Whiteman: How to find a federal IT job

Riding the hiring wave could bring opportunities for experienced professionals to advance quickly

Don’t believe the myth that information technology professionals are no longer the government’s “it” profession. The reality is that federal agencies and federal contracting firms are still aggressively recruiting IT employees, and several factors will increase the demand for IT professionals in the foreseeable future.

Those factors include what Linda Springer, director of the Office of Personnel Management, recently described at an IT job fair as an impending retirement “tsunami.” OPM says that up to 50 percent of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire within the next five years. And almost half of federal IT professionals will be at least 50 years old by 2008, according to a report by Input, the IT market research firm.

To cultivate the next generation of leaders, the federal government is increasing its recruitment of students, recent graduates, minorities and women. New recruitment programs for those groups have been popping up nationwide faster than Starbucks coffee shops are opening. Many of the programs recruit IT professionals and offer up to $60,000 in student loan repayments and excellent training opportunities on top of great salaries. Moreover, because each retirement at high grade levels can trigger several promotions at lower levels, the exodus of federal IT managers will likely increase the hiring of experienced professionals and create new opportunities to quickly climb the career ladder.

Another factor spurring the hiring of IT professionals is federal spending on IT programs, which will increase to $92 billion in fiscal 2010, according to Input. Not surprisingly, because of the government’s focus on national security, experts in IT security are especially attractive federal job candidates.

Others specialties are attractive, too. Experts in enterprise architecture, capital planning and investment control are also being snapped up because their expertise is required for other high-priority federal initiatives.

Increased federal IT spending, coupled with increased outsourcing of federal IT services, has created a bonanza for IT contracting firms in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. CNN Money recently reported that although the tech capitals of San Francisco and Boston each lost more than 75,000 jobs in the five-year period ending in 2004, the Washington, D.C., area added 287,000 jobs, including many for federal IT contractors.

If you want to ride the federal hiring wave, check out USAJobs for vacancy announcements and career fairs that might feature on-the-spot hiring. Also review agency Web sites because they might announce jobs, career fairs, internships and special recruitment programs that are not found elsewhere.

Whiteman is the author of “Get Hired! How to Land the Ideal Federal Job and Negotiate a Top Salary,” published by FPMI Solutions, and a Treasury Department career coach. Her Web site is www.Get-Hired.biz.

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