evaluation work + advice

I had a great professional compliment recently – I was cold called by a new evaluator looking for a job.  “I know your firm and its reputation…” he said. Isn’t that lovely. (Although, he didn’t mention any details of my reputation. ‘Fun at parties‘?)

Nonetheless, given the pending move to the other side of the planet, I thought it best not to take on new staff. Rather than being a jerk and just saying no, or worse, sending out the professional version of it’s-not-you-out’s-me, I thought the least I could do is add to his bag of tricks in looking for work. I put together a few tricks that I have used to get work / make professional contacts. Once I’d wrote them out, I thought that they might be useful to the 4 people likely to read my blog. So, here they are:*

  • MERX.  It is free to register for federal (and some provincial) projects on MERX. Hint: register and download an RFP for a project you are interested in. That then gives you access to a list of other individuals / firms interested in the same project. You can then target specific firms for specific projects. (When I first started, I would do that and then either phone / email and offer to take on a specific area that I knew I could do very well. It doesn’t pay off every time, but will get you one or two projects a year. Good for your reputation and helpful with contacts)
  • geds, as it is called. I’m sure you’re familiar with them. A search by evaluat* or phone number gets you a good list of potential government contacts. Directors are too low on the food chain to do hiring, (that’s at the DG level), but you can ask to ‘do lunch’ with directors to get a sense of the industry and/or that specific department. 
  • Body shops (professional recruitment firms) can get you onto some larger contracts. They take a cut, a fairly sizeable one if you’re junior, but you can still make decent money. Also, if you speak to them and/or one of the other body shops, ask them about the different contracting tools currently available to government. Often times, client department’s program staff really don’t know how to do contracting side, and that can prevent employment. 
  • Charity village  Access to the not-profit list of evaluation jobs (or half program / half evaluation). They don’t pay as well as the feds, but are more forgiving if you’d like to take on a contract arrangement on your own. If you are hired on permanently somewhere, not-profits are loyal employers and good places to grow in the field
  • Twitter don’t underestimate twitter as a place to find out about work (feel free to copy the folks I follow @lisaoreillyca or those from @CESBCY). I’ve seen some fabulous jobs go out on twitter alone.
  • devnet has some interesting things, especially for bilingual and/or willing to travel
  • on a similar tract, at the AEA conference last year an American not-profit was desperate for evaluators in Haiti. They were accepting Anglophones because they have so few Francophone speakers. If you can do some travel, you can look into the American aid organizations. Your language skills will get you a long way in markets you may not expect. 
  • if you are going to a  conference (CES, AEA, anything else): network ruthlessly. Learning is for people with full time jobs. Networking is for everyone else. (and presenting is for the tenured or truly dedicated).
  • if you aren’t going, Conference sponsors and Case Competition sponsors are great lists of potential employers (after all, they have enough money in the budget to sponsor something, they may be able to take on staff)
*oh, and if I suddenly get millions of readers who are applying for evaluation work, I’m going to want some kind of thank you / hug / percentage of the take

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