July 14, 2020

Securing Employment as Public Agencies Grapple With COVID-19 Recovery

Not only has COVID-19 shifted the landscape of employment, it has also changed the competencies that employers are prioritizing in new hires. We are seeing firsthand the importance of resiliency and adaptability in the workforce as employers seek new, in-demand skills including cost-benefit analysis, risk mitigation, forecasting and modeling, and online task management tools. And employees’ ability to apply race and social justice lenses to policy issues, economic recovery plans, and financial management is proving to be especially critical.

For more insight on some COVID-19’s impacts on local government employment, check out this recorded conversation with Evans School faculty member Justin Marlowe. Below are a few recommendations to assist you in assessing and securing employment in this new landscape.

  • Follow Congressional bills and relief packages that predict federal priorities and funding. Where financial support goes, hiring is likely to follow. Depending on the relief packages passed by Congress, we may see increased hiring in areas like infrastructure, employment security, and small business development. And despite sweeping hiring freezes across local and state governments, many public administration positions still may be deemed essential, particularly in health and human services, public financial management, and positions focused on dismantling racism within public administration systems.
  • Embrace emergency hiring opportunities at public agencies tasked with relief and recovery. Many federal agencies have been granted special hiring permission, which means applicants may be able to bypass the clunky USAJobs hiring system and send a resume and cover letter directly to the agency. Agencies may include the Economic Development Administration (EDA) with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Veteran Benefits Association (VBA), and Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), among others. Take a look at the Coronavirus Hiring filter on USAJobs, which includes critical positions across almost all federal agencies.
  • Consider temporary appointments or fellowship programs as entry points to longer term employment. Temporary positions – some as long as 24 months – may continue to be extended during hiring freezes, and some organizations will allow for limited term employees to apply for internal vacancies as they arise later. The website ProFellow is helpful for people seeking fellowships in all areas, and at various points in their careers. Some formal fellowship programs, like the United Nations Young Professionals Program or the U.S. Presidential Management Fellows program, provide full-time employment for upward of two years!

As you consider how to navigate the present job market, it is important to remember that the changes we will see over the coming months and year are not how things will stay. Keeping up with trends and current policy conversations will help you to better navigate a shifting employment landscape, and following organizations like the Volcker AlliancePartnership for Public Service, and Governing Magazine may a good place to start. Remember, career crafting is never a linear path—the job you accept today is not only position you will have in your career.

Questions? Reach out to Director of Career Development Shannon Merchant at evansjob@uw.edu.