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Posted by on Mar 12, 2019

3 Tips for Newcomers to the Federal Workforce

3 Tips for Newcomers to the Federal Workforce

Federal program management training from Management Concepts

Between the paperwork, acronyms, and levels of bureaucracy, the Federal workforce is a daunting field for newcomers. There are many “listicles” and websites that provide information on what to expect on your first day, year, or at any time during your tenure as a Federal employee. With that in mind, here are three tips to ease your transition.

1) Know your position details.
One of the most important things for a new government employee to know is your position’s details. Take the time to find out the length of your probationary period (usually one year, but it differs between agencies) and how often you will have performance reviews.

The probationary period is a safety net for the agency, but also works in your favor. During this time, your organization will observe how you manage your workload, how you respond to job stressors, and how you fit in with the team. At the same time, you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of the work required, determine if the position is the correct fit for your career goals, and ultimately have the opportunity to seek a new role if the job isn’t a good fit.

The performance reviews associated with the probationary period gauge how you’re adjusting to the role and will provide insight to help you improve weaknesses while highlighting the areas in which you are succeeding. Every employee is an investment for an agency, therefore, your manager wants to ensure you are well-positioned to become an asset for the organization.

2) Time works differently in the Federal workforce.

A vital reality about government work is that the project you’re working on today will likely not be put into action for months or even years. Don’t let that discourage you because your work will eventually have a great impact on many people. The projects and programs you touch may manifest as a change in internal procedures for your agency or as policy change that impacts the nation.

One of many positive aspects of working in the Federal workforce is that your work today could lead to a new project down the road, potentially in a different department. This could open new job opportunities or professional development for you. Work in the government has a natural degree of flux that can is enticing for many Federal employees. Your position may change along with government policies or you may develop skills that make you more qualified for another position within the same department. This is something to keep in mind as you think of IDPs (Individual Development Plans) and future goals.

3) Create a system that works for you.

There are small things you can do to make your daily duties easier to manage and improve your quality of work. These things are not universal, though! As you settle into your position, make note of the processes must be done in a specific way vs. the ones that you can personalize. Try different techniques your first few weeks to figure out what’s most effective for you.

One practical tip to try is to make a glossary of terms and acronyms. This quick reference will help you get to know the agency and government.

Another tip is to make your workspace comfortable! Office or cubicle, a comfortable workspace helps with overall disposition, and it lets you share a bit of personality with coworkers. There are a couple of must-haves to consider to help make you comfy, no matter how much decorating you do or don’t do:

  • Headphones or earbuds: These will be lifesavers if you want to attend a video conference, watch a webinar, or listen to any kind of media. They also provide a quick and easy solution for those days your office is either too loud or too quiet.
  • Desktop heater with a fan setting: Since most office spaces are regulated for energy efficiency, you may find yourself cold or warm. Desktop heaters are usually quiet, small, and can even be powered by your computer.

On behalf of Management Concepts, congratulations on your new role as a Federal Government employee! Now that you’re armed with some tips and tricks about how to navigate your time working for the Federal Government, you will be able to focus on what’s truly important: making a difference for the American people.


Dakotah Daffron is an editor at Management Concepts with a growing interest in Project Management. He received his BA from Mississippi State University, and his published work can be found in The Streetcar.

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