Assessment is the critical first step of the process that will help you take charge of your federal career. After completing these assessments, you will have at your fingertips all of the information you need to complete the puzzle. It’s like having the pieces in a box and then we start assembling the data (puzzle pieces) into an order that will make sense to YOU. The completed assessment forms will also provide much of the detailed information you will need to complete your application and federal resume when you bid on targeted positions.
This section provides tools for you to evaluate and match your knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) to desirable federal careers. There are many instruments available to evaluate your interests, likes, and dislikes but few if any tools are tailored specifically for federal employees. The process featured in this section utilizes the tools that are readily available to all federal employees and culminates in the development of a comprehensive Individual Development Plan (IDP).
Use all available resources to develop your plan including OPM’s Center for Management leadership Development, your agency’s programs such as that offered by the Treasury’s FinCEN “Career Development Toolkit,” our Federal Government Jobs & Career Exploration Center and Career Guidance Articles (Blog), and other resources listed throughout this guide. Free downloadable Microsoft Word assessment and IDP forms for available for your use.
The federal sector is unique in many ways. There are over 900 occupational titles (series), approximately 441 General Schedule (white collar) job titles in 23 occupational groups, and 407 Wage Grade (blue collar) job titles in 37 occupational families.
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You start with an advantage when you already work in federal government. Unlike those just looking for their first federal job, you have a good sense of what is available in your agency and possibly know of a number of opportunities worth exploring. Many federal employees that work at entry and mid-level positions deal with a large segment of their organization and interact with specialists from many fields. You may already have an informal network of federal employees that you deal with on a regular basis and others who you contact from time to time. You’ll build on this network as you progress through your plan.
Your agency more than likely offers considerable advancement opportunities that you may not be aware of. Maybe not where you are currently employed but you must consider all viable options. Uncle Sam employs just under 2,800,000 civilians and that number is growing. The diversity of work and the ability to transfer to other locations and agencies further improves your chances.
Unlike the famous baseball comedy routine of Abbot and Costello, “Who’s on first and What’s on second,” you need to know who’s who in your agency. You also need to know what’s available from your training, budget, and human resource departments and who there can best help you identify career enhancement opportunities. There are excellent tools available that agencies offer employees to explore their interests and to develop their careers.
A successful career development plan starts with thorough preparation and planning. This is true whether you are beginning your career, seeking reemployment or considering a more satisfying occupation. An important first step in this process is to assess your personal characteristics; take a good look at who you are and what you have done. This will require time and effort, but the time you invest will be worthwhile. Self-assessment can help you to decide on a realistic career objective. The information you compile will also be helpful when writing your resume, completing job applications and preparing for job interviews.
One point to remember is that Uncle Sam rates applicants based on education AND/OR work experience. The qualification standard for Administrative and Management Positions lists the entry grade of a GS-5. To meet the basic qualifications for this entry grade you must have either a four year bachelor’s degree or three years general experience. All grades above the entry level require 1 year equivalent specialized experience at the next lower grade.
Your experience can come from volunteer work, temporary details or promotions, and from past and present jobs that you have or now hold. Remember that education can substitute for work experience. If a job requires three years experience you can use a combination of related education and actual work experience to qualify. It all boils down to a comprehensive evaluation of your background and then presenting it in a way that raters will understand it.
Before you start compiling your profiles you need to understand the basic terms that are used throughout this guide. These key definitions are what personnelists use to rate your application and a thorough understanding of what each means is essential.
Accomplishments are something of value contributed by you to your job that is of considerable value to the agency but not a normal part of your job. Typical accomplishments would include things like developing new procedures or processes, designing and implementing a new service or program, obtaining specialized licenses and certifications, and outside activities that enhance your work such as affiliations with associations such as Toastmasters International.
Accredited Education is education above the high school level completed in a U.S. college, university, or other educational institution that has been accredited by one of the accrediting agencies or associations recognized by the Secretary, U.S. Department of Education.
Competencies are the abilities or proficiency of a task or skill. General employee competencies are described under the KSA action of this chapter. Interpersonal skills competencies could be described as, “the awareness of, responds to, and considers the needs, feelings, and capabilities of others. Deals with conflicts, confrontations, disagreements in a positive manner.”
Competitive Appointment is an appointment to a position in the competitive service following open competitive examination or under direct-hire authority. The competitive examination, which is open to all applicants, may consist of a written test, an evaluation of an applicant’s education and experience, and/or an evaluation of other attributes necessary for successful performance in the position to be filled.
Duties are defined as an action or conduct required by one’s profession or position. Most of what we do at work are duties. Duties include whatever is required by the position and can include everything from filing and administrative functions to required complex maintenance activities or program management responsibilities.
Education Above the High School Level (or Post High-School Education) is successfully completed progressive study at an accredited business or technical school, junior college, college, or university where the institution normally requires a high school diploma or equivalent for admission.
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA’s) are the attributes required to perform a job and are generally demonstrated through qualifying experience, education, or training. Knowledge is a body of information applied directly to the performance of a function. Skill is an observable competence to perform a learned psychomotor act. Ability is competence to perform an observable behavior or a behavior that results in an observable product.
Objectives are statement that define goal accomplishment specifying an action and due date for the achievement of the goal.
Quality Ranking Factors are knowledge, skills, and abilities that could be expected to enhance significantly performance in a position, but are not essential for satisfactory performance. Applicants who possess such KSAs may be ranked above those who do not, but no one may be rated ineligible solely for failure to possess such KSAs.
Related Education is education above the high school level that has equipped the applicant with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform successfully the duties of the position being filled. Education may relate to the duties of a specific position or to the occupation, but must be appropriate for the position being filled.
Responsibilities are defined as an ability to meet obligations or to act without superior authority or guidance.
Selective Factors are knowledge, skills, abilities, or special qualifications that are in addition to the minimum requirements in a qualification standard, but are determined to be essential to perform the duties and responsibilities of a particular position. Applicants who do not meet a selective factor are ineligible for further consideration.
Series or Occupational Series means positions similar as to specialized work and qualification requirements. Series are designated by a title and number such as the Accounting Series, GS-510; the Secretary Series, GS-318; and the Microbiology Series, GS-403.
Skill is the proficiency or technical ability in a craft or occupation such as the ability to use computer software programs or applications, ability to operate special equipment, and skills in manipulation of data such as budget tracking and control. Skills are measurable through performance testing.
Specialized Experience is experience that has equipped the applicant with the particular knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform successfully the duties of the position and is typically in or related to the work of the position to be filled.
Transferable Skills and Abilities are skills and abilities that you can take with you to a new job. Use a yellow highlighter to mark transferable skills and abilities on the following work sheets.
You may obtain additional information about careers from a number of useful publications and internet sites. OPM’s new USACareers internet site, two Department of Labor publications and their new Internet O*NET service are listed below:
Find out where the jobs are, what’s available and how to get one on www.federaljobs.net. Includes comprehensive federal resume and application guidance with resume samples and suggested formatting techniques. Explore jobs nationwide and overseas. Visit this site frequently for updated guidance.
Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) – Designed for career guidance, it presents useful information, including requirements and duties, for a wide variety of jobs. The OOH is described in more detail in Chapter 3 of this Guide, Locating Job Opportunities (Targeting Positions). Available at most libraries and online at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/.
OPM’s Leadership Site – The Federal Executive Institute and the Management Development Centers are dedicated to developing career leaders for the Federal Government. There three centers in Charlottesville, Virginia, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and Aurora, Colorado all offer exceptional residential learning environments and are staffed with program directors, seminar leaders, and facilitators drawn from America’s elite corps of training professionals. Explore this program online at https://leadership.opm.gov/index.aspx.
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) – The DOT is the most comprehensive listing of job descriptions that exists. It describes over 12,000 occupations and is used by all State Employment Service offices to match people’s qualifications to job openings. Available at most libraries.
Occupational Information Network (O*NET) – A comprehensive database system for collecting, organizing, describing and disseminating data on job characteristics and worker attributes. Presented by the US Department of Labor and hosted at www.online.onetcenter.org/ . This service provides a new conceptual framework that reflects the advanced technologies, adaptable workplace structures and wide-ranging skills required by today’s changing workplace.
If you are still uncertain about what occupational groups best suit you take one of the interest surveys mentioned below. Your agency may offer one or more of the following assessment tools to employees that are exploring career options. Check with your Human Resources department, Training, or Career Development office to determine what is available. These assessment tools allow individuals to use personal information to interact with a computer to reach more reasonable decisions regarding educational and vocational choices.
Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (CISS)
The Campbell Interest and Skill Survey is a contemporary survey that measures self-interests and skills. The CISS helps counselors obtain more complete career assessment information by providing an integrated measure of self-interests and skills. Similar to traditional interest inventories, the interest scale reflects the individual’s degree of attraction for a specified occupational area. However, the CISS goes beyond traditional inventories by adding a parallel skill scale that provides an estimate of the individual’s confidence in his or her ability to perform various occupational activities. Together, the two types of scales provide more comprehensive, and richer data than interests scores alone. The CISS focuses on careers that require post-secondary education and is most appropriate for use with individuals who are college bound.
Career Assessment Inventory (CAI) Enhanced Version
The Career Assessment Inventory helps with career decisions by measuring interests requiring a minimum of postsecondary education, such as community college, technical, or business school training. Basic interest scales give more specific information about a person’s interests in 25 career areas such as electronics, medical service, and other occupations. Occupational scales relate to 111 specific careers and indicate the interest areas which the individual, have in common with employees who are successfully employed in that field.
Holland Self-Directed Search (SDS)
The Holland Self-Directed Search helps individuals find the occupations that best suit their interests and skills. The easy-to-use format allows people to take the test, score it, and interpret it without assistance. The Occupational Finder contains over 1300 occupational possibilities. In addition, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) Codes are provided for educational development levels of associated occupations.
Kuder Occupational Interest Survey
The Kuder Occupational Interest Survey suggests promising occupations and college majors in rank order, based upon the individual’s pattern. These range from occupations requiring professional schooling to those requiring technical school training. The Kuder is one of the oldest Interest Surveys on the market today.
Strong Interest Inventory (SSI)
The Strong Interest Inventory measures a person’s interest in careers requiring advanced technical or college training. Basic interest scales provide specific information about a person’s interests in 23 career fields, such as Medical Science, Law/Politics, and Business Management. Occupational scales relate to 111 specific careers and indicate areas of career satisfaction. The Strong on-line software was updated in 1994 from a DOS version to a Windows Version to simplify administration.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator helps individuals understand their strengths and evaluates their differences and similarities. The MBTI outlines the basic differences in the way people use perception and judgment. Perception uses sensing and intuition to evaluate all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment uses thinking and feeling to evaluate all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived.
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