in the field. Talk to members of your Congressional Oversight Committee. Volunteer to help good career people in your field. Write an article."

As for keeping on top when the political party in power changes, that's another matter. Hired under the Kennedy administration, Lane acquired a Democratic "coloration"; but he offered to keep working when the Nixon team took over, and they kept him on, giving him his GOP credentials.

"It implies," he admits philosophically, "a pragmatism that verges on prostitution."

Nevertheless, he can say of his 25 years that they were fun. But he's not so sure that's true for bureaucrats nowadays. To his mind, inaugurating programs is much more rewarding than cutting them back.

Bob Lane will present his seminar of "How To Get To Be a Supergrade" from 7-9:30 p.m. on Wednesday and again on June 22, at Learning Works, 4824 Montgomery Lane in Bethesda. The course fee is $25, plus $5 registration. For more information: 657-4488. WAGE GAP: It was 20 years ago June 10 that President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act. But, says the Women's Legal Defense Fund, the act doesn't go far enough.

"Women usually don't do the same work as men," says the national women's advocacy group, "and work done by women is undervalued." The group has launched a legal and promotion campaign aimed at advancing pay and employment equality for women.

To bolster their contention that it still "pays to be a man," they cite 1982 Labor Department figures showing discrepancy in pay for predominantly male and predominantly female jobs:

* Secretaries (99 percent of whom are women) earn an average annual salary of $12,000. Truck drivers (only 2 percent of whom are women) earn $16,300.

* Sewer/sticher (97 percent), $8,200; plumber (very few women), $21,000.

* Registered nurse (96 percent), $17,300; airline pilot (few), $27,600.

* Private household worker (95 percent), $5,600; janitor (15 percent), $11, 400.

* Child care worker (87 percent), $7,900; mail carrier (12 percent), $21,100.

* Waiter/waitress (85 percent), $7,800; butcher/meat cutter (7 percent), $16,400.

* Retail sales clerk (60 percent), $9,300; sales representative (12 percent), $15,000.

For more information: Women's Legal Defense Fund, 2000 P St. NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036 or 887-0364.