October 9, 2013
Shutdown prompts many to ponder private-sector jobs
The federal shutdown is affecting a lot of people in our state, and I'm starting to get inquiries from government employees who are considering moving into the private sector.
Many of the queries are coming from spouses of military professionals stationed at one of the bases around Puget Sound. Government contractors have been affected, too. Approximately 10,000 civilian employees at Joint Base Lewis-McChord were sent home last week.
Though the shutdown is a very fluid situation, I want to address a few concerns I've heard from public-sector folks, both recently and over the years.
Frequent moves. Military spouses often worry that it will be difficult to find work with so many short-term jobs on their resumes. This is no longer the disadvantage that it used to be. In the past five years or so, the face of the workforce has been changing. Gen Y in particular has a reputation for job hopping, so employers are getting used to seeing resumes from those who switch employers every few years.
There are plenty of local short-term opportunities. The temporary-employment industry in the Puget Sound area is actually one of the strongest in the country, thanks to companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing. Many people are career contractors (including yours truly), so agencies that can offer longer-term stints are more plentiful here than in some other areas of the country.
Location concerns. Many people who live near military bases in Tacoma or Bremerton say that all the jobs seem to be in Seattle or Bellevue. If you don't mind the commute time, many employers and temporary agencies in Seattle and Bellevue offer a free or subsidized ORCA transportation card that allows you to use the bus, train and ferry system to commute to jobs in the Seattle core.
Alternatively, you could look for jobs that can be done remotely. For example, Amazon is hiring "virtual call center" customer-service reps. There are lots of legitimate work-from-home options; FlexJobs and NWjobs.com both have opportunities. Look for the keywords "virtual," "WFH" or "telecommute" in the job description. Twitter also has a ton of job announcements; use the hashtags #jobs and #virtual in your search.
One caveat: Do your homework if something seems too good to be true. WorkSource is a good resource for this.
Few jobs in some fields. Be creative in considering your career options. Two of my friends made a respectable living during the last major economic downturn as dog walkers and pet sitters. Two other friends recently turned volunteer work into paying jobs at the Museum of Glass and the Woodland Park Zoo. In Seattle, Uber and Lyft allow you to use your vehicle to make some extra money on a very flexible schedule.
As with anything else, the early bird catches the worm. If you wait too long to pursue this career path, you may find yourself competing against others who waited a long time to switch from the public to the private sector.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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