NOTES on Federal Jobs

Professor Waldner
July 18, 2012
Hello, MPA students. I recently attended A “Pathways to Federal Employment” session in Atlanta,
Georgia with Ms. Julie Saad, a program analyst at OPM. She shared some terrific advice, so I wanted to
share some notes I took from the session with you in turn. If there are any errors below, they are mine
and not hers.
There are three NEW pathways to federal employment for students: (1) internships; (2) recent
graduates, and (3) Presidential Management Fellowships. All of these are paid positions.
Why did OPM create new pathways? Because students and recent graduates had great difficulty
competing on because they didn’t have the experience, or they weren’t veterans. These
new pathways will make it easier for you all to compete for federal jobs.
The three new pathways are:
INTERNSHIP programs became effective in mid-July—but we probably won’t see a lot of postings on
there until Fall.
RECENT GRADUATES Program—must have graduated within the past two years (so after December 27
2010). Veterans would have a longer period of time. Like internships, the agency has the option to keep
you on after your position ends.
PRESIDENTIAL MANAGEMENT FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM—best way to fast-track an executive-level
federal career. Very competitive (the good news is that we’ve had several successful PMF candidates
selected from Troy MPA). Students can now apply while in school and/or less than two years after
graduation, so there’s a longer eligibility window. ALSO, the nominations no longer need to go through
Troy—you can nominate yourself. Here’s how competitive it is: for last year, 9,000 applicants narrowed
down to 300 finalists, and about 50% of those will get position.
IF YOU ARE STILL IN SCHOOL—try for all three pathways! (PMF, internship, and recent graduates
More “insider” tips—without these, sometimes applying for a federal position can feel like “an
overwhelming black hole” (as one attendee put it):
85% of the jobs out there are based on who you know..EXCEPT at the federal level. More level
playing field. Helps maximize opportunities for students.
Target your search to the right GS level. For a Bachelors, that would be a GS-5 or GS-7; for Masters,
look for GS-9s or above. Also, it’s not where you start in terms of pay scale—it’s where you have the
potential to go. So look at the career ladder for the position.
Once you are in the position--for promotions, do quarterly reviews, not just annual, to make sure
you are on right track. Show initiative, since you don’t know where future opportunities could be.
Also, make sure to volunteer for any training the agency offers, once you are in the position.
Where are Federal jobs? Believe it or not, only 16% of all fed jobs are located in DC. The rest are
around the country.
FIT: identify federal position by college major or agency mission. ONLY narrow it down by agency if
you are really passionate about a specific agency. Otherwise, don’t limit yourself that way. Keep an
open mind in terms of position fits. It’s all about getting that first opportunity, then you can move
on from there.
Q. Are there resources to study for the PMF Test? A. yes, there’s a study guide on
Q. How do you find Federal Pathways positions? A.
Expect more postings in late summer/early fall. When you are on the homepage, put in Internships
or Recent Graduates. Go to the left-hand side. There are two categories (internships and recent
graduates). Sort result BY WORK TYPE. Get a account, since it’s needed for some,
though not all, of these positions.
Make sure you tailor your resume for each position—and make it detailed! Unlike the private sector,
it’s not good to have a 1-page resume for the sake of brevity. If it’s relevant, even strategic
volunteer experience, include it. The tailored resume must reflect the job description, so you’ll
probably need about five resumes. Don’t be afraid to go into detail! For example, WHAT you did;
HOW you did it, the RESULTS you got. Print out the job description so you can refer back to it, since
they go off line quickly.
If it shows AND an alternate pathway for submitting your resume, choose the usajobs
Do not include a cover letter unless the position asks for one.
Q. What if you want to work for a particular agency, like CDC? A. Do informational interviews (very
different from job interviews), and talk to HR to see what options might exist. Network.
Plan ahead—leave lots of time to compare the application and have a strategy for applying.
Select carefully—find jobs that best match your interests. TAILORED and DETAILED resume.
Emphasize quality over quantity. Follow up on your resume!
Some links to check out:,