Sunday, March 16, 2008

Arming yourself: A federal job

When you boil personal finance down to the bare bones there are two very obvious ways to increase your over all wealth. The first and most obvious is to spend less than what you earn. This can easily be achieved by simply installing some self restraint in your shopping habits and developing some sort of budget, even if it is rough. A lot of people focus on this aspect as it will bring the most amount of success in the shortest amount of time. Which is great. But what if you've already done that and your bank account is still hemorrhaging like nobody's business?

If the first option fails you can always fall back to the second bare bones option. It is simply to increase the amount you earn annually. Whether it be a second (or third) job, a raise or a brand new primary occupation.

Admittedly this is the most difficult part, especially with the economy in the shape it's in. Everything from retail to real estate is feeling the pinch of the almighty dollar's decreasing value. Sure, people are definitely hiring. But they're being a lot pickier about the over saturated market. A lot of other people are looking for jobs too, whether they have a sub prime mortgage or they're irresponsible college kids coming entering the work force with American Express on their backs.

But you can get a cup of water, even in the driest well. You just have to wade through the mud to get to it. You just have to remain persistant and ruthless in the pursuit of a new occupation should you decide to get one.

Let's examine the missus, shall we? She's in her mid twenties and has a dual major in education and accounting. Currently she is employed at a full time job that pays her a little over $12 an hour. We've been looking to get her a better paying position in a field she'd appreciate for nearly half a year now. We've gone through three reams of resume paper, countless stamps, 25 Sunday papers and she's wasted most of her vacation days to attend interviews for everything from entry level positions with small businesses to senior analysts with the state government.

She even put her time in with two staffing agencies. Professional job hunters who red penned her resume to make it the best it could possibly be. Either she was outright rejected or lured along with the hope of a new position with second or third interviews. But nothing really materialized in a price bracket that would be worth moving to.

Needless to say it was an exhausting, depressing experience for the both of us. But one evening while she was toiling away at her second job slicing pizzas one of her former college professors stopped in for a piece of pie. They got to chatting. The missus asked for a letter of recommendation. The professor said she'd be glad to provide one, but had she heard of working for the federal government?

At this point we had been applying for state jobs as well as to the private sector. We figured it just another resource. So I burned some time and did a little bit of searching. I found everything from $8 an hour grunt jobs working at cafeterias to $100,000 annual jobs controlling entire departments. We found a couple of jobs that fit her experience and education and applied.

The most painful experience out of it was the waiting. She waited a whole month for an interview. Then another whole month to hear if she got the job or not as they checked her record for any smudges. Then another full week to call and ask if it'd be possible for her to start in three weeks time.

The US federal government, as you would imagine is a bureaucratic mess. But she was finally accepted. She will be receiving a $15,000 more at this new job versus her old one. She will also receive superior health, vision and dental benefits. And since it's a public sector job she's essentially tenured after a year's time. There is also a clear and easy pay grade system, so she can calculate exactly how much she'll be making in two years time.

While I'm not exactly sure how well other federal institutions treat their employees, if you're looking for a new job anyway, it's definitely worth a shot. Especially if you have an education or a good amount of private sector experience under your belt.

Sure. It'll probably be a longer process to score one of these jobs versus something straight out of the employment section of the newspaper. But with the potential to get something with such great benefits? It's definitely worth it.


joan said...

wow! congrats ed!


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