Managers • 06 April 2020
5 Tips to Consider as You Plan the Next Step in Your Federal Career

There are plenty of reasons to reach for a position in federal management. Maybe you’re looking for higher pay or better benefits. Maybe you're capable of more and stand to gain better job satisfaction. Whatever your reason, it's always great to strive for more! There’s also a lot to consider when you're faced with the prospect of moving into a new role with new responsibilities. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Watch for opportunities

You already work hard, but if you’re interested in a promotion, you’re going to have to put in some additional work. To start, this means getting your resume in tip-top shape, watching for job vacancies and getting ready for some competition.

If you’re not getting the promotions you want, think about what the competition has that you don’t. You may need to pursue some training opportunities before you’re able to stand out.

In the meantime, keep working on your resume and remember to network. You might not get every position you apply for — but somebody will. That person may have a direct impact on you and your future.

2. Prepare yourself for new tasks

Once you finally land a promotion, you can expect your daily tasks to change. This should be obvious, but it can still take a lot of adjustment.

You may have more meetings than before, and your work may become more focused on planning and supervising than on the technical and nitty-gritty aspects that you used to handle. Time management can become an issue. Your hours may grow, and this may have a direct impact on your personal and family life. Finding a healthy work-life balance may require more effort than it did before.

Prepare now by developing a leadership mindset. This may involve volunteering to lead special projects and seeking opportunities that require different skills than your current position.

3. Consider moving

Approximately 15 percent of federal jobs are located in Washington, D.C. While that still leaves a lot of federal jobs outside the D.C. metro area, it’s pretty clear that you’re more likely to find a federal job in the nation’s capital than other places.

If you’re determined to get a promotion as a federal employee, you may have to be willing to move. In some cases, this will mean moving to Washington, D.C. In other cases, it will mean moving somewhere else.

4. Weigh pay versus responsibility

When you accept a promotion, you expect a salary hike to accompany your new responsibilities. This normally happens, but the public sector works a little differently than the private sector.

Most federal employees get paid according to the General Schedule, which includes 15 different pay grades, each of which contains 10 step rates. According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it normally takes 18 years for a person to advance all 10 steps within a GS pay grade, although some people may qualify for an additional quality step increase once per year.

When a person is promoted to a higher GS pay grade, the two-step promotion rule takes effect. Under this rule, “a GS employee promoted to a position in a higher grade is entitled to basic pay at the lowest rate of the higher grade that exceeds his or her existing rate of basic pay by not less than two-step increases of the grade from which promoted.”

In other words, raises are tightly controlled for federal workers. A promotion should mean you’re earning more, but if you’re already near the top of what you’re qualified for, you may end up with a lot more responsibility for only a little additional pay.

5. Be mindful of the risks

As a federal employee, you answer to both the public and to your federal colleagues. As a manager, you must navigate interactions with both your direct-reports, and your own managers. With increased power and responsibility, you also get increased accountability and exposure.

Once you begin hiring, reviewing, and disciplining employees you also become susceptible to the potential of allegations of discrimination, for example. When you have access to more internal information and the power to use it, you also gain a higher chance of a negligence claim. And so on.

Because of this increased exposure, many federal managers and supervisors opt to get Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance (FEPLI). This insurance provides defense and liability coverage for qualifying claims if you are ever accused of wrongdoing on the job. In addition, the insurance helps you to get a legal advocate with experience in federal employment matters, and possibly save your career and your financial future.

Of course, if you're ready and willing to take on more responsibility and move up in your agency, by all means, do so! Advance onto the next stage of your career with enthusiasm — but most importantly, be as well-prepared as possible.



Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA; this article is offered solely for informational purposes. Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.


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