As we near the plummet off of the fiscal cliff, one has to wonder how these drastic budget cuts will affect those looking for employment, particularly federal or state environmental jobs. While the job announcements haven't slowed, the competition certainly has increased, making federal employment, in particular, difficult to obtain. Maybe it's time to consider other options, if you haven't already.
One option is to focus some effort on the non-profits. Non-profits have some distinct differences in hiring practices that can work to your advantage, particularly if you do not have any federal status, including veterans' status. Also, they can be much more responsive, closing or opening job advertisements, which is much more challenging for state and federal agencies, which must follow very strict guidelines. Finally, they can choose candidates with potential to perform or those that don't have every skill that they need. For federal positions, the qualifications are established and the selecting official is limited to those names that are forwarded by Human Resources (HR) assistants (generated by software programs). Even more challenging is that some hiring lists are scored and the selecting official can only choose within a set number of candidates, or only within one score group (say, everyone that scored 100).
Non-profits also have the flexibility to move you into positions of more responsibility, if you prove yourself worthy. Some may require re-competing, but this is less likely than in government, where agencies are required to announce every vacancy to competition.
Finally, there are so many nonprofits in the environmental field, including watershed management groups, wildlife organizations, riverkeepers, renewable energy cooperatives, and many others. They are great places to gain experience - and I know of quite a few colleagues in federal service that started there.
Good luck in your job search!
Dr. Carol A. Pollio