Wednesday, August 25, 2010

UW's Making the Difference Campaign Featured by the National Initiative


Since receiving the Partnership for Public Service’s Call to Serve Innovation Grant in February 2009, the University of Washington has made incredible strides towards building and expanding upon existing relationships with federal agencies.

In May 2009, the Partnership came to campus to train over 30 career counselors and faculty from across our three campuses, representing most of the 16 colleges and schools on campus which reach over 92,000 students per year. At the training, there were 13 representatives from nine different federal agencies in the Seattle area, ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Since launching the program, we have gone from hosting 10 federal events in 2008-09, to 45 events in 2009-10! This includes a successful “Find and Apply for Federal Jobs” workshop series offered by the career center, two panels of speakers on federal internship programs, a large government jobs fair and several employer panels focused on federal opportunities.

Additionally, we have create a Steering Committee of staff across campus, presented at the Northwest Career Educators and Employers Association conference, had a brief spot on local television about federal careers and a front-page article in the campus newspaper about the initiative. Based on the successes of last year, we are already organizing our federal events for the upcoming year.

One of the most significant achievements of our program is the increased awareness of federal hiring programs such as the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. In September 2009, we held the first university-wide PMF presentation, with several PMF finalists in attendance as well as agencies seeking to hire PMFs. This led to an incredible increase in the number of finalists—UW went from having four finalists in 2008-9, to 22 finalists in 2009-10, a 550% increase!

In addition to these increases, we have launched two outreach initiatives to make students aware of federal careers and to engage federal agencies in the region: our Federal Student Ambassadors Program and our Making the Difference Blog. The Federal Student Ambassadors program is modeled on the Partnership’s Federal Service Student Ambassadors, and utilizes a group of 14 students who have already conducted internships in the federal government. These students serve as our team of promoters for federal events, as well as a bridge to the agencies where they have worked. They also contribute to our Making the Difference Blog. This blog has been an excellent way to make students aware of internships and student programs as well as federal careers in general. We also created outreach initiatives including a Facebook page and a poster campaign highlighting federal job opportunities. The secret behind our success is Elizabeth Streett, the Lead Federal Student Ambassador, who has worked to coordinate many events and programs. Her background as a Human Resource Specialist for the Army for three years has been incredibly helpful in this work.

Participation in the Call to Serve program has also helped one of the grant coordinators, Heather Krasna, Director of Career Services at the Evans School of Public Affairs, with her new book, Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service. This new book covers careers in federal, state, local and multilateral government entities, as well careers that benefit the public in the nonprofit and corporate sectors.

Heather worked with staff at the Partnership to identify two of the professionals who are profiled in the book, Cathleen Berrick, Managing Director, Homeland Security and Justice at the Government Accountability Office and a Service to America Medals medalist, and Kristen Taddonio, Lead, Strategic Climate Projects, Climate Protection Partnerships Division of the EPA. Heather also had the great privilege of working with the Partnership’s CEO, Max Stier, as he wrote the forward to her book. Max’s summary of Jobs That Matter? “Reading this book is a smart step on the journey to both finding a fulfilling job and serving the nation.”

Check out Heather’s book, Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service, on

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Networking in Washington D.C.

University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs Professor Mark Long shares with us his experience searching and networking for internships in Washington D.C. He landed two, one with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in Washington D.C.

I worked as a summer intern in D.C. in 1996 for the Office and Management and Budget (OMB), and 1997 for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  I served in these positions during the summer after completing an M.P.P. at the University of Michigan and after my first year completed as a Ph.D. student respectively.  When I went about the task of landing a D.C. internship in 1996, I was at a loss for how to find an internship.  The best decision that I made was to travel to D.C. for spring break and use the whole week to make contacts and do informational interviewing.  I started about a month before spring break calling UM alumni who had DC employment (UM kept a directory that students could access).  These were all cold calls, as I didn't know the individuals before making the calls.  I found these alumni to be invaluable sources of information on how to find internships, what the work would be like, and most importantly who to talk to when I arrived.  Many of these alumni provided me introductions to staff who agreed to meet with me for short informational interviews.  I made sure to tell these individuals that I wanted to ask them about their agency/organization even if there were no internships available (as these interviews would provide valuable insights into future possible employment).  By pre-scheduling these informational interviews, I filled about half of the spring break week, but I had numerous gaps in my schedule.  In the down time, I decided to do cold calling on a variety of organizations (e.g., Urban Institute) and was surprised by their willingness to find staff who were willing to meet with me then or later in the week.  Amazingly, a few of these cold calls resulted in internship offers.  I also went through "normal" channels in applying for internships, and I believe that my OMB and CBO internships were secured through these normal channels.  Nonetheless, I found the process of generating and expanding a network to be an invaluable way to get the lay of the land and to increase my chances of landing a job.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Federal Job Qualifications and Eligibility

How do you know if you are qualified for a federal job? What level should you even begin to look for? After you have found the dream job, are you even eligible to apply?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the federal government can only hire applicants based on their current level of education and experience. As you probably have noticed, most federal jobs are advertised, starting with a GS and a few numbers. The last two numbers in the GS-0132-09, are the grade level. Each GS grade has specific education and/or experience requirements regulated by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). You can click on to reach the complete index of the “qualification standards,” which most federal agencies are required to use. You must know the job series, which is the set of four numbers on the Series & Grade line of the vacancy announcement to look up a specific position. For example, in GS-0132-09/09 you will need to click on the 0100 group, followed by 0132.

Most people with a bachelor’s degree and little to no experience enter the federal system at the GS-05 level. GS-05 level positions require three years of general experience OR a bachelor’s degree. If you are applying to be an engineer or a scientist, there may be required coursework or majors. After the GS-05 level, the qualifications requirements change for assistant, support and clerical positions. The following will be only related to professional, scientific, administrative and management positions. For example, a Management Analyst would gather and analyze data and statistics, coordinate with various high-level officials and perform work without close supervision. A Management Assistant may assist with the above duties, while performing office support work and doing basic research for their organizations. To determine if a specific series is covered by the following, please click on the following link:

With a Bachelor’s degree and an outstanding academic record, you could qualify for the GS-07 level, skipping the GS-05 altogether after undergrad, if you meet the definition of “Superior Academic Achievement.” Superior Academic Achievement requires a 3.0/4.0 cumulative GPA or 3.5/4.0 major GPA. There are additional alternatives for determining eligibility on the hyperlink. If you do not meet these cut-offs, you can still qualify for the GS-07 with one year of specialized experience directly related to the position or one year of graduate school. All grade levels after the GS-05 level include the option for qualifying based on specialized experience and after GS-11, you cannot use education as a substitute for direct specialized experience.

What exactly is “one year of specialized experience”? It is often difficult to glean from the vacancy announcement. Generally speaking the experience would have to come from a similar position or where you performed a lower level of the duties in another environment. If the duties ask the incumbent to perform independent analysis of budget information, then one year of specialized experience could be budget analysis performed with direct guidance from a supervisor. Unless education is an acceptable substitute, agencies cannot hire you on the potential to perform successfully. Many agencies will hire “developmental” positions, where new hires can start with just a degree and no experience and be promoted into the higher grades in the same field.

The GS-09 level requires one year of specialized experience at the GS-07 level or private sector equivalent OR completion of two years of graduate school leading to a degree (includes JD and LLB). The GS-11 level requires one year of specialized experience at the GS-09 level or equivalent OR 3 years of graduate school leading to a degree (including PhD and LLM). After the GS-11 level, there are no educational substitutes and you must have qualifying experience at the next lower grade level. After this point, the positions progress one grade at a time, GS-11 to GS-12 to GS-13, etc.


Some jobs posted on USAJobs only accept applications from “status applicants.” If you are in the advanced search window, you will see this box. These five bullet points sum up the people that can apply to positions only open to status candidates. If you have already completed a search and are looking at a list of positions that met your criteria, in the upper left hand corner there is a column that starts with “Current Search.” Here you can see that I have clicked jobs that are only open to Public candidates, which is everyone else that doesn’t mean the criteria above. Unfortunately, there are many more jobs open to status candidates that you will be unable to apply for. There are a variety of reasons why an agency might recruit for status candidates, but I will not get into those here.

If you are confused about your eligibility, there are a few key things you can consider about yourself. If you think you may be one of these, you could be a status candidate.

1) Do you have a disability?

2) Have you recently completed Peace Corps or AmeriCorps service?

3) Have you served on active duty in the military?

4) Are you married to someone on active duty in the military?

5) Have you ever worked for the federal government in a non-temporary position? For example, summer student work would not qualify you.

Many of these categories should be fairly straightforward to answer.

For more information, feel free to email me at brownea2 at uw dot edu.