Helping Federal Job Hunters Since 1974

Issue 8: August 2016

Insights and tips on issues that impact YOUR career and YOUR search for a Federal job.

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Here's a glance at this months feature articles:

Editors Column ... Networking Success and Conversational Skills

Insights ... Playing it S.M.A.R.T. When Applying for Federal Jobs

Life Insurance ... For Civilian Federal Employees ... WAEPA Announces New Insurance Benefit Plan for Federal Employees

This Month's Specials ... KSA Workbook and KSA Sampler only $10 each (a savings of $2.95 per book)

By Sandy HarrisEditors Column...

Networking Success and Conversational Skills

The office party can be your chance to make yourself known throughout the agency. In the interest of helping you make these social events as productive as you want them to be, we begin a two-part tip on sharpening your conversational skills.

If you want to move in, up or out of government, networking may be your key. As many savvy job-seekers know, fellow members of social and business networks often can provide career information and open doors to new job opportunities. Whether you're networking with your associates or exchanging small talk with your agency's big boss at someone's retirement party, what you're really doing is making contacts that can help you professionally. Whether or not you can take advantage of these contacts may depend on your ability to communicate.

If you want to motivate others to offer career advice, refer you to associates, or consider you for a position, you must be able to begin a conversation and keep it going. Fortunately, for those of us who verbally limp, slip, stumble and fall, there is hope. It's never too late to learn how to conversationally dance through life.

Breaking the ice

Suppose you're at a luncheon sponsored by your professional society and you meet an official from another agency who is in a position to hire you. How do you begin a conversation that will lead to job information or an interview? Some impatient types will take the direct approach. They may say, Got a job in your department for me? Clearly, the odds for success are better if you take an indirect approach.
  • At the beginning of the conversation, concentrate on selling yourself. You can do this by creating a positive impression by presenting yourself as a warm, likeable person with whom anyone would want to work. Warmth comes through when we try to reach the real person before us as opposed to the job title that he or she fills.
  • Rather than plugging into another's occupational label, whether it be department head, personnel assistant or analyst, work to establish rapport by focusing on the person as an individual.
  • Instead of probing for information about the person's job or a department's operational procedures, ask questions that focus on his or her interests, activities and opinions. This isn't saying that it's always wrong to ask people what they do. You will generally succeed in getting the conversation started. However, some people will mentally back off from such an opener, wary that the person asking the questions thinks the position is more important than the individual.
    • A better opening line might revolve around the circumstances you and the other person have in common: "What brought you to this event?" or "How do you know the host?" are examples.
    • Lacking such commonality, the best bet is that old standby: "Where are you from?" The response will almost always provide a conversational hook, whether it be a personal experience about the area or a question about it.
  • In the early stages of a conversation, ask open-ended questions rather than those that can wrap up the topic too soon. Such questions usually begin with how, why, or in what way. Topic-ending questions often begin with the words are, do, who, when and which.
  • As an alternative to the opening question, consider breaking the ice by voicing an opinion or stating a fact. This is less demanding on the other person, and the opinion or fact that you share gives your conversational partner more options in his or her response. The feedback you get will likely give you a clue as to whether that person really wants to talk.
  • What sort of topic should you choose? It's probably best to stay away from controversial subjects or clever remarks about someone else in the room. To be completely safe, there's always the traffic, the weather and the morning news. But the two of you have been brought together by some event or common interest, and with a little effort, you can probably think of a pertinent topic.

Keeping the conversation afloat

Knowing how to keep a conversation going after you've broken the ice takes skill. This may be especially true if you're talking to a superior in your organization, someone you don't often have the opportunity to address one-on-one.

The key here is to understand the art of responding to what another says. Too often we zero in on one word or phrase and go off on our own tangent; we fail to track the idea the speaker was trying to convey. Make an effort to listen for the major point. Once you understand it, frame your questions or statements in a way that carries his or her idea forward. Keep in mind, however, that too many questions can be irritating. Good conversationalists also talk back. In fact, since most good talkers enjoy other verbal people, you'll make a hit and have more fun if you take your turn.

This Months Specials...

KSA Workbook and KSA Sampler only $10 each (a savings of $2.95 per book)

As an individual seeking employment with the Federal government, at some point in the application process, you will be asked to write essay statements, which demonstrate your knowledge, skill or ability to perform in a specific job.  These essay statements (better known as KSAs) come in all shapes and sizes, but they  ALL require the applicant to clearly write (in a narrative format) how well they meet specific job requirements.

Some common KSAs that you may come across could include your "Ability to communicate orally" or your "Ability to communicate in writing."  If applying for a specific occupation, such as an Information Technology Specialist, you may be asked to write about your "Knowledge of a wide range of computer techniques, requirements, methods, sources and procedures, and knowledge of system software." Maybe you're a Human Resources Specialist and need to respond to your "Knowledge of federal position classification sufficient to classify a variety of positions." Or, you're an Administrative Assistant who needs to show your "Ability to plan, organize, and direct office activities to maintain efficient workflow."

No matter what the KSA is that you are asked to address, how well you respond WILL be the difference between getting called in for a job interview or finding your way to the 'not qualified' list.

Since 1992, we have been publishing our popular books, The KSA Workbook and The KSA Sampler, which not only take an applicant through the KSA writing process, but provides dozens of sample KSAs to help you learn how to craft a job-winning KSA. 

KSA Workbook

The KSA Workbook

What are KSAs?

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities ... that list of special qualifications and personal attributes that someone has decided you should have in order to fill a particular job. It's not enough that you meet the basic qualifications for the position and have the specialized experience that's required. It's not enough that you have a polished and up-to-date application package that clearly lays out all your experience and expertise. Now you have to put more time and effort into developing a "supplemental statement" or "essay," a set of responses to these additional evaluation factors that may be relevant only to a particular job vacancy. And you have to do it in time to meet the position's application deadline.

When required, KSAs are the single most important aspect of your federal application and our workbook will help you understand and craft job-winning KSAs.

Order your KSA Workbook today for only $10


Play it S.M.A.R.T. 
when applying for Federal Jobs!

As you begin to plan your federal career, it is important to clearly identify your goals in order to obtain your dream job. Without clear goals, it is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve these dreams.

As with any task, when you set goals, they should follow the S.M.A.R.T. Formula: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound. If you set goals that meet this formula for your job search, you will get results.

For example, let's say that after some research you have decided that you qualify for an Office Automation Assistant position.

GOAL # 1: Your first goal may be something like this: Find a job opening for an Office Automation Assistant in Washington, DC by December 1, 2003. This simple goal meets the S.M.A.R.T. formula and can be accomplished easily. Once you've met a specific goal, you need to set a new goal immediately.

GOAL # 2: Your next goal may be something like this: Write KSAs for this position by July 1, 2004. I always recommend writing the KSAs first because they seem to cause the most anguish. Once you have your KSAs written, crafting your resume is simple!

When writing your KSAs, remember to use either the S.T.A.R. or C-CAR formulas for clear and concise writing. Both of these formulas provide an outline for writing and will help you include all the information that hiring managers are looking for. We discussed these formulas in previous Career Chat articles, but if you missed them, S.T.A.R. stands for Situation, Task, Action and Results, and C-CAR stands for Context, Challenge, Action and Results.

GOAL # 3: Once you've written your KSAs your next S.M.A.R.T. goal may be to have someone proofread your KSAs while you write your resume. Remember, most job announcements have a specific date that your application must be postmarked or received at the hiring agency - be sure to put time limits on each task and have specific goal completion dates to keep you on track and focused. Your resume should be clearly focused on your target position. Make sure you identify keywords from the job's vacancy announcement and use them in your resumes and KSAs. Clearly show that you have the skills the hiring officials are looking for.

GOAL # 4: Once your resume is completed your next S.M.A.R.T. goal may be to have someone proofread your resume while you make corrections to your KSAs and write your cover letter.

GOAL # 5: Now that you have completed your application package, your final goal should be to proofread your application one last time and submit your application package to the hiring office.

Do you see how these goals keep you moving ahead to successfully complete an application package within the specified timelines? Setting progressive goals that move you forward and help you accomplish one task after another is a critical technique for designing a federal application package that will get you results

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