Posted on Aug 31, 2014
SSG Cnd Team Member
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I’m just curious what other’s experiences are in regards to joining the Federal Government.

If you are a Federal Employee, what GS grade (or equivalent) did you initially enter service as?

If you came immediately from the military into Federal service, and factoring in entitlements, did you take an overall pay cut (not including retirement income) or get a raise?

Did you feel like you deserved a higher GS grade than you initially started at based upon previous military service?

Did you negotiate to a higher initial step due to demonstrated experience or knowledge?

Anything else that might be relevant to service members seeking initial employment in the Federal Government?
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MAJ Brigade Logistics Officer (S4)
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Edited 5 y ago
I recently (a few months ago) started as a Dual-Status Technician, which is a SM whose federal job is dependent on them maintaining a position with the National Guard of the state you are working in. I started as a GS-09. That is what I was offered, and what I accepted.

Positives:
- You will accumulate leave at a decent rate, particularly if you have prior federal service time (which adds to your calculated time in service, and includes federal active duty in any branch of the military). If you are in the Guard you get the additional benefit of 120 hours of military leave per year, which is paid leave and allows you to double dip while doing annual training, schools, etc.
- It's dependable work, with great potential for movement (both upward and lateral) within the organization, something that most civilian employers no longer offer.
- It offers both a pension plan and a 401k equivalent (TSP), so retirement is pretty nice, especially if you can get the dual retirement of a federal position and military.
- As a dual-status tech, I'm working mostly around others in uniform, so it is a very familiar and comfortable environment.

Negatives:
- You will probably not start out making what you did in the military.
- You will start out at step 1 of your grade, regardless of your previous active duty time.
- Retirement has recently been increased to 30 years in service (although this is reduced by any federal active duty you had before starting).

Note that the above is a simplification, and there are more details to consider when calculating retirement in particular.
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SGT William B.
SGT William B.
5 y
That's an awesome breakdown sir, and hopefully a good starting point for folks looking at transitioning into federal service.

The thing is that the reward for doing "service" to the government and the people is usually intrinsic in nature, and far exceeds the kind of pay that you can command in the private sector. It can be trying, and it definitely isn't the best paying until you start reaching GS14 and up (EDIT: Actually, I have no clue what federal employees make, so ignore this, GS11s could be ballin' for all I know), but it's a great option for people who want to continue serving, but can't wear a uniform anymore.
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SSG Cnd Team Member
SSG (Join to see)
5 y
There are three issues I see with the dual-status technician positions: your civilian employment is contingient up military membership, grade inversion can hamper civilian career progression, and the positions are considered "excepted" service. Aside from that, I agree that these positions are a good start for establishing a Federal service. In fact, in many locales this may be the only option for Federal civil service.
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MSG Anthony DiFondi
MSG Anthony DiFondi
5 y
I retired in late 2011 and got a job with the Navy. I took a GS 7-11 development position to get in the door. I hated the job and left it after a month. I moved to the Philadelphia area and applied for approximately 15 federal positions. I was very fortunate to get selected for a GS 7 - 12 developmental position. Developmental positions are positions where you come in at a lower level, but get yearly promotions until you reach the top grade for that position. When looking for positions after coming out of the service, we all feel we should occupy higher positions because of our vast experiences. However, the hiring managers don't always see your experiences as beneficial to their organization ( I was a Field Artillery, Medic and HR guy in the service and applied to work in Medicare). If you are going to apply for a job to get in the door, I recommend the developmental positions, like the ones I mentioned. They have automatic promotions that will allow you to climb up the ranks quickly and without having to re-compete for an advancement.
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Lt Col Jim Coe
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Edited >1 y ago
Good questions! Here's my answers.

"If you are a Federal Employee, what GS grade (or equivalent) did you initially enter service as?" I started and retired as a GS14, which was roughly equivalent to my retired military grade (O-5).

"If you came immediately from the military into Federal service, and factoring in entitlements, did you take an overall pay cut (not including retirement income) or get a raise?" I came to civil service (Department of the Army Civilian -- DAC) from the private sector. I took a very small pay cut (see below), but the benefits were better. Civilian employer had only 401k with matching. GS offered TSP (like 401k) with generous matching plus civil service retirement program. Health insurance was about the same. Job stability was much better. In private sector consulting industry your job is only as stable as the current contract.

"Did you feel like you deserved a higher GS grade than you initially started at based upon previous military service?" No. I was hired to be a program manager. The work was similar to what I was doing in the private sector. It was also similar to the work I did in my last staff job as a Lt Col 16 years earlier.

"Did you negotiate to a higher initial step due to demonstrated experience or knowledge?" Yes, but this may be rare. I asked my prospective boss if the Army could match my current salary. I gave him a copy of my last private sector pay statement. He said he would try. A couple of days later he came back with an offer of GS14 step 8. It was about 2K/yr less than my private sector salary, so I took the job. My experience and knowledge were directly related to the GS position. I had over 12 years experience as a project manager in the Government contracting environment and was a Project Management Professional.

"Anything else that might be relevant to service members seeking initial employment in the Federal Government?" I've said this before in other strings, but your resume must be customized for every job you apply for. The resume will be reviewed by a computer first, so read the job announcement carefully and pick out the key words. If the announcement says the job requires "knowledge of the DOD surface transportation system," then make sure "DOD," "transportation," and "surface transportation" are in your resume IF you can honestly claim that experience. Once through the computer screen, a real person will read your resume and score it against factors the hiring manager provides. The factors, like experience, knowledge, education, or technical skills, must be directly linked to the announcement. Show your responsibilities and accomplishments for each job you've had in your resume. I reviewed many resumes and came away saying, "what did this person actually do for two years in that job?" Hard to score high. In the interview, expect to be asked questions about your job experience in your resume. I always did this to confirm the applicant had not embellished his or her experience too much. If you say you were, "leader of a project team that met corporate and client goals on time and quality." You can bet I was going to ask you to tell me about the project, the team, and the goals. Be ready.
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PV2 Senior Web Designer, Web Team Lead
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I was out of the service for some time, but my Army time along with non-Federal credit time and the fact my experience was related to the job, landed me mine. I came in as a GS11 in 2012. I got my 12 last year and hoping to get my 13.
I would echo what CWO3 Cleve Arrington said about your experience as it applies to the job that you are applying. Make sure your experience actually aligns with the job description and duties. Make sure to fill out your SF-15 for your Veterans preference as well. Also know that the way the government counts your military time towards your federal service is screwy. It's hard to explain as they seem to cherry pick how they calculate that. 1SG (Join to see) helped me understand that part better.
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1SG Eoc Ops Coordinator / Ga Certified Emergency Manager
1SG (Join to see)
>1 y
@PV2 Lisa Wilcox...now you can come back and explain it to me....because it still makes absolutely no sense to me what so ever. Good luck on the 13!
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GySgt Wayne A. Ekblad
GySgt Wayne A. Ekblad
>1 y
Best of luck with getting your 13 PV2 (Join to see)!
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PV2 Senior Web Designer, Web Team Lead
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