Bringing Your Talent as a Student or Recent Graduate to the Federal Government

Uploaded by USOPM on 27.08.2012

Glorimar Maldonado: Good afternoon. My name is Glorimar Maldonado. I'm the Chief of Staff
for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics at the Department
of Education. I am currently on a temporary reassignment to the Office of Diversity of
Inclusion at the Office of Personnel Management.
I'd like to welcome you to the final discussion in our Summer School Roundtable webinar series,
"Bringing Your Talent as a Student or Recent Graduate to the Federal Government."
I'd like to really quickly introduce my colleague and partner in crime, Ora Alger. She's the
diversity program manager for EEOS at the Department of Education. She and I have been
collaborating for the past couple of months building this webinar series. I just wanted
everybody to see who was behind the scenes with me.
Without further ado, let me turn it over to Mauro Morales. He's the policy advisor for
the Office of Diversity and Inclusion here at OPM. He will be facilitating today's discussion.
Mauro Morales: Thank you, Glorimar. Thank you very much for bringing us all together
here and putting these webinar series together. We're excited to talk about students and recent
graduates and the ways that they can be able to come into the federal government. We have
some outstanding career individuals. We could talk about how they came in. Experts also
have been working in this field, as well.
Before we go, let me just tell you a little bit about myself. My name, again, is Mauro
Morales. I'm from southern California, born and raised. I am a lawyer by training in the
Office of the General Counsel here at the Office of Personnel Management, OPM.
I've been detailed down to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The director has an initiative
on outreach on bringing a lot of students and qualified people into the federal government.
And so, I've been detailed down here to help facilitate that. We're pretty excited about
this opportunity. The things that OPM has been moving forward with the initiatives.
Let me introduce the two of our panelists here. We've got Julie Saad from OPM. I'll
let her introduce herself and talk a little bit more about her background before she gets
on the topic. And then we have Jose Barrera, who is from the State Department. I want to
welcome both of you here and thank you for your time to participate today.
Julie, why don't you start in, give us a little overview about yourself and then maybe talk
about why you believe internships are important.
Julie Saad: Thanks, Mauro. My name is Julie Saad, and I, as Mauro mentioned, work here
at the Office of Personnel Management. I work in the Student Programs Office here at OPM.
What our office really does is to promote innovative and coordinated approaches to recruiting
and hiring students and recent graduates, like I know many of you watching today are,
into the federal government.
One of the main initiatives that we're working on right now are the Pathways Programs for
students and recent graduates. We'll share a little bit more about that as we go through
the presentation today.
Mauro asked me, "Why are internships important?" I'll share with you that I actually came into
the government as a student about six years ago. One of the reasons I would say is that
they're a great way for you to get experience in a federal agency and really try to discover
if, just as the agency is trying to discover if you're the right fit for them, if you're
the right fit for that agency.
I think that if you find that both of those are true, one of the huge benefits of that
is that it can really lead to a longer term career pathway in the federal government and,
as in my case, a really rewarding federal career where you get to do a lot of cool things
and really make an impact on the different initiatives that you're working on and really
on the country as a whole.
Mauro: Jose, please tell us a little bit about yourself, and again, why do you think internships
are important?
Jose Barrera: Thank you very much for having me here. It's very exciting to speak on behalf
of the Department of State and my office in particular, the Outreach Office within the
Bureau of Human Resources.
What do is I'm the Hispanic outreach coordinator. It's my role to find, identify, and bring
into the pipeline students, fellowships and career opportunities at the Department of
State. We're very excited about this role, this opportunity, and about the work that
we're doing in creating a State Department that looks like the rest of America.
As for me, I am from south Texas. Brownsville is what I call home, but I'm born in Flint,
Michigan. Like Julie, I also came to the federal government as a student. So I've been here
now for about six years and looking forward to bring many exciting things.
I'll go back to my personal experience as a student. The way, I guess, I can look at
it and maybe speak to other students is look at it as a good first date, an opportunity
to present yourself, see what it's about, and vice versa, too, for the agency or for
the date to get a sense of who you are and what you are and what you can bring to the
As we know, dates don't always work out well. That's the reality of an internship. The opportunity
that the student has, the opportunity that the agency has to test the waters, if you
Mauro: Thank you for sharing a little bit about yourselves.
One of the things is both of you mentioned the fact that you've come in as interns. But
what was it about the government that drew you to taking it on as a career. Julie, let's
start with you.
Julie: I'll say, I think if you ask most public servants the number one thing that they would
say is really this opportunity to make a difference and be a part of something that's bigger than
yourselves. I think that's one of the many reasons, but the first and foremost reason
why I chose to pursue a career in the government.
I will share, just getting back to some of my personal story, that when I applied for
the student position here at the Office of Personnel Management I had no idea what OPM,
as we call it for short, actually did. I came to find out that this agency works primarily
as serving as a human resource agency, primarily for the federal government but I didn't know
that in the beginning. I knew that I really wanted to get into a federal agency so that
I could make this difference.
And then when I got there, and I think this is an important point to make, is that you
never really know where an opportunity may lead. When I got to OPM, I realized that there
was so much going on at this agency that I would have never even imagined. HR at OPM
could mean so many different things, one of which led me to where I am now, which is really
doing outreach and recruitment and building strong programs to recruit and hire students
and recent graduates for generations. It was when I found that that I truly discovered
what I was passionate about.
Long story short, I started with this idea of wanting to make some sort of a difference
and I felt that the federal government was an avenue to do that. Once I got an opportunity
at an agency, I then, along the way, found my passion in how to actually make a difference.
As I mentioned, for me, that's recruiting and hiring students and recent grads and building
programs that will be able to recruit and retain that talent for generations.
Mauro: Jose, I direct the same question to you. What was it that drew you to the government
as a career?
Jose: We grew up in a very service oriented family. We were taught from early on about
giving back, about being a part of your community, whether that meant your nuclear community
or the greater community.
I didn't know what that meant. I wasn't sure, so it was a little bit of that first date,
that exploratory period where I learned what I wanted to do and get myself into as a career.
I did a lot of different things, I have to admit. One of them, I'll say, is I thought
I was a rock star for a few years. It didn't go so well.
Here we are now and have a very exciting career. I'll tell you about that, too.
I guess how I came about this was that upbringing. I think that was a big part of it. Knowing
that I wanted to, like Julie said, be a part of a greater good. That is probably what directed
me to pursue this opportunity in addition to a couple of professors while I was in grad
school who said, "You need to consider this. This is something that you are built for.
You have the capacity to do. Represent us. Represent your community, but at this level."
I took their advice and sought out this opportunity. I came through one of the programs that helps
diversify minority representation in the federal government. I got an opportunity, that student
opportunity, with them. And once again, that was six and a half years ago. I liked it so
much, I was so excited. Going back to the date analogy, it was a great first date, a
four month date, here in Washington D.C.
I said, "I like the atmosphere. I like the work. I like the opportunities that I have.
I think I can make a difference, whether it be big or small. My input can matter." Instead,
I've turned that into six years now, almost.
Mauro: That's outstanding. I think if I might take the liberty of saying I think one of
the things I've gathered from both your comments right now is that one, you wanted to make
a difference in your community and two, that you believed it was one way to serve your
country. I commend you for doing that. Sometimes it's a sacrifice.
Let me continue on and see, in your estimation...And I'll go with you, Jose. We'll try to take
turns. How did the internship and how can the internships open the door to federal employment?
Jose: Especially for students who are not in the D.C region, having access to the people
that are already working in these fields in which you might be interested in, whether
that be human resources or international affairs or STEM fields. Having access to people who
are already...
Mauro: STEM?
Jose: Science, technology, engineering, and math. People who are serving in these fields,
access, interaction, to be able to speak with them and hear what they do, how they do it,
how they got there. People who have already paved the way. To have the access to those
individuals as a student will really open up the doors. That's, I think, one of the
big parts of being a student in the federal government.
Mauro: Julie, what are your thoughts about how internships open the door to federal employment?
Julie: I think this is actually a nice segue. I mentioned earlier, we're working on creating
some new Pathways Programs for students and recent grads. And one of the neat things about
these programs is you may be able to come in as a student or a recent graduate, and
let's just take the internship program as one example.
You come in while you're working on a particular degree or qualifying certificate, and then
should you complete the program successfully, you find that it's a fit at that agency and
the agency likewise finds that you were fit for them, there is the potential for you to
be what we call being converted. Basically what it means is moving from your internship
into a permanent federal position.
And I think having that opportunity available, starting with the internship as the first
step, is really an important piece of this. Because it truly means that you would have
the potential to really lead to a longer term federal career if you find that this is the
path that you want to take.
Mauro: Thank you. I want to take my coat off, and then we're going to get into the nuts
and bolts of student pathways. And, Julie, I'll have you launch into the three components
of student pathways. And maybe start off with just very briefly a background of how it came
Julie: Sure. Great. Well, like I said, the Pathways Programs have really been something
that we have been working to build for the past several years. Now, in the past we have
had some programs for students and some programs for recent grads. And back about a couple
of years ago, we started to examine this and see, you know, are these programs working,
or how can we make them better?
And so the result of those initial efforts was a presidential executive order that was
issued in December of 2010. Basically, looking at our current programs that we have and redefining
and streamlining those and making them better. That was really the intent.
Now, all of this stems from the overarching idea that when students or recent graduates
apply for federal jobs or what we call compete in the traditional federal hiring process
they're often placed at a disadvantage, because the federal hiring process has been really
set up to value experience.
And students and recent graduates who are either in school or a couple years out of
school, they might not necessarily have that wealth of experience. And so they could be
competing against individuals who have 5, 10, 15 plus years of experience. And it's
very difficult for them to compete.
Thus the need to have some programs that level the playing field for students and recent
grads. And that's where we get to the Pathways Programs. Now, I mentioned they were created
by a presidential executive order, but that was just the first step. What the executive
order then said is, OK, OPM, my agency, let's take these programs and move them from creation
into actual implementation.
And so we have been working since that executive order was issued to really create and build
robust programs that would be available for agencies to use government wide. Those programs
just became available for agencies to use starting actually about a month ago, on July
10th, 2012.
And the idea is there are three paths within the pathways framework. So there's an intern
program if you want to work while you are going to school. This is anywhere from high
school, all the way up to the advanced degree level, and anywhere in between.
There is a recent graduates program which allows you to apply up to two years of receiving
your degree or qualifying certificate. And that can be anything from an associate's degree,
all the way up to a PhD and anything in between.
And then finally the third path is the Presidential Management Fellows program, or the PMF for
short. This is the one path of the pathways framework that is not brand new. This program
has actually been in existence for several decades, and what we did here is we revised
it, we revamped it, and we made it better.
So the distinction here is that this program is geared toward individuals with an advanced
degree. So masters, law, PhD. And you will now be eligible to apply up to two years after
you've received that advanced degree. And whereas the recent graduate's program is a
career development program, the PMF program is really a leadership development program
really focused on developing the next cadre of federal government leaders.
So those are the three programs in a nutshell. And I think we'll probably talk more about
them as we go through the presentation today. But I would just say two things. One, these
programs are still very new for the student programs, the intern and recent graduate positions.
Those positions you apply to based on the agency.
So you might be submitting multiple applications for different intern or recent graduate positions
depending on the agency that's hiring for them. The PMF program, that is one centralized
application process.
So we typically open that up sometime in the fall, and you apply with one application to
the program and then go through a pretty rigorous assessment process to compete for what we
call PMF finalist positions.
Mauro: Thank you, Julie. Now, I know you touched on it very briefly, but if individuals want
more information, more detail, maybe see the actual regulations themselves, if they're
so inclined. Where would you recommend that they reach out to get more information?
Julie: Absolutely. So one of the places you want to go if you are a student, a recent
graduate job seeker--and I'll say it slowly so everyone watching out there can jot it
down--is our students and grads page of USA jobs. And this is going to be the place where
you're going to find additional information.
As you mentioned, I gave a very high level overview. So you'll actually have a list of
frequently asked questions about the programs, including eligibility, how to apply, and whatnot,
as well as additional resources. And then a link to a corresponding website that actually
gives pretty detailed information on the history, the background, and to read the actual regulations.
And that website for where all of you can go, that's your homework for today after you
get off the webinar, is Now, this USA jobs is also going to be when
agencies have positions available for the intern or recent grad program. They're going
to post these positions on USA jobs.
Now, I just want to say to everyone in the audience today, don't get discouraged if you
go to that site and you do a search today for intern or recent grad and don't see a
whole lot yet. Like I said, these programs just became available for agencies to use
really only about a month ago, and so we're still gearing up. And you just want to make
sure that you continue to check as more positions will become available sort of as agencies
get these programs up and running.
And we also have, we just added, it will be up there soon, a tutorial on how to actually
search for student and recent graduate positions. And we hope that that will be posted to that
site shortly.
Mauro: Julie, before we turn to Jose, if an individual was interested in a specific agency,
let's say NASA or the FAA or what have you, could they go to that agency's website in
addition to the USAJOBS website? Or should they go to USAJOBS first?
Julie: That's a great question. I would recommend going to the USAJOBS first because that was
a new piece with the new programs, that we're requiring agencies to put a notice about what
positions they plan to hire. Now you may find you may go to USAJOBS, you start there. You
may see a position, let's say at NASA in the example you gave.
When you open up that announcement, it may direct you for additional information to NASA's
website. That might be something that you may see. However, I would recommend that you
start at the USAJOBS site because that's where agencies are required to put a notice for
these programs.
It's always great, too, if you have a really particular agency in mind, it helps to go
to their website. It helps to find out about the agency, to see if that agency's mission
really aligns with what your skills, abilities, and interests are. So I would definitely say
do your research, and it can always help to get more background information.
But if you're looking for where to actually start to see what positions are available,
I would start at the USAJOBS site. Like I said, we'll have a tutorial up there shortly
about how to search for the students' and grad positions.
Mauro: Well, I think that's a good segue since we have an agency here represented, and we
have one of the premier agencies that individuals are interested and if they're drawn to international
affairs and whatnot. Jose, can you tell us a little bit about State Department internships,
fellowships, and things that students can look for or start to think about?
Jose: Yeah, definitely. Glad to. Thank you, Mauro. First of all, let me go back and give
a little bit on the State Department just for the audience members that might not be
completely aware...
Mauro: Absolutely.
Jose: ...because it's not any particular state. It's the United States Government as a whole,
that we represent to nations across from each other, all of the nations that we have diplomatic
relationships with.
So wherever there's an embassy, a consulate, a mission, or a interest section, we are there.
We have representatives either in the form of Foreign Service officers or in diplomats
that are going to representing U. S. positions to that country. Students have an opportunity
to go to these places through one of our student programs, so students can always look at our
website and see what it is that they can do in these countries.
We're proud to say that we are going to be participating in Pathways, so we will be announcing
Pathways positions coming in the early fall we hope, positions both for recent graduates
and students. So we are excited that we'll be able to pay students through these Pathways
Programs. And, of course, the PMF program is another program that we participate in.
We have about 50 PMF positions that we take on yearly.
Once again, these students have the opportunity to work, like all federal agencies, next to
us here in Washington, D. C. or at one of our embassies abroad. The Pathways Programs,
once again we're pretty excited about this, but there are other unique opportunities at
the Department of State for students.
Because of the interest that you mentioned, upwards of 10 to 12,000 applicants a year
in our student programs, and because we have need, we have over 250 offices across the
world, we are able to provide another program called the State Department Student Career
It's an unpaid program. But it's an opportunity to spend 10 weeks with us in one of our offices,
once again one of our offices here, in working on a regional issue, a domestic office that
covers anything from human rights, labor, diplomatic security, Western Hemisphere affairs,
European Affairs, and the list goes on and on. It's about 30 different bureaus that we
work in or in one of our embassies.
The State Department Student Career Experience, that announcement is going to go out very
soon, and the window closes on November first. It's quite early. So if a student is looking
at an internship for summer 2013, once the school year starts they should start getting
their materials and their packets ready because it's something that starts pretty quickly
in the school year.
Mauro: Is there a website or links they can go to to get that information?
Jose: Yes, definitely. Great question. For both Pathways positions and our positions,, and there's a students' tab on the right-hand corner. They click on
that students' tab, and they will be able to see both our Pathways positions, which
we filter out from USAJOBS, and also the State Department Student Career Experience, which
is one of the unique programs.
There are two other programs that I want to highlight as well, the Pickering Fellowship
and the Rangel Fellowship. For students who are interested in continuing their education
and getting funding for it, they are programs that are tied to a three-year commitment to
an obligation of service to the Department, but it leads to a career in the Foreign Service.
So the information and the place they could find information on those programs is,
as in Woodrow Wilson, and, as in Congressman Rangel.
Mauro: And those are affiliated with the State Department?
Jose: They are. They are. They are programs that we sponsor and are facilitated through
these two different institutions and lead to a career in Foreign Service.
Mauro: Can I ask you, you had mentioned that you came through an internship...
Jose: Correct.
Mauro: ...into the State Department? What program did you come through?
Jose: The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities National Internship Program.
I participated actually here at OPM.
Mauro: Did you?
Jose: I did. I did. Like I said, it was a great first experience, and my professors
said, "You're doing a great job there." I was studying Public Policy Management, but
my professors were international professors. They kept recommending that I look at doing
things abroad, and that's [laughs] how I ended up at the State Department.
Mauro: Now how long was your internship before you converted?
Jose: Well, [laughs] at the time [laughs] prior to Pathways, I was an intern. Then I
went to the co-op program, which was once called The Co-op Program, which offers that
conversion opportunity while I was finishing my last semester of graduate school and then
into a full-time position. That was about a nine-month process.
Mauro: Julie, same question. What program did you come through and how did you convert?
Julie: Absolutely. I came through a program called The Student Career Experience Program,
and I came in here at OPM. The Student Career Experience Program is actually the student
program that existed before the new internship program that we have now. You'll notice some
similarities there. The internship program has been revamped and is the predecessor to
some of the former student programs that we had.
So I came in working as a graduate student. I was working on my master's degree at the
time at American University. I came in, and the way that that program worked is you could
come in at any point during your degree program. Then I worked up until the time that I received
the degree, and then I also had worked at least 640 hours at the agency.
When both of those conditions were met, as you were mentioning, the agency had the ability
if they wanted to to keep me on board permanently. At the same time I had decided that this was
a great fit for me. I really had enjoyed my time at OPM, and I wanted to make this a longer-term
career. So I accepted that conversion of potential, and fast forwarded from there, that's where
I truly began my federal career.
Mauro: Julie, I know you mentioned it very briefly, but again, it probably doesn't hurt
to re-emphasize. If you were a student out there, how would you recommend that they start
thinking about or begin considering where to look for vacancies?
I know the student Pathways Program is gearing up, but a lot of them are going to be, by
the time they see this or get the information, already be in school. We're talking about
September, October, November. Where do you recommend they look for vacancies?
Julie: I'm glad that we have our complement to what we're talking about with what Jose's
talking about and the Pathways Programs because I think for the Pathways Programs, those are
available for federal agencies to use government-wide. So as I was mentioning earlier, the place
to go for those is to search on the USAJOBS site because those now need to be posted there.
However, many agencies, in addition to the Pathways Programs, which they may use, have
other opportunities as well. So I always recommend this. I think if you are interested in getting
into the federal government and maybe you don't have quite clear of an idea of what
particular agency you want to work for in federal government, and I definitely understand
that because there's over 300 agencies. Sometimes that can be overwhelming.
So I would say if you're really interested and open to working, you don't have a particular
agency or agencies in mind, I would focus in on the Pathways Programs and start by doing
some of your research, getting some background information on the programs, going to the
websites that I mentioned, and then reviewing the different positions that become available
there for intern or recent grad.
Now if you, say, are very passionate about a particular agency, I would maybe try to
develop a short list of maybe three to five agencies that you're interested in so that
it becomes a manageable focus. Then maybe in addition to seeing, do these agencies offer
the Pathways Programs? Also doing separate research by going to their websites, maybe
talking to someone that works at that agency to see if there's any other programs as well.
As Jose was mentioning, there are some programs at the State Department, for example, in addition
to the Pathways Programs that they utilize. So that's what I would recommend to start.
Then I think the goal is really to find a position that really matches your interests
and abilities. But I would also say, as for my own example, never be afraid for where
an opportunity might lead.
You might see an internship or a recent graduate position, and maybe it's not exactly the position,
exactly the agency that you had in mind that you want to work at right away, but you never
know where that can lead to. You never know what opportunities within that particular
agency might come about. So while I think it's good just to be focused and to, like
I said, try to find things that align with your interests and abilities, I would also
say keep an open mind.
I'm of a firm belief that I think it's really about getting that first opportunity in the
federal government. From there you'll find that other opportunities will come from that.
Mauro: Jose, same question. If you're interested in coming to work for the State Department,
what would be the first step for a student to take?
Jose: Well, I mentioned the website already. is going to be an amazing
resource, and obviously is going to be a new resource just to see what type
of work we do, just the breadth, the scope, the magnitude of the things that we are doing.
So those are the first two things, but we have a really neat resource for students called
The Diplomats in Residence Program.
We have 16 diplomats in residence, senior officers, placed at universities throughout
the country. An example is Florida International, City College of New York, University of Houston,
LBJ School in Boston, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and there's several more that I'm missing there.
But we have diplomats in residence at these schools, that they're not available just to
their school but to the entire region.
So for career services centers, for students in particular, if they want to reach out to
these diplomats in residence to get them on their campus to have an information session
with their students, and they can tell them specifically how to go through this process,
how to apply for one of our positions. They can touch on the Pathways positions as well.
The DIRs are available and ready to do that.
Mauro: How would a student find one of these diplomats in residence?
Jose: On our website,, there's an engage tab. If you click on the engage
tab and look at the diplomats in residence, we have a map. If the student rolls over the
map of where they live or where they go to school, a pop-up will appear with a picture
of the diplomat in residence in their region and the contact information.
Mauro: So like the dating you had mentioned...
Jose: Correct. Correct.
Mauro: the beginning of our conversation.
Jose: And it gives a little bit of background on where this diplomat in residence recently
came from, their previous position. You can, once again, see the background, what type
of work we do, who they will be speaking to, and maybe gain an interest in who we are as
an organization.
Julie: If I can piggy back on that, I would say that speaks to, I think, a broader point,
too, about when you're looking about trying to find a job in the federal government or
seeing where you might fit best within the federal government. I think any time you can
talk to a federal employee that's going to be beneficial to you.
For the students out there watching or the recent grads, if you ever have the opportunity
to attend a career event at your school or an alumni event, those are really great because
you can get one-on-one contact with people that actually work in federal government agencies.
You can hear about the different positions that they may have available, but also about
their career path and what it's like to work in that particular agency.
I think any time you have the opportunity to do that it's extremely beneficial.
Jose: We also have another tool, another feature on our website, where students across the
country can see where we are at, where my colleagues in recruitment, where the diplomats
and residents, are at. If they go to our website and search events you can plug in events,
plug in a region, or just search all events and you can see the list of events where state
department recruiters are at.
For instance, you'll see that this evening there is an event going on in Miami, Florida
where we have some senior officials and recruiters out hosting an event.
Mauro: Say you're a student, you find liaison, find your job or a couple of jobs you're interested
in. What's the next step? How complicated is the application process? How complete does
a resume have to be?
Julie: I'll take a stab at this one. I think when you find a job that you want to apply
to, and this is one of the things just to be aware of, when you find, say, an interpretive
position or a recent graduate position you want to make sure that, first, you're reading
that position announcement carefully because the application instructions may vary. That's
one thing, it's just good to know that.
Just make sure you're reading that announcement thoroughly and just make sure that you follow
the announcement application instructions that are listed because those could vary.
I think we could probably have a whole session on resume writing but I think if I were to
sum it up into when you're submitting an application what's going to make you really stand out
with your resume I would say two things.
I would say, first and foremost, try to take your resume and tailor your resume to the
particular job announcement or type of position that you're applying to. The way that you
can do this is to look at the job description and look at your resume and find ways to show
how you meet the things that they're looking for, how you've done that in your past experience.
That might mean taking your resume and expanding on certain things, emphasizing certain things,
or adding more detail. Really that key piece of tailoring. I think that is a huge thing
that will only help you in the application process.
The second thing that I would say is don't be afraid to include detail. This is one of
the differences that I've found between applying to jobs in the private sector and in the federal
sector. We're working to more closely align how that process is but right now I would
say don't be afraid to put detail into your resume. In fact, that can help you.
It sounds odd but sometimes I think you have to set aside the private sector mentality
of the one page resume. The detail and the tailoring combined, that's really going to
make you a strong candidate.
Mauro: Jose , do you have anything?
Jose: Yes, I do. I have a couple of things I'd like to add to that. One of the things
I was going to mention was the resume going into further detail because, like you said,
it could be a separate conversation altogether. The details point is very strong because it's
difficult for us to be able to understand and really evaluate what you can bring to
the table unless we know the specifics.
Regurgitating a job description everybody can do but what did you do? What did you offer
to that position that nobody else could have? That's something to definitely consider adding
to a resume.
Mauro: Could you give an example?
Jose: Sure.
Mauro: Don't everybody put this on your resumes because it'll become a little evident if we
all get the same resumes and it has the same topic in there.
Jose: Friends, we'll do something like this. Say you were in charge of outreach. You participated
in outreach events but what was the effect of your outreach events? That's what we want
to know. We participate but what's going to happen because of our participation? Is there
a percentage? Is there something you can quantify, some way you can show how your work made a
Julie: To piggy back on that, I think that's an excellent example, showing the results.
Showing the results. I'm looking at an announcement and one of the key skills they're looking
for is oral communication, for me, I'm definitely going to talk about how I give presentations
like this, how I go out and speak to students and recent graduates and convey this message
of federal employment and how to navigate applying for the student and recent graduate
I'm going to take it a step further, as Jose was alluding to, and say yes, I did this event,
and at this event it was attended by X number of people and of those people this percentage
came back and said we're going to apply for federal jobs as a result or as a result of
this I was recognized by the head of my department for this excellent work.
Showing the result, maybe trying to quantify, and really explaining to someone who, again,
might not know the ins and outs of what you do, not only what you did, but the result
that you got.
Mauro: Would it be fair for students to put down on their resume or in the application
when they're asked for their experience, it doesn't necessarily have to be something in
the private sector because they may not have a lot of career or employment experience,
but perhaps they volunteered in some sort of camp or training or were in charge of something
that taught students or seniors or whatever it might be. Would that be valid experience
that you think potential employers would want to see?
Jose: Definitely. I think that that's strong information to include both on a resume and,
if relevant, to their statement of interest, what they do as an individual, what value,
like I said, that they can bring as a person that shows strong character. That's something
that would definitely be useful.
Julie: I completely agree with that. I think if you're looking at a position and they want
you to have a particular skill set I think you can look to your whole array of experience,
not just your work experience. Your intern experience, your extracurricular volunteer
experience, your academic experience. I think you can look to that whole package where you
can find that you exhibited that skill successfully in your whole volume of work and achievements.
Mauro: Once an individual applies and they've gone through all the application, the resume,
and they've submitted everything, as a rule of thumb or do you have any advice in terms
of their expectations and when they might be able to hear something? Do programs list
a date when they'll knowledge or let you know or is it open ended? What do you suggest?
Julie: One of the things we've been working on here at OPM with federal agencies is really
reforming the federal hiring process and really ensuring that the applicant experience is
a strong one. In the past, that hasn't always been the case. I will say that with federal
jobs, sometimes it does take a little bit longer to hear back or a little bit longer
to go through that process.
My opinion is I think the time energy that you put in on the front end and the extra
time that you may have to wait becomes worth it when you get that first federal job. I
would say that there's a couple of things we've been trying to do that are helpful.
Every job that you see will have a point of contact listed. That's going to be the person
you can go to for particular questions about that job.
We're also really trying to make sure that we notify applicants at four key touchpoints
during the application process. When your application was received, whether or not your
application met the minimum qualifications, whether or not it was referred to the hiring
manager for potential consideration for an interview, and then whether or not you got
the position.
These are some things we're trying to work on. It's not a perfect system yet but I think
we're getting better and better. I would say expect that it might take a little bit more
time but plan for that. That really alludes to what I was saying earlier about plan for
that in advance. For the example you gave, their application for some of your specific
programs it's pretty early. If you can plan in advance for that and know to expect that,
I think that that helps.
Jose: I wanted to point out that date once again. It's going to be end of October, early
November, probably November first typically. One of the reasons for that is many of the
federal agencies have a security clearance requirement, which is something else we didn't
mention. As far as applications, character is something else to consider.
The security clearance, youthful indiscretions as we call them in-house are things that we
need to be aware of. They will come out in some state, whether that be financial or legal,
of whatever the matter is. So maintaining solid character throughout as a student is
something else that they should definitely be cognizant.
Mauro: I think that's very good advice. I don't want to discourage people, but you also
want to make sure the expectations are realistic. How competitive is it to get? Are some programs
more competitive than others? I know for example PMF, sorry, Presidential Management Fellows
Program, is very competitive.
Other programs, probably fellowships and state department, can be fairly competitive and
others less so. What are your thoughts on the different levels of competitiveness in
federal internships and federal jobs?
Jose: I'll be honest with you, they are competitive. As I mentioned earlier, we probably get about
12,000 applications for student programs alone and maybe about 1,200 actually make it through
the initial filtering process. Of those that actually come on board, maybe 800 to 1,000.
The rest of them either drop out or security issues, whatever the case may be, but there
are a lot of differences there.
That's one in 10. Let's say one in 10 or one in 11. Not horrible odds. They would never
know if they qualify or they have the opportunity unless they put their name in the hat. Giving
yourself the shot, I think, is the bigger issue. Saying and recognizing you have that
opportunity, when you see that opportunity for you and you give yourself a shot at it,
and if you don't then you're not going to know.
I think that's the bigger issue is just going ahead and having that confidence, putting
your package together, preparing yourself as best as you can through your statement
of interest, a strong resume, and then you'll know whether or not. You can evaluate it yourself,
see where you stand, see how good you feel it is.
Talk to people. Talk to your leadership, talk to your staff, talk to your faculty and make
it as strong as you can. Maybe that one in 10, one in 12 chance for our agency might
be different and you can improve your odds.
Julie: I would agree with that and I would also add I think, yes, there's going to be
some competition for these different positions and programs. I think that further emphasizes
the need to, as we are both sharing, really put forward a strong, tailored, detailed resume
and a strong application so that of that competition you're going to really stand out.
The second thing I would say is keep multiple avenues open. For example, maybe you're a
student right now that is working on your Masters degree, let's say. You could be applying
potentially for positions in an internship program and you could be applying to internship
positions at a number of different agencies. You could try that avenue.
You could also say after I graduate from that program I could be eligible to apply for the
recent graduates' position program or the PMF program or some of these individual agency
Keep all these avenues open to you and try to find a way to maximize the different things
that you are eligible to apply to so that, yes, you're in competition, but you have a
couple of different avenues that you can pursue, sometimes even at the same time.
Mauro: Given that the process isn't necessarily complicated but certainly there's a process
to it, how important are counselors, advisors, and mentors as you pursue a job or internship
in the federal government?
Julie: I'll start, I guess. I think that those individuals and the advice that you can get
from them can only help you. I think just as today, we're helping explain this process,
break it down a little bit. I think your career advisors, your counselors, and your mentors
can help you do the same.
I think all these people can bring unique perspectives that will help you when you're
going through this. From my own experience, I found out about that student position at
OPM six years ago. I found out about that because my college advisor forwarded me the
announcement. Had that not happened, maybe I wouldn't be in this particular position
I think using those individuals just as we're trying to do today to get that perspective
and to leverage the experience or expertise that they may have, that's going to be beneficial.
Jose: I definitely agree. As I mentioned myself, that's how I ended up looking and pursuing
these opportunities is because I had a former diplomat from another nation who said you
should continue this. They are going to be, one, our flag bearers. They are the ones that
are going to be able to offer this information to the students, but at the same time it's
also the responsibility of the students to seek this information out from the counselors,
from the career resource center, from their professors and mentors.
Mauro: We have about 15 minutes left and I just want to wrap up here in some final thoughts
before we move on. Say you have your internship now and you're in an agency and you've got
some work you're doing for them what would you recommend for interns to make most of
their placements?
Jose: Mind if I start?
Julie: Sure.
Jose: It's a simple statement but it might be harder than it sounds. Make yourself invaluable
so that the agency or the people that they're working realize how much that that student
has contributed to their office and without that student they don't know how they're going
to backfill the role that's been filled.
That's something that's, once again, the student's responsibility and it takes work. The student
needs to find out what they can do, how they can make a difference in their office. Once
they are, then the agency realizes that, recognizes that, and wants to keep that student around.
It's not easy, there's not always an avenue, it's not always clear, but knowing you're
wanted is always nice, as well. It's making yourself invaluable.
Julie: I would agree and I would add keeping your eyes and your ears open for opportunity
and to go above and beyond. One of the things with the Pathways Program is many of the three
paths include, as the program opportunities, training, mentoring, and development. You
want to take advantage of those things and do that to the best of your fullest advantage
that you can.
The other thing I would say is look for ways to really go above and beyond. When I started
here at OPM my first job here was to answer emails. That may not sound exciting to many
of you. It ended up giving me the knowledge base I needed to do this job because I learned
HR, I learned federal human resources policy.
At the same time, when I was in that first job I kept my eyes and my ears open for opportunity.
Any work group, any detail assignment, any special project that would come my way or
that I would hear about I would ask if I could participate in that as a collateral duty.
That not only builds your portfolio of expertise, it shows that you're able to take initiative
and, what you were saying, really gets to that broader piece of being invaluable to
the agency and showing what you can offer in a number of different capacities.
Mauro: There are some clichés or turns we come across that people use all the time
like think outside the box and so forth. You kind of know what it means. One of the things
I really want to focus on is a term we hear all the time. It's networking. How valuable
is networking as an intern, of course in our careers as well, with the federal government?
As an intern, what advice can you give them once they're already in the agency and they're
already working for an agency and they're making contacts and they're trying to do their
work and make the most of their placement? How valuable are the networks that they will
come across in their internships to them?
Jose: Networking is a major part of being in the federal government, especially in Washington
DC. I can tell you that I speak with countless students a week. Many I actually have coffee
with because they are curious, honestly, sincerely curious, about my work and how I ended up
I don't know, from my end, how this is going to affect them or influence them but I'm glad
to tell them from step A to step B or step C, whatever step I am now if you can consider
myself that, but hopefully that will give them some idea of what path they can chart
for themselves. That's one way.
Also, I don't know what they're interested in and when they express that perhaps I know
somebody who's interested or working in that same field at a leadership level. And I can
make that introduction and say this an amazing, sharp young student. After I've met him and
can vouch for him I'll say that. This is somebody you should consider talking to because they
are interested in your field. I make that introduction and they learn about something
else that somebody else is doing in a relevant field.
That's something we do across the board. That's part of that personal development, professional
development. That's a major part of being the student here in Washington DC. Students,
whether it be a 10 week internship, a four month internship, they should do as much of
that while they can while they're a student here in Washington DC or whatever part of
the country they're doing their internship in.
Whether it be set aside a few hours on Friday to make those appointments or set aside a
half hour on Tuesdays and Thursday morning to go have coffee with somebody who's in another
office, something the student should definitely make an effort to do.
Julie: I would add that, and I think that Jose's example illustrates this really great,
I think federal employees, in my experience, are some of the most willing to talk about
what they do and share their experiences.
I've found that that's because we're so passionate about what we do. We like to share that with
others. And if that can help them sort of chart their career path or give them insight
that they might not have otherwise thought about, that's going to be helpful.
So I agree, I think anytime you have the opportunity to build your network, that's going to help
you professionally. It's going to help you not only think about your longer term career,
but the different steps along the way. I'll also say too, that in addition to networking,
the importance of having a mentor.
With the recent graduate program that I mentioned, and the PMF program, one of the new features
of these programs is that agencies will provide you with a mentor. Whether or not you're provided
one, as in the case of these two programs, or you seek one on your own.
I think this is invaluable to you as you go through your career to give you some of that
advice, perspectives, and insight that you might not otherwise receive.
Mauro: I have about two more questions for you. In terms of if you an internship and
you have a job, what are some of the incentives that the government provides in terms of things
like relocation, child care, student loan repayments?
Jose: I'll speak to some of those items. Yes, mission critical occupations. That's a very
federal word there. If you're curious, you can go find it online, I promise you. Positions
that are considered mission critical for us, if you're in one of those fields, you do qualify
for student loan repayment. That can be a good, substantial amounts of paying back student
loans and many of us have them. Having the support of your agency to help you back it
is a major incentive.
Something else to consider for people who are considering the Foreign Service, which
is one of the different career tracks within the Department of State. I failed to mention
the Foreign Service and civil service were parallel there. The Foreign Service has living
abroad supported for by the agency. Some of the living costs will be offset. That's another
Julie: I would add that, I think, with the different benefits that are available will
vary by the particular position and the agency, but, as we've touched on, the student loan
repayment is one that's the sort of an optional incentive that agencies can provide. Not all
agencies will use it, and agencies will use it in a varying degree. But it's a good thing
to ask about if you're ever made the offer for a position.
Also, relocation, sometimes agencies will provide that if you're moving from one place
to another to take the job. Really, the key thing about the benefits is these benefits
really vary depending upon the agency. Most of that you'll find in the job announcement,
but it's just good to know that they exist.
Some of the other ones I don't think are often discussed as much but are really important
are different ways that agencies are trying to make a balance for their employees between
their work and their personal lives. I think of them as benefits since agencies may allow
you to tele-work or work from home a day or two.
Some agencies may have what we call flexible work schedules. In my case, instead of working
eight hours every day I work nine and then I have a day off every other week. Different
ways to rearrange your schedule to allow for both your work and your personal life.
Then just one more thing I would mention. In addition to the student loan repayment,
which, as we talked about, is an optional incentive that agencies could offer, there's
also the public service loan forgiveness program. This is actually managed by the Department
of Education.
This is a new program that came about as the result of a bill several years ago. It says
that if you choose to go into a federal sector career and you work in that federal career
for 10 years or more and during that time you're making on-time payments to your student
loans, any debt that you have in student loans after that 10 year period is forgiven.
That's just something good to know about. You can find more about that by going to the
Department of Education's website. It's just and just putting in the search
box, "public service loan forgiveness."
Mauro: I have one more question. Julie and Jose, I know you've encountered this when
you've gone across the country to do student Pathways events or outreach events. We come
across some students sometimes who are a little frustrated, who have applied for internships
or who didn't hear anything, or who have applied for jobs. A certain degree of frustration.
Maybe they had expectations that they applied to get the job right away.
Do you have any insight or any words of encouragement to individuals as they go into this process
about being realistic and about persevering in looking for a job?
Julie: When I give presentations about how to navigate the federal employment process
at the end I always say, "You might be thinking "Why do I want to do this? Why do I have to...Why
do I want to put all this time and energy and follow these steps that you've provided?""
Sometimes it can be frustrating.
I always say this: In the end, when you're able to land that first federal opportunity
you find that that frustration or that time and energy that you put in becomes worth it.
I would encourage you to say, "You know what? It does take a lot more persistence to land
a federal job, maybe, than you're used to in other sectors. But the benefits and what
you're going to feel when you land that federal job and begin work there, I personally think
outweigh that that you might feel during that applications process."
As I was mentioning earlier, I would say all about getting the first opportunity. Some
of the things I think you can do to help are taking advantage of some of the information
that we're sharing today. Even just having a better understanding about the process,
I think, can make it a little bit less frustrating because you know what to expect and you know
some tips that you can now take back with you and apply when you're applying for federal
jobs. That might make this process a little bit better for you.
I think that's the big takeaway that I would give. And then, also, the importance--and
we talked about this earlier--of planning ahead. We know that that the federal job crisis,
it might take a little bit longer but if you plan for that, I think that will be helpful
because you'll know what to expect.
And then, as I said, once you land that first opportunity I think that you will find that
that will open up other doors and that it will be worth the time and the energy that
you put in because that will be a meaningful experience. It will be one that will really
allow you to make a difference.
Jose: In the Foreign Service assessment process, there is something we call the 13 Dimensions.
It's oral communication, written communication, analysis...These dimensions are things that
people can build upon or skill sets that they can develop while they're in school. And so,
if they can develop themselves according to these 13 dimensions, they'd be great Foreign
Service candidates, but candidates for any position in the private sector, public sector.
I say that to say a little bit more pointed that the education is great, but if they can
support that with position, opportunities, skills that are going to reflect things that
are all in line with these 13 dimensions that's going to make them better candidates going
The education is great. The public service is great, but how and what skills have you
built while doing that and if you can show those skills to us? That will make you a better
candidate. It's how they can stand out from a crowd and hopefully get selected next time.
Mauro: Any parting thoughts or last minute words?
Julie: I would just say keep an open mind. Really do look for opportunities that match
your interests and abilities, but never be afraid to know that you never know where an
opportunity could lead. I would also say consider if you meet the eligibility for the student
or recent graduate programs, the Pathways Programs that I talked about, consider those
as an avenue to lead to a longer term federal career.
Use the tips that we've provided here today, not only about how to find and apply for a
position that maximizes your resume, but also how to make the most of your position once
you land one. Take those tips and apply them. I think that that will be beneficial to you.
I think that you'll find that, as I mentioned earlier, all of your time and your energy
will become worth it and that those will be valuable tips that you will apply, not only
to looking for federal jobs and internships initially, but you'll take these tips and
experiences and you'll be able to apply those throughout your hopefully federal career.
Jose: I would say the students should not take this too lightly, to give it their best
effort. I've seen statements of interest that were three lines and didn't tell me anything
about that student other than the student saying, "You should have me." I'm sure they
were a brilliant student, but it showed me that they didn't take the effort. They didn't
take the time. They didn't give everything they had to want to be here.
I really encourage the student to put some good, strong, solid effort into putting their
package, their application, their statement together. I think that, one, they'll feel
better for it and two that will, once again, make them just a better, stronger candidate
for any agency.
Julie: That just reminded me, too. I always like to say, "It is quality over quantity."
I always say it is so much better to do a few applications that are well done with tailored
resumes with the types of statements that you just described than to do a lot of applications
that are not well done with the same generic resume or that don't put, like you were mentioning,
the thought and the effort into those statements.
Mauro: Before I thank our speakers, Glorimar has asked me to encourage students to let
OPM know if they've been selected for an internship and/or permanent federal employment. If they
could please write to [email protected] to let us know.
I just really want to thank our panel, Jose Barerra from State Department and Julie Saad
from Office of Personnel Management, OPM, for taking time out of their busy schedules
to share their insight, their knowledge, and encouragement. I know we feel very proud of
the fact that we get to work for the United States government. We would love to see the
best and the brightest come into the government and help us continue to move our country forward.
Panelists, thank you very much for your time. We welcome all of you and thank you for your
attention, and look forward to you joining the federal government. Thank you.