My Promotion Experience in the Federal Government

Posted by Wendy Witherell

I’ve been asked to share my personal experience of being promoted from a GS-05 to a GS-12 in just a little over three years.  My situation was definitely not the norm and I was lucky to enter the federal government when I did.  I was hired as an administrative assistant (GS-05, Step 1) in February of 2008.  We were stationed in Naples, Italy at the time.  I took the job because I wanted to work, and there weren’t many options for spouses there.  I already had a great resume, work background, and education and this was the best job I could get.  This also used up my spousal preference, which I knew nothing about at the time.


Two weeks after I was hired, the command I worked for converted from GS to NSPS (National Security Personnel System).  The idea behind NSPS was pay for performance with no more GS levels or steps.  Instead, there were broad paybands (levels 1, 2, and 3) and fewer job categories (YB, YA, and YC were the basics).  There were also no time-in-grade (TIG) requirements, which meant employees no longer had to wait a year to be promoted.  I won’t get into the specifics because it was repealed in 2010 – there were a lot of problems with the system.  NSPS, however, is what moved me along quickly in the GS world.


My GS-05 was converted to a YB-01 (the technical series).  I made many connections in the command.  After six months in my position, an opening came up in the manpower division for an HR specialist.  The position was categorized as a YA-01 (the analytical series).  The other HR specialist was a spouse I had become friends with and she recommended me to her boss.  I was temporarily promoted into the position for 90 days, which meant I didn’t have to compete for the position since it was temporary.  After the 90 days were up they decided they wanted me permanently in the position.  I had already used my spouse preference, so if the position was advertised in the traditional way, I would be blocked by veterans or other spouses who had not used their preferences yet.


The command was able to do an “internal candidates only” advertisement which meant you had to work for the command already to be considered.  This was a legal option and, of course, I made the cert since I had been doing the job for three months.  By the following August I was promoted to the YA-02 level.  In 2010 NSPS was repealed and we were converting back to the GS system in August of 2010.  All of our positions descriptions (PDs) had to be converted to GS and the level determinded by our Human Resources Service Center (HRSC) is where we were placed in the GS system.  The PD I was assigned to came back classified as a GS-12.  It was a rapid advancement, and both my job and performance were at that level.  I feel like it hurts me, though, when my resume is reviewed by long-time federal employees who may not feel like I have paid my dues.  I was questioned about it during a recent interview because the hiring manager didn’t know how it was possible for me to advance so quickly.  I think it is highly unlikely that I’ll be hired into another GS-12 position.  I will probably have to back-track a little and put in some more time.

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