Talent management is a critical part of the government’s job. Critical missions, including national security missions, require qualified professionals to do the work, and the federal government faces the same challenges as the commercial sector in attracting and retaining the right workers.  Attracting diverse workers into national security and intelligence community careers poses additional challenges, and it’s one of the reason the intelligence community, in particular, works hard to provide reporting on both the numbers and the growth in diverse employees within the intelligence community, including women.

It’s no surprise that the very application process itself can frequently be a barrier to entry. The next struggle is to retain those same workers after they’ve been hired. Whether you’re considering a government career or barreling deep into the application process, here are three tips for women pursuing government careers.

1. Find a mentor.

The COVID-19 environment may seem like a barrier to this process, but it can actually make it easier than ever. When someone knows they’re committing to a phone call or video chat, it may be easier to get a higher-level person to say ‘yes’ to your ask for an informational interview. And many organizations are going virtual with networking events which often even include break-out sessions or one-on-one chat options. And don’t forget that a recruiter should be one of the people in your career network – they can advise you on your resume and aspects of the job market you may not consider.

2. Don’t be Afraid of Gaps.

There was a time when women were judged for any career gaps, but those times are over. Both men and women are showing you don’t always have to ‘lean in’ to get ahead in the workplace – sometimes it’s okay to lean-out, build a new skillset, or do something you need to do to take care of your family, and then re-enter the workforce later. Federal employers are making on and off ramping part of their retention strategies.

3. Consider Non-Traditional Options.

USAJobs isn’t the only path to a federal government career. Government jobs can be found on ClearanceJobs.com, along with contract positions which can sometimes lead to government positions if the applicant is interested. Fellowships and internships are another path to a government job. In contrast to the private sector where internships are often the purview of the college student or young, federal government fellows or interns frequently come into the position with some years of experience. If the internship leads to the agency or position of your dreams, it may be worth it.

The government wants (and needs) great women to keep it running. With women taking the highest ranks of some of national security’s top agencies and organizations, now is a great time for women to look to the possible, and start their government career journey.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.