9 Tips to Getting Ahead With a Career in Federal Government


Working for the government is a lot different to working in the private sector.

There are pros and cons which you need to bear in mind if you are planning to get ahead and climb up the federal ladder.

In today’s guide, I thought I would go through some of the things you can expect to occur in a federal government career, and explain how you can start moving up to improve your prospects.

Let’s get started with the bare essentials.


#1 Understand What You are Up Against

First of all, if you want to get ahead within a system, you have to know what that system is – and how it works.

In the case of working for the federal government, it’s important to know that there is a shrinking workforce, which means you will enjoy fewer opportunities for progression than you would in the private sector.

The government is also a place where many seniors cling on to their jobs for many years, which means their current position is rarely up fro grabs.

In fact, it can be a stagnant environment, depending on the department you work in, and many federal workers complain that they have nowhere to go with regards to promotion.


#2 Understand the Benefits

It’s not all doom and gloom in the federal government, however.

As long as you have a plan in place – more on which later – government jobs tend to be incredibly stable, and there is a lot of opportunity for crossing streams and working for a variety of different departments over your career lifespan.

And, of course, there is a broad range of benefits that you just won’t get anywhere else.


#3 Create a Plan

So, the first step to making improvements to your federal career is to make a list of what you want.

It doesn’t matter what level you are working at – just jot down your ideal position, and then it’s time to start working on getting there and making it happen.


#4 Research What You Need

OK, so now you know where you want to be, how are you going to get there?

It’s time to do your homework and go through a little self-examination. Write down your skills and compare them with those that you need to get your dream job in the perfect department.

Be honest – what are you missing? For low-level federal employees, there could be quite a lot that you need to do – but that’s OK.

With time and dedication, there is no reason why you can’t learn those skills or get those qualifications you need.


#5 Invest in Personal Development

Put yourself forward for any courses or qualifications that will help you improve your career.

One of the benefits of working for the federal government is the incredible amount of training opportunities that are available – so reach out and grab them with both hands.

Not only will you be improving your skill set, but you will also be showing your bosses that you are willing to move forward and get ahead.

However, bear in mind that few departments will be able to pay for you to learn skills that do not benefit your current role.

So if you do have plans to make a cross-departmental switch, it is likely you will have to pay for any further qualifications yourself.


#6 Learn About the Money


If you really want to get ahead in the federal government, you have to start showing your value. In private businesses, this means making money, of course. But in government, it’s all about saving.

If you can prove that you can get things done while spending less, people will start to take notice.

As everyone knows, accounting for government agencies is an incredibly strict process, with plenty of audits that will show the taxpayer where their money is going.

If you can put yourself in a position where you are keeping that accountant, the taxpayer, and the boss happy, you will soon start making a name for yourself.


#7 Network

Federal government jobs are as much about who you know as what you can do. And if you aren’t the networking type, it is going to be incredibly difficult for you to start making waves.

Building relationships is critical, as those who have the good jobs to give will always try and help those they like and respect.

If you aren’t making the right noises, or are a shrinking wallflower, how are you going to get noticed? Of course, the ability to network is not something everyone is blessed with, so if you are struggling, think about taking some classes – it really is that important.


#8 Step Up to the Plate

Don’t believe what you hear about jobs in federal government – it’s a lot tougher than you might think.

And if you want to get ahead, you will have to take on a lot more work than is expected from you, which is often more than you can manage anyway!

It’s important to understand that a few years of biting the bullet and putting yourself forward can have an enormous impact on your career.

People will view you as the ‘can do’ person in your department, and if you happily volunteer for projects, it will work for your benefit.

However, be careful not to become the person that everyone in the office uses – choose your moments wisely to avoid becoming the departmental doormat.


#9 Have Focus

Finally, the only way you will ensure your ideal promotions and career progressions is to retain a steely focus.

It’s a lot of hard work to get ahead in the federal government, but it is far from impossible. And if you are prepared to be in it for the long-term, it will pay off in the end.

Just concentrate on improving your knowledge, networking like mad, and thinking of ways to save the government – and, therefore, the taxpayer – money.


OK, so that’s all we have time for today. Do you work in federal government? If so, why not leave some of your tips and guidelines for success in the comments section below?

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