Budget Woes – Why the Trump Administration’s first budget could have you sharpening your resume
The video went instantly viral. Published by What’s Trending on March 17, the short sketch entitled “Elmo Gets Fired,” was viewed 13.5 million times on Facebook within a week of the first posting. If you weren’t one of the first viewers, take a look. The video will make you laugh . . . and it might make you cry.
The tragic story of the famous Muppet’s discharge is both a political protest and a rally to support PBS and the Corporation for Public broadcasting, the latter group designated for elimination by the new administration’s first proposed budget.
In reality, Sesame Street isn’t funded by PBS any more. Sesame Workshop, the producers of the show, made a deal with HBO in 2015. PBS isn’t likely to vanish either. Federal funds, including Corporation for Public Broadcasting money, make up only 10% of PBS revenues and less than 1% of National Public Radio funding.1
Nonetheless, the conversation between Elmo and the PBS manager who is trying to gently push him out the door is certainly relevant. “Elmo hasn’t been unemployed since the 80’s,” the small red monster says.
“You could take pictures with tourists in Times Square for tips,” is the manager’s response.
The President’s budget will certainly be modified in Congress, but it sends a strong signal that downsizing of the federal government will be a priority for the Trump administration. This might be a good time for some federal workers to think about a career change. There are plenty of opportunities available that are better options than panhandling the tourists in Times Square.
What does the President’s budget mean for federal jobs?
An article by Charles Clark on the govexec.com website starts like this:
With the aim of “making government work again,” the Trump White House on Thursday unveiled a $1.1 trillion budget blueprint for discretionary spending in fiscal 2017 and 2018 that would abolish 19 agencies and eliminate thousands of agency jobs. 2
It’s a dire prediction, but the details of the proposed budget indicate a somewhat different calculus. The basic formula is a swap of non-defense dollars for defense dollars. Budgets at Defense, Homeland Security, and some related Energy departments go up by $54 million. Dollars allocated to almost every other agency and department in the federal government go down.
The 19 agencies that would be completely eliminated by the proposed budget include some traditional Republican targets, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, along with other offices dealing with regional development, international aid, and social services. Of the cabinet level offices, the State Department and the EPA are targeted for the largest reductions in funding. Budgets for the State Department and the Agency for International Development would be reduced by $10.9 billion (28%). The EPA budget would decline by $2.6 billion (31.4%). According to govexec.com, cuts in environmental enforcement efforts could affect 3,200 jobs.
The motivation is clearly stated
The budget proposal is entitled "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again." In his introductory message, President Trump plainly states:
The American people elected me to fight for their priorities in Washington, D.C. and deliver on my promise to protect our Nation. I fully intend to keep that promise. One of the most important ways the Federal Government sets priorities is through the Budget of the United States.
Accordingly, I submit to the Congress this Budget Blueprint to reprioritize Federal spending so that it advances the safety and security of the American people. 3
The objectives of government reorganization are stated in a similar phrase:
Through this bold agenda, we will improve the effectiveness, efficiency, cybersecurity, and accountability of the Federal Government and make government work again. 4
The shift in discretionary funding to security related efforts is one major thrust of the administration’s new agenda. It’s accompanied by the goals of downsizing, reduced regulation, and a focus on limits to expenditures on compliance efforts.
There is plenty of evidence that the campaign for “reprioritization” is already underway. It began with the President’s Executive Order for a regulatory freeze on January 19, followed the next day by a hiring freeze that exempted only defense-related agencies. On January 30, the President signed Executive Order #13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.” That order requires federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new ruling issued.
The message for government employees seems equally clear:
Unless you work for a government agency that is defense or security related, your career prospects have lost some of their luster.
Is it time to jump ship?
Maybe. The congressional reception to the new budget has been lukewarm at best, even among the Republican leadership. There will be negotiation, but the congressional majority seems firmly committed to smaller government. If you’re employed with one of the 19 agencies proposed for elimination, it might be a good idea to evaluate your options.
One option is to submit a USAJOBs application for a DHS or a defense agency position. Budget allocations to those agencies are likely to increase, and most jobs were exempted from the hiring freeze. Up to 15,000 Customs and Border Patrol agents and officers are likely to be hired in conjunction with the administration’s immigration efforts. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has also exempted positions that are deemed “necessary for public health and safety.” Many of these slots are designated for medical specialists who are in short supply.
Jobs in the Private Sector
If the idea of leaving the EPA to become a border patrol agent isn’t appealing, you probably have options in the private sector. Job growth is clipping along at a fairly brisk pace. Citing figures from Moody’s Analytics and ADP, the Wall Street Journal reported an increase of 298,000 private sector jobs in February, well in excess of economists’ predictions.
Construction, mining, and manufacturing industries are growing, along with health care and several service industries. Advertised job openings are at record highs with layoff rates nearing the lowest levels since before the 2008 recession.
On the downside, much of the recent job growth has been in lower-wage segments – temp jobs, retail, food services, and lesser-skilled medical jobs. The rate of wage increases also isn’t accelerating, indicating that competitive pressure still exists among private sector job seekers.5
Tips for A Government to Private Sector Transition
Buying an Elmo outfit and posing for pictures with tourists for tips is certainly an option, but perhaps not the best one. Don’t walk the plank if you do decide to jump ship for the private sector. It’s much better to have a life vest and a comfortably equipped lifeboat prepared. Here are a few tips to help your transition:
- Do some research – You’ll need to determine the private sector industries that best match your skills. As you research, think about ways to translate your federal government work to the for-profit world. You’ll need to be able to explain your accomplishments in terms that relate to corporate success. Remember that profits and revenues are the drivers, even in some non-profit organizations. Private sector execs may equate government work with bureaucracy and inefficiency. You’ll need to demonstrate that you’re self-motivated and comfortable with making decisions.
- Put some feelers out – Talk with friends and acquaintances and make some new contacts in industries or companies that interest you. Network online and offline – LinkedIn is an excellent resource for private sector jobs.
- Make contact with an executive recruiter – Better yet, make contact with a couple of them. The recruiters you talk with may or may not help you land a job, but they’re an excellent source for information. Many recruiters specialize in specific industry segments and can give you a feel for your prospects among the employers they serve. They may even have a client who is looking for someone like you.
Our final piece of advice is to sharpen up your resume. If you make the decision to leave the federal workforce for the private sector, you’ll need a corporate resume that increases your chances of getting calls, interviews, and a position that takes your career to a new level.
We hope you’ll contact Careerpro Global for help. Our master resume writers can work with you to tailor your resume for a private sector transition. We’ll help you identify accomplishments – cost savings, increases in productivity, improvements to efficiency – and translate them into terms that private sector executives and managers will value. If you’re ready to get started, just give us a call for your free career consultation.
1 Gilgore, Sara, Here’s how much local public broadcasters get in federal funding, Washington Business Journal, 3/22/17
2 Clark, Charles S., Trump Budget Would Abolish 19 Agencies, Cut Thousands of Federal Jobs, govexec.com, 3/16/17.
3 America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, 03/17.
5 Jamerson, Joshua, Private Sector Added More Jobs Than Expected in February, Wall Street Journal, 3/8/17.
Posted in Career Tip of the Month