Hundreds of thousands of federal government employees and contractors are dealing with the longest government shutdown on record. It's frustrating when the terms of your employment are outside of your control.
However, you are in control of what to do in the meantime including exploring a career change or getting a second job to pay the bills.
Betty McWillie, a nationally certified and licensed career counselor with 25 years of experience, said furloughed federal employees who have a little financial cushion should ask themselves some pointed questions.
"OK, if I were leaving the government, what would I do if I could do something that I really liked or loved?" she suggested asking yourself.
Everyone loves to be flattered. Be direct about why you targeted the company. Be aware that there is a fine line between flattery and fawning, so always use professional language. In a few lines of text, do your best to capture why the company appeals to you.
Of course, you may just need to get a second job to pay the bills — in either case, here are our top four tips to help you during this time.
1. Figure out your transferable skills. Government employees who are out of work thanks to the federal shutdown shouldn't lose faith. They possess many traits that employers desire.
"They're tremendously disciplined. They go into a workplace, follow the schedule, and don't break the rules," McWillie said. "That's huge."
Additionally, government workers receive excellent, by-the-books training in the skills their roles require. They usually build superlative communication skills in corresponding between roles and agencies. Plus, some furloughed workers may find they've contributed to massive projects that will impress recruiters and hiring managers.
"If you've worked on U.S. government databases, you could probably work on any database in the world," McWillie said.
2. Take an online skills assessment. If you're still not sure which skills you've accrued over the years, you could take a skills assessment.
3. Read job descriptions on job boards like Indeed. Career coaches and recruiters always advise closely reading the requirements section of job descriptions. Find hard and soft skills that match your own and include them word for word in your resume and cover letter. McWillie also suggests using the U.S. Department of Labor's job database, O*NET.
4. Spend time networking. "I would recommend people focus on building their networks and strengthening their networks because networking is the way to transition from one career to another," Jim Weinstein, a career coach in Washington, D.C., said.
And, remember: To effectively transition into a new role or industry — whether permanently or temporarily during the shutdown — you must have a great updated resume and cover letter to stand out from all the other furloughed employees looking for work.
Update Your Resume and Cover Letter
The federal government shutdown shows the importance of maintaining updated resumes and cover letters.
"It's always a good idea to brush up the resume and strengthen the resume because you never know when you're going to need it," Weinstein said.
Here Are Our Top 4 Tips to Help You Elevate Your Resume:
- Use a chronological format. Both hiring managers and applicant tracking systems (ATS) look most favorably on this format as it presents your background in an easy-to-scan timeline.
- Customize your resume for each role. Making slight tweaks to your resume each time you apply for a job shows hiring managers you understand the requirements of the role and the type of employee the company is seeking. It also allows you to emphasize your most relevant accomplishments, which will showcase your ability to succeed in the job.
- Focus on keywords. To improve the chances of your resume being seen by the hiring manager, use the keywords pulled from the job description in your resume. Be sure to use them exactly as they appear in the job ad since ATSs can't interpret nuance. So, if the job ad calls for "strong verbal communication," don't write that you have "strong verbal skills," as the ATS won't recognize those phrases as the same thing.
- Showcase your achievements. Sell your accomplishments by focusing your narrative on quantifiable results. Use data and metrics to show the impact of your work wherever possible to make sure your resume goes beyond a list of job duties.
Don't Forget Your Cover Letter: Our Top 3 Tips to Help Your Cover Letter Stand Out:
- Boring is bad. Use the job description to craft a compelling story about why you are THE person for the job. Sell yourself by showing the impact your work had in previous jobs to show what you'll bring to the table. Make sure that the content of your cover letter is a direct response to the job description, addressing the key requirements listed.
- Everyone loves to be flattered. Be direct about why you targeted the company. Be aware that there is a fine line between flattery and fawning, so always use professional language. In a few lines of text, do your best to capture why the company appeals to you.
- It ultimately comes down to relevant skills. We mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Your skills will be how you are judged. They must apply to the job you are seeking, and you must clearly articulate how you will apply them in the role at hand. Do not just repeat your resume. Instead, expand on one or more of your most relevant key skills.
Read job descriptions on job boards like Indeed. Career coaches and recruiters always advise closely reading the requirements section of job descriptions. Find hard and soft skills that match your own and include them word for word in your resume and cover letter. McWillie also suggests using the U.S. Department of Labor's job database, O*NET.
Whether you're hoping to transition careers or just need a quick 2nd job to pay the bills during this shutdown, LiveCareer's Resume Builder can help you update your resume and cover letter - quickly and easily - so you can get your next job faster. The resume maker features hundreds of templates and professional designs for all jobs and industries, as well as helpful tips on how to make your resume and cover letter stand out.