Washington, D.C., is a dynamic area to work in with plenty of opportunities. According to a spring 2015 survey conducted, Washington placed tenth in its top 25 cities for jobs. At that time there were 116,770 job openings in the District.
While the opportunities in Washington are many, there are a few things you should know when actively looking to find a position. As you begin your search, by taking the right first steps, it'll help better position you to land that initial job in the region.
1. Get familiarized with the local job market
The first thing you'll want to do, especially if you're planning to relocate in order to work in Washington, is to research and learn about the types of skills that are in demand. Many of the job opportunities in D.C. are connected to the federal government, either directly or through a contractor. Some companies or agencies are even willing to pay for relocation.
Numerous employment opportunities in the region are science and tech related. Additionally, due to a growing number of people moving into the region, other job fields unrelated to government work are growing in order to support this budding population. Other in-demand fields include education, construction and healthcare, to name a few.
2. Check USA Jobs
The USAJobs.gov website is a good resource if your goal is to become a federal employee because this is the gateway to getting hired by the federal government. Listing open federal positions, all applications also go through this website. To get started you'll want to:
- Create an account, all job seekers will need to sign up using their email address.
- Have an up-to-date resume, this way it's ready when you want to submit one.
- Explore open positions by agency, key word (expertise), job type, location or salary range.
- Pay careful attention to the requirements of the job before applying.
- Periodically update your profile as you gain new skills.
Even if you aren't necessarily seeking a federal position right now, it's a good idea to consider if this is where you want to be in the future. Getting hired by the federal government isn't always a fast process. It is not uncommon to hear people say they've gotten calls more than a year after they've applied. It is also highly competitive, so don't place all your eggs in one basket if your goal is to work for the government. There are other avenues you can pursue in the meantime.
3. Explore companies specializing in government contracts
A lot of the jobs in the District support government operations. While the government is one of the largest direct employers in the region, there are numerous opportunities with for-profit and not-for-profit companies who work with the government. (2013 statistics reported 22 percent of all federal jobs in the U.S. were concentrated in the District, Virginia and Maryland - government contractors are not considered in these statistics). Find out who the major players are in your field and search for ways to get connected with these companies. Also, routinely check employment search engines for opportunities, new listings are added all the time.
4. Get networking
The region supports a variety of government needs and the people in these circles are heavily connected in some shape or form. Due to the close-knit circles in some types of industries, many people encounter each other over and over again during the course of a career. You'll want to establish connections with other professionals in Washington.
Going to job fairs is a good start. You can meet directly with company representatives, ask questions and learn more about the different types of opportunities and the skills needed to land these jobs. It also helps you begin to establish personal connections. But try to broaden your network beyond the job fairs too. Join professional organizations, attend events, seminars and workshops. Above all, when you meet people, ask them lots of questions about themselves. Not only does this help strike a budding relationship, it also can offer insight when you hear about other people's experiences.
5. Understand what a security clearance is
One unique aspect about job searching in the D.C. metro area is that many positions do require the ability to acquire a security clearance and there are different clearance levels, depending on the job. For federal jobs, you only need to have the ability to attain one. For government contracting companies, it is often to one's benefit to already have one. Many companies prefer their applicants to already have a clearance granted because they don't have to sponsor getting one acquired. This doesn't mean it's impossible, but having one does make an application more appealing to a larger pool of employers. However, if you are a good match, there are employers willing to sponsor getting you cleared.
There are many opportunities to be found in the Washington area. It's all about understanding how the processes work, but growing your personal and professional network helps too.