Looking to relocate from DC to the Midwest - help!
June 12, 2012 6:08 AM   Subscribe

Advice/leads/jeers for a (US) Federal employee trying to relocate from Washington DC to the Midwest while hopefully staying in the Federal system?

After watching nearly all of our good friends leave the Washington DC area over the past couple of years, my wife and I are looking to do the same. We'd like to move somewhere that an average family could actually afford to purchase a semi-decent home without winning the Powerball lottery (our current neighborhood in Alexandria, VA ain't it).

My wife is from northwest Ohio, and after a few recent trips, we've realized that we really feel at home anywhere from Cleveland to Minneapolis (with the exception of Chicago - too big). Ohio/Michigan/Indiana would probably be best, for family reasons, but we love the Twin Cities, Des Moines, and Madison, too. We're both Federal employees - my background is environmental/community planning/water, coastal & river stuff and hers is environmental & communications/social media - and we'd like at least one of us to be able to stay in the Federal system.

Any advice would be immensely, immensely appreciated.
posted by jhandey to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Is St Louis too big for you? If not, and if you can get a security clearance, then the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has a large presence there. They hire lots of people for both Geographic Information Systems and for Imagery analysis. Especially with imagery analysts, there are no real prerequisites beyond a bachelors degree and security clearance-- they are looking more for a certain personality type and problem-solving mindsets. You may be able to leverage your coastal and riparian background into a GIS position as well, depending on how strong your computer skills are.
posted by seasparrow at 6:34 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd start with setting up some usajobs.gov alerts. While that system is basically broken, it is possible that things could come up that would be appealing.
posted by k8t at 6:41 AM on June 12, 2012

Also looks like you'd like to live in cities on the Mississippi and other rivers. With your background and the fact that there are National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offices everywhere that might be a good fit. If you are really technical, then maybe check out the Army Corps of Engineers.
posted by seasparrow at 6:41 AM on June 12, 2012

What about the kind of programs that mediate between the Federal government and farmers? You know, in hopes of getting farmers to reduce agricultural runoff that hurts rivers and oceans, without making the farmers even more anti-government than they may already be, and maybe even creating win-win solutions (e.g. cover crops)? Seems like that kind of program could use both of your expertises.

Bureaucratic places to look: the USDA runs such programs through its FSA (Farm Service Agency) and NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). It also has a job search function on its website.

(I know nothing of such matters, beyond having moved to a small city in a rural area where I've heard the words 'conservation district'. But this kind of thing seems really important for the environment, for regional food security, and for getting our nation past its political and ideological gridlock. At the least, y'all would be underpaid heroes who trade farmer and fish anecdotes at the dinner table and thereby raise great kids.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:10 AM on June 12, 2012

The USFWS Midwest regional office is just south of Minneapolis, they might be hiring.
posted by look busy at 9:06 AM on June 12, 2012

I work for the U.S. Forest Service, and it sounds like both of your backgrounds could be a fit for my agency. As a current federal employee, you would be eligible to apply "with status" for outreaches. A good way to open the door for a position with the FS is to do a detail with the agency, either at the Washington Office, located in the highly under-recognized (and under-appreciated) Yates Building adjacent to the Washington monument, or with a local Forest Supervisor or District office. The former would be better for getting contacts who would help you find placements around the nation, the latter would be better if you are interested in a position with that specific Forest or on that Ranger District.

The easiest way to secure a detail like this is if your agency would sponsor you (e.g. pays your salary and travel expenses). Another alternate would be your agency pays your salary, the recipient agency pays your travel. A third option (but unlikely given the present financial situation for my agency as well as the tight restrictions on travel expenditures) is the recipient agency pays your salary and travel.

Many outreaches are posted on USAJobs, but the best way to find vacancies that local leadership is interested in hiring for is by asking around locally. In my personal opinion, the FS historically was pretty internally-focused for positions, but that is dramatically changing thanks in parts to our Cultural Transformation effort. The agency is really focused on bringing in a diversity of ideas, backgrounds, and experience right now. I'm based in the Southeast, but feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like to talk about current vacancies that are floating around.
posted by RachelSmith at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I meant to also include a link to the Forest Service's employment page. You can also look at various Forests and National Grasslands located in the states that you have an interest in, just to help you triangulate potential positions. I have to say, I've heard the Chequamegon-Nicolet NF in Wisconsin is just gorgeous.

Also, for others who are not presently federal employees and are in school, finishing school, or recently finished school, check out the Pathways Program. It is brand new (starts on July 7th, I believe), and combines a number of hiring authorities. I was hired under one of them called the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF), which is targeted at folks who have recently finished a graduate degree and are interested in federal service. Here's the Forest Service's PMF page, and a couple of posts I wrote about applying for the program. There are also related programs that have been consolidated under the Pathways umbrella for current college and graduate students and others.

Having recently gone through the process myself, I'm always happy to talk to others considering federal employment and trying to work their way through Avue and USAJobs.
posted by RachelSmith at 10:20 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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