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You did it. After months of scouring USAJOBS, you’ve landed the opportunity to serve your country working for the federal government. Kudos, hats off, congrats, etc. Are you ready to work?
Few new jobs are harder than a new government job—whether you’re fresh out of school or a new political appointee. You worked hard and waited long for this opportunity—and now you have to learn the basics.
A friend recently started a new job with a federal agency and came to me with a range of concerns from “I’m in over my head” to “I don’t understand what anyone is saying.” Her concerns prompted me to reflect on my own experience starting out as a contractor at the US Treasury Department and how I worked to learn the ropes. The following are seven fundamental tips for starting your new government job off right:
1. What law or presidential order gives your office the authority to exist? Find this out ASAP. Ask your supervisor or human capital officer where this can be found and read it—twice. You’ll likely hear reference to it again and again. Also, it’s essential you understand the originating purpose of your office and why tax dollars go to support your mission. Knowing why you exist is step one in being a good steward of taxpayer dollars.
2. Read, read…and then read some more. Get your hands on as many reports, manuals, flow charts and budgets as you can. Compile it all in one neat stack (I like to put things in a three ring binder) and then start doing your homework. Continue reading “Seven Fundamental Tips for Starting a New Government Job”
It was a bold move for a government entity. In 2005, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania hired a private company to overhaul the archaic way it buys goods and services. It seemed simple enough, but what was innovative — and daring — was a key condition: 30 percent of the contractor’s compensation would come from the savings achieved. No savings, no payment.
Putting such a risk on the contractor paid off handsomely. Among other things, officials combined the buying clout and pricing data of all 89 executive branch agencies and departments to strike better deals. Without cutting a single program or service, Pennsylvania saved more than $140 million, or 21 percent, from its annual $700 million tab for everything from office and cleaning supplies to information technology services and tires. The savings far exceeded projections.
Pennsylvania is not alone. Similar value-based contracts enabled the New York City Board of Education to shave $86 million from its $720 million procurement budget, and state and local agencies are experiencing similar savings. Continue reading “Before Slashing Budgets, Find the Savings”
It’s safe to say the two-year federal pay freeze has not been popular with government workers. Even those who support the freeze acknowledge its limitations: the savings it has generated (estimates are between $60 billion and $70 billion) is a drop in the deficit-reduction bucket, and it’s not exactly a morale booster. The GOP policy platform, which calls for overhauling the federal pay system to bring it in line with the private sector’s, and Obama’s decision to postpone a 0.5 percent pay boost 2013 until Congress passes a budget, has put the issue in the crosshairs once again.
But there could be an upside to the pay freeze for feds. It puts a slight chink in the argument that federal employees are way overpaid compared to private sector workers — a debate that rages on both sides and probably will never be settled definitively. The libertarian Cato Institute, the Washington think tank that has argued federal employees are too generously compensated compared to their private sector counterparts, acknowledged in a recent blog post that the “federal pay advantage” has narrowed, partly as a result of the two-year pay freeze. Continue reading “An Upside to the Pay Freeze”
A draft version of the Republican Party’s policy platform calls for restructuring federal pay and benefits and shrinking the government workforce through attrition.
The document, posted online by Politico, praises federal workers for their dedication and “the difficulty of their thankless task of implementing poorly drafted or open-ended legislation,” but said the government is too bloated and that federal pay and benefits are out of whack with the private sector. It proposes cutting the federal workforce through attrition by at least 10 percent and adjusting federal compensation to reflect private sector pay and benefits. “The federal pay system should be sufficiently flexible to acknowledge and reward those who dare to innovate, reduce overhead, optimize processes, and expedite paperwork,” the document stated. Continue reading “GOP endorses fed pay overhaul, smaller workforce”