girls supporting each other

Finding a Support System

By Michael Orange
MS in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases

Finding a support system is critical during the federal job-hunting process. You may submit well over 100 to 200 applications before you even begin to hear back from recruiters and hiring managers. Fortunately, I had my wife to turn to when I was struggling to cope with the constant rejection. I recommend turning to a close friend, a family member, or a significant other. Remember, in many cases, there are perhaps hundreds, if not thousands, applying for a single job opening. Even if you are highly qualified, it stands to reason that you will get rejected more often than you will be offered a position, especially if you do not follow every minor detail outlined by USAJobs when submitting your application. For example, my workplace is made up of mostly veterans who each have over 20 years of experience in military fields such as intelligence, acquisition, and chemical/biological defense. One co-worker – who worked for 23 years in Army Intelligence – recounted a story of how she applied for an entry-level Intelligence Analyst position with the government following her military retirement. She received no word from HR, was offered zero feedback, and was later sent an automated e-mail detailing that she was unqualified, which evidently is not the case. 

In conclusion, remember that if you do not hear back from HR after sending a follow-up e-mail, take into consideration that no reply is not always their fault. At times there may be only one or two specialists sifting through hundreds of applications. Hence, the hiring process can be just as tedious and lengthy for those agencies hiring. Furthermore, if you manage to land an interview, but do not hear back from the hiring manager within a few weeks, send a follow-up message asking for any updates or insights on the position. If at this point, you have been “ghosted,” simply send one more e-mail thanking the hiring manager for their time and consideration, while also detailing your continued interest in the organization and stating that you hope they will keep you in mind for future opportunities. Leave a lasting impression by demonstrating that you can handle setbacks with grace, dignity, and most importantly, that you remain interested. Do not post angry social media messages about your experience. Your digital footprint is easily searchable the next time you apply for a job, whether with the same organization, or another. Finally, as you choose your support system, understand that they may not always have the answer, but at least they will listen.

More Career Advice

Learn from faculty, staff, postdocs, students and alumni through our Career Catalyst blog.

Career Catalyst

USAJobs Blog Series