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Education & Training: WG transitional pathways

Screen capture of the WG career progression brochure

Chart to help with transition from one WG series to another

The above chart shows requirements for the five most common series for WG to GS transitions. For additional qualifications, refer to OPM for the appropriate series.
Jeff A. Wagner
Career Field Administrator

     One of the goals of civil engineer, or CE, leadership is the professional development of all 12,000+ personnel in our career field. This year, CE's Human Capital Plan, or HCP, is focused on the development of our engineers in a broad range of General Schedule and Wage Grade positions.  This development is not just limited to the current series you occupy.  Occasionally, there are employees that wish to expand their experience base into other facets of CE. In fact, the 2015 CE HCP lists Goal 2 as "Develop and employ cross-functional knowledge, skills, and CE competencies." This article highlights opportunities for WG employees to transition to certain GS series.

Planning for change
     In order to achieve successful civilian career development, CE has also developed a Career Progression Model. The current CPM designates Diversity of Experience as one of its pillars, which coordinates with HCP Goal 2. Diversity is one of the critical factors in developing a civilian workforce that is flexible enough to meet the challenges of the future. Transitioning from the crafts and trades side of CE to a leadership role brings a breadth of experience invaluable to the CE enterprise. The question is: How do we accomplish this transition?

     While many of the personnel rules differ between the WG and GS systems, the process to move between them is still largely the same: meet Office of Personnel Management qualifications; meet the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities in the Position Description; and make yourself marketable. With some forward planning, and by communicating your intentions to leadership within your unit, you will be better able to draft your roadmap to success.  Make sure you read and understand the WG CPM developed by the Functional Advisory Council WG panel. This information will assist you in mapping out a plan to transition into certain GS positions. Researching the job requirements for your desired series, and contacting the civil engineer career field team, will allow you to position yourself to better compete against other applicants. Speak with your supervisor and identify a target series and specific positions at your unit or elsewhere that you are interested in pursuing. Once you have them identified, you can start applying for the training and experience necessary to qualify for that position.

Setting goals
     It is important for you to plan where you want to go in your career. Once you have a plan in place and goals identified, you can then determine what steps to take towards obtaining your goals. When setting career goals, it is a good idea to involve your spouse and family as they will be impacted by your decisions. Once you have established your career goals, identify a mentor in your current or desired career field. A mentor can help you identify work experience and training that will make you more competitive, serve as sounding boards, and can help reassess or adjust your career goals when events in your life or career necessitate a change. As you complete steps towards achieving your career goals, it is important to reassess your plan and goals regularly. Upon establishing or re-establishing your career goals, discuss them with your mentor and lay out an achievable plan.

     As an example, suppose your goal was to qualify for a GS-1640 position (Facility Management). OPM qualification documents indicate that "Performing maintenance or construction work, including estimating material and labor costs for a variety of construction or maintenance projects" is experience that can be used to qualify for this type of job. By planning ahead and targeting this type of GS position, you can discuss opportunities with your supervisor, mentor, and unit leadership to earn this type of specialized experience. 

     The key to getting on the referral list for a new position is to make sure that your resume accurately reflects your specialized experience in alignment with the OPM position standards, as well as the PD requirements outlined in the chart linked at right. This chart shows a variety of requirements for the five most common series for Wage Grade to GS transitions. Gaining the depth and breadth of experience in the desired functional series will allow you to compete successfully with employees already in the GS system.

Tailoring resumes
     Finally, read the PD for the position you want and find the associated KSAs. Evaluate your experience against the KSAs:  Where are your strengths and where are your weaknesses? Once you have found those shortfalls, start working on those gaps.  Remember, on your resume you want to show how you meet and exceed the requirements of the position.  Sometimes it can be as simple as listing a class you attended. Other times it may require you to demonstrate a long period of working extra duty jobs to build a solid base for your transition. This is a good time to take the KSAs and your resume to your supervisor or mentor and get some honest feedback on whether your experiences qualify you for the position.

      Get to know the people in your organization who are familiar with your desired position. They can help you get the right experience base for your resume.  Building your resume is critical to the transition process from WG to GS. 

      Sometimes having more than one resume is appropriate if you are targeting positions in several series with different qualification standards. Tailor your resume(s) to your career goals, and build a resume for each unique position type. Describe specific projects and their impacts to demonstrate the quality of work you are capable of producing. Dedicate time for writing and proofreading the document regularly to be prepared when an announcement opens.  Ask your supervisor and mentor to give your resume a critical look. You want candid feedback at this point, not passive praise for a mediocre product.  View your experience in relation to the position you are pursuing, not the position you are occupying. Be honest about your work experiences, but highlight how your experience translates to the new position. Remember that you are likely competing against a number of others outside of your organization, so make yourself marketable! What makes you a better choice for this position? Your resume should tell exactly why you are the right person in this job.

     It's important to note that just like career development in the GS system, the responsibility to make yourself marketable lies with you!  Your supervisor can assist and your mentor can help lay out the path, but it is up to you to take the steps needed to get to the position you want.

Editor's Note: This article is part of the education and training summer series.